Finding the right spot

Sara Bertsch Editor-in-Chief

Is there a connection between where a student sits in the classroom and their overall academic performance?

The location a student sits in a classroom says a lot to the surrounding classmates and even the professor.

The spot students choose to sit in the classroom, whether it is in the front or the back, tells the professor one of several things: the student’s engagement and participation efforts, the level of distraction and how much a student cares.

The qualities, both good and bad, are not necessarily true to every student who sits in these rows, but there is a definitive front row/ back row stereotype in the classroom.

The “Goody Two-Shoes” (aka front row)

These people are considered the front-runners of the classroom. Some people might assume they are “goody two-shoes,” but these students are more than that, or that’s what Katelyn Schaefer says.

Schaefer is a fifth-year senior triple majoring in biology, microbiology and biotechnology. She also works as a teaching assistant in microbiology.

“The ones who sit in the front row pay attention more and engage,” she said. “It’s not that [the students in the back row] are not smart, they just aren’t paying as much attention.”

Schaefer frequents the front rows when she goes to class. She finds it easier to focus and learn.

Grace Dahlman, a junior hospitality major, sits wherever she wants. Sometimes it’s the front, but other times it’s in the back. She normally goes with wherever her friends are at.

“[The students in the front row] are really focused on what they are learning,” Dahlman said.

The “I’m paying attention, but I don’t like the front” people (aka middle row)

The middle row encompasses a majority of the classroom. The people in this area have a variety of reasons of why they sat there, including they simply had nowhere else to sit.

Dr. Tyler Miller, a professor in the Psychology Department, doesn’t think the location of the student in a classroom has an effect on a student’s grade or performance.

“In smaller classes, where they sit probably doesn’t have an impact on participation but perhaps in larger classes it does. But this is a question that could be answered if there were a dedicated observer in the classroom,” Miller said in a professor survey.

Kevy Konynenbelt always sits in the middle rows. In fact, she has sat in the same area since the first day of school.

Kevy, a freshman electrical engineering major, has a lot of smaller classes rather than large intro classes.

“They have a lot of freedom in the back [of the classroom],” she said, even though she frequents the middle row. 

The “don’t look at me, don’t notice me and please don’t call on me” people (aka back row)

The people who sit in the back row have a clear stereotype among fellow classmates – lazy.

These are the people who are considered to not care about their grades and are just there because they have to be.

But Professor Luiza Adamyan has a different view of these students. Adamyan teaches in the modern languages and global studies department. Her largest class is around 30 students.

“If you sit in the back you are like a “cat in the corner,” Adamyan said. “The people in the back are more prompt to use technology. It doesn’t affect their learning, but engagement.”

These students are more likely to use their cell phones and laptops during class and not necessarily pay attention. But Adamyan describes that as the comfortable zone.

“For some students it is more comfortable for their personality to sit in the back. Some come to the front to understand better,” she said.

Other students believe that the back row offers more freedom for students. But for others, it is more of a distraction than anything. 

Allie Reid is a freshman dietetics major on campus. She purposely sits in the front rather than the back to avoid distractions.

“I think it’s really hard to pay attention. It’s hard to see and hard to hear,” Reid said. 

And in large introductory classes this is a reality. Natalie McConnell, a freshman pre-pharmacy major, specifically sits in the third row near the middle when she has class in Rotunda D. 

“It helps me focus especially in class. You forget that there is like 400 other people in the class with you,” she said. 

Miller teaches small and larger classes, including a 300-person class. The teacher/student relationship is harder to create and maintain with that many students in one class. 

“For the larger classes, given the students are mostly non-majors, I would say my relationship with an individual student is limited. But when students sit in the front row in a large class, I can at least see them and it does feel like I get to know them a bit better,” he said. 

No matter where a student sits, it is up to them how well they perform. Stereotypes will always be present for both the front row and back row. Professors don’t think any less of the back row students than the front row. 

At least that’s the case with Adamyan and Miller. Adamyan even admits to not enjoying the front row. 

“I never liked to sit in the front as a student,” she said. “It depends on [each student’s] personality.”