Do Seating Charts Matter?

This is definitely not a topic that is new, it isn’t a trend, and it isn’t technology-related, but it can be an issue in any brick and mortar classroom: Do seating charts matter?

I remember when I went to college that I felt so free of assigned seating – it was wonderful. In some classes, it didn’t matter at all where I sat as long as I could see the professor and what they were showing on the board/monitor. In other classes, the professors had a very strategic way of calling on students as the class progressed, so if I had something really good to say about the previous night’s assignment, I’d sit in the ‘call on them first’ area. Seating charts were something my brain left behind until I started teaching university level students several years later, and I wondered if the seating chart would serve me despite the age of my students.

In my case, creating a seating chart really helped with some of the classes I taught. Some of the students, quite frankly, just needed to be separated so they could actually focus on school, and while pinning them on opposite sides of the classroom seems quite basic, it did indeed work in more than a few cases. Teachers of younger students inevitably find the seating chart to be quite ubiquitous, but aside from the daily routine and keeping unmotivated student A away from disruptive student B and chatty friends C and D, what else does a seating chart do for the classroom?

The handy infographic below takes a look at why seating charts matter.

Do Seating Charts Matter?

  • Seating charts provide a 150% increase in comfort level for teachers
  • Teacher comfort helps teacher effectiveness and confidence
  • Lower ability students do not have a negative effect on higher ability students
  • In fact, higher ability students seated near the lower ability students have shown increased test scores for the students with lower ability
  • Teachers are over 2 times more effective when using seating charts
  • Seating charts help to improve student behavior

why-seating-charts-matter_52ef906b461a0

6 Comments

  1. Kate Lewis

    February 22, 2014 at 9:09 am

    Great data! I completely agree! I do ask students to fill out a google form with people they would like to work woth and any comments about seating. I try to give them one person they want to work with who would work well with them. It’s the comments section that is the most telling though, they tell me all kinds of things about who they don’t want to sit with and why. I spend a lot of time making seating plans, but it is definitely time well spent.

  2. Allie Wood

    February 24, 2014 at 2:19 pm

    Great data! Glad to see concrete support for something students may balk at. I’m curious, however–how was all of this measured? For example, how do we measure teachers’ effectiveness?
    On a more practical level, what about outliers? If I have a high ability student who is seated next to a disruptive student and, contrary to this data, it is distracting enough to affect their work, do I agree to move her or not?

  3. Candice Smith

    February 25, 2014 at 1:00 am

    An excellent topic indeed !! I agree, since teacher effectiveness is a combination of many governing factors i personally felt that seating arrangements according to teachers not just helped low and high students blend for better test results, but also the discipline and merging students to new groups also helped teachers take more ‘control’ over the classroom, and maybe learning too..

  4. Dufrense

    February 26, 2014 at 11:22 am

    I’ve used seating charts throughout my teaching career. I change them up each quarter to provide some variety for the students and to adjust for any behavioral or academic issues that may have arisen. Seating charts are also stress relief for substitute teachers.

    I’m skeptical, though, of the fourth and fifth points above. I assume the “test scores” in the fourth refer to standardized tests. Typically such tests come in multiple versions to mitigate cheating. Even so, there’s a possibility that at least a minimal portion of the improved scores can be attributed to cheating.

    And how is “effective” defined in the fifth?

    • Julie H

      March 8, 2014 at 3:03 pm

      I agree with the above comment. Is there a cheating effect going on or is it due to peer tutoring and partner work?

  5. Duncan

    March 8, 2014 at 4:13 pm

    Hi all!

    Nice to see our infographic on here!

    I was a teacher for 16 years and the above also reflects my personal experience. Where a child sits in a classroom and who they sit with has a huge impact on learning.

    Data for infographic comes from here:

    http://scholarworks.montana.edu/xmlui/bitstream/handle/1/1419/HammangA0812.pdf

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