Friday, August 04, 2006

Front and Center

At the Noel-Levitz conference, I heard about a study done in Colorado that was kinda crazy, at least the results are unexpected. It is titled The Surprising Impact of Seat Location on Student Performance and is written by Carl E. Wieman and Katherine K. Perkins.

Here's the gist: Students who sit in the front of a large lecture hall (Physics class, in this case) get much better grades than those sitting in the back. Okay, big suprise there, right? Except that conventional wisdom says that this happens because the smarter students CHOOSE to sit in the front of the class and the slackers choose the rear. However, in this study the students were randomly assigned seats and generally speaking the students assigned to the front were no smarter than those assigned to the back. They even swapped positions halfway through the term but the die had been cast. Those who were now in the back were still more engaged, attended more regularly, and scored more highly. There's a little more to it than that, but as I said, there's the gist of it. The paper is a good read, and not nearly as boring as most academic crapola.

Flickr photo by Nav A (Creative Commons)

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