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I have often heard and read the advice of sitting in the first rows of the lecture hall to learn more efficiently. Is there any research/study that looked at the effect of sitting in first rows of the lecture hall on the learning efficiency?

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    Interesting question. I guess it would be hard to study, since there is also a bit of a correlation between sitting in the front row and actually wanting to learn. – Tobias Kildetoft May 20 '15 at 6:57
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    Considering the huge number of possible combinations of various factors, such as disciplines, subjects, lecturer's styles, student's preferences and individual traits, I would be very surprised, if such studies, even if exist, be considered generalizable enough to be useful. – Aleksandr Blekh May 20 '15 at 9:13
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    It doesn't matter. Even if you start sitting in the front row, you will still learn only at the rate corresponding to wherever you were sitting before. – Atsby May 20 '15 at 9:47
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    I think the only relevant mechanism is that the professor can see you unhindered, so you will be noticed if you are visibly distracted, and thus have to (pretend to) pay attention. If that would work for you, depends very much on your situation. – Davidmh May 20 '15 at 10:12
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    That depends on the lecture hall (sometimes you see even better if you are not in the front row), you, the people sitting around you, the lecturer, the type of lecture, near- or farsightedness,... wow. I could go on endless. – skymningen May 20 '15 at 11:11
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This article(The Effect of Seat Location on Exam Grades and Student Perceptions in an Introductory Biology Class By Steven Kalinowski and Mark L. Taper) examined the seat location during lectures and its effects on exams. It details the results of some prior studies and their own.

They assigned seating in the following way;

On the first day of class, we randomly divided students into groups of three, and assigned each group to a row. Two groups were assigned per row—except for the front row, which we left empty (because we believed some students might be uncomfortable sitting in the very front). We did not tell the class that we were studying the effect of seat location on their learning

They used exam scores to measure student learning during lectures. Five exams were given to the class: four midterms and a final.

Their main finding was that there was no effect of seat location on exam scores in the class.

They report that they obtained two noteworthy results.

First, we found no evidence that grades or student attitudes were affected by seat location ...

Our second noteworthy result was that students who chose to sit in the front of the lecture hall on the first class had significantly higher GPAs than students in the back (P = 0.009, R2 = 0.18) (Figure 2). The slope of the regression line was –0.10, indicating that, on average, GPAs decreased by 0.1 point (on a 4-point scale) per row. This represents a substantial difference in GPA between students in the front and back (the regression line dropped from 3.9 in the front of the lecture hall to 2.7 in the back).

  • The statistical work of the article is sloppy. For example, in the regression, they have two leverage points (one at the front and another at the back) that dominate the effect. – Davidmh May 20 '15 at 15:47

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