The Effect of Seat Location in Lecture Theatres on Academic Performance

Aidan McGowan, John Busch

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


The purpose of this research study was to investigate and identify possible patterns relating to academic performance on the effects of university students self-selecting where to sit in a lecture theatre.
The key research questions are:
1. Does seating position affect student performance?
2. Do the most academically able and engaged students regularly sit at the front of lecture theatres?
Academic achievement
Preliminary results suggest significant assessment score differences between those that sit at the front and those that sit further the back. Of those that received a grade of 75%+ (Grade A) 6.67% regularly sat at the back. With the same group 46.67% regularly sat at the front. Of the group that scored less than 50% (Grade D) 0% of students regularly sat at the front. 12.50% regularly sat in the middle zones with 37.50% sitting at the back. It was also observed that the remaining numbers did not consistently sit in the same zone.

Temporal movement
There is little evidence of movement between seating zones of the Grade A group throughout the 24 week period. However there was considerable movement with the Grade D group. Although still under analysis there appears be a pattern of students in this group graduating towards the back seating positions over the course of the programme.

The frequency of completed entries on PinPoint was also used as an indicator of engagement. With the Grade A group 75% of them regularly completed an entry whereas in the Grade D group this drops to less than 50%.
Further analysis on the attitudinal factors in relational to seating position and performance are ongoing, but preliminary results suggest that those students that scored highly in attitude tended to sit at the front and middle sections.
It would indeed appear that the more highly engaged and academically capable students voluntarily sit at the front for most lectures. Interestingly as the course progresses those who had lesser engagement and below average midterm results tend to began to sit progressively toward the back. If this is a repeatable pattern then a linear regression analysis of the seating positions and midterm results could help predict students in danger of failing.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationECER Conference Proceedings
Number of pages3
Publication statusPublished - 23 Aug 2016
EventEuropean Conference on Educational Research: ECER 2016 Leading Education: The Distinct Contributions of Educational Research and Researchers - University College Dublin, Dublin, Ireland
Duration: 22 Aug 201626 Aug 2016


ConferenceEuropean Conference on Educational Research
Abbreviated titleECER 2016
Internet address

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