Does Seat Placement Affect Student Test Scores?

seating chart

Why would teachers use seating charts in the classroom?

I have been teaching both ICT and science for over 16 years and I use seating charts for all my classes from year 7 to year 13.

I believe seating charts make a massive difference in the classroom environment for both the teacher and student. Teachers are showing their authority in that they are making it clear to their students that the classroom is something that they are in control of. Pupils have to follow pre-planned orders from the teacher. These seating charts will have been created by the teacher based on their knowledge on each student. By careful planning teachers can minimize negative contacts between their students and try and optimize peer-peer learning strategies.

Comfort, Confidence, And Effectiveness

One piece of research at Montana State University found seating charts are the right way forward. For seating charts created by the teacher, it was found to be very effective in terms of the comfort, confidence and effectiveness of the teacher. In the rooms where the seating plans were self-chosen by students it was found that the teachers were more likely to feel unhappy and uncomfortable.

How Seat Placement Affects Student Test Scores

A major worry for teachers is that by seating pupils in terms of their attainment there is the possibility that lower achieving students will have a negative impact on the attainment of the higher ability pupils. However the above research also looked at the impact of seating charts on student test scores in Montana State’s Criterion Reference Tests (CRTs.) The results showed that there was a huge attainment increase for those students with lower ability and fortunately this had no detrimental impact on the high ability students, as can be seen in the chart below:

seating chart

As with all teachers, I went through the usual inspection regimes and I attempted, as did other teachers, to impress the inspectors. When the time came for our inspection I shared the idea of adding photos and key data to seating charts. This concept was then taken up by the whole school. However, the Assistant Head and an administrator worked for hours with Excel and PowerPoint to create searing charts and personalising these with data for each class in the school. But with 50 teachers this meant about 800 PowerPoint slides, which as you can imagine was beyond time consuming.

However the end result was well received and was regarded as outstanding practice. These personalized seating charts meant that each teacher was aware of the student’s abilities and needs. This gave students the help that was needed and teachers the freedom to arrange their seating plans to maximize their classes’ abilities.

What Seating Charts Offer Teachers

Through these experiences it led us to consider developing seating charts into an effective and useful classroom tool. This tool gave the teachers the ability and freedom to:

  • Add student photos as well as their names
  • Add key data about students
  • Use seating charts for effective differentiation- easily grouping or dispersing students in the classroom based on the data about them
  • Monitor behaviour and use data in an intelligent way- all behaviour incidents are tracked and the software uses artificial intelligence to identify trends and patterns- all of which will be fed back into the seating charts to minimise behaviour issues and maximize learning
  • Find which students interact positively or negatively with each other
  • Work with both colleagues and parents to tackle behavior as a team

A solid tool worth considering for seat placement and chart creation is a web tool called Class Charts. It’s been built from the bottom up and from the perspective of a teacher with 16 years experience. We hope it will have an impact on classroom management and lead to an improvement in student attainment. The feedback from current users has been superb and since launching in January 2013 Class Charts is being used in over 15,000 schools around the world and the whole school version will be available very soon.

By Duncan Wilson, Director of Edukey Education Ltd & a teacher with 16 years experience in the classroom.