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Saving seats could save grades


Photo
CLAIRE C. LAURENCE/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Political science senior Stephanie York sits in her Harvill classroom Monday night. Many students feel more comfortable and are able to pay more attention by frequenting the same spot when attending class, reports say.
By Georgeanne Barrett
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Wednesday, December 8, 2004
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Sticking to one seat through the semester could boost test scores

Every day students find themselves sitting in the same seats in their classes, but what they might not realize is that where they sit might actually be helping themselves do better on their tests.

Whether it is because of habit, a boring class or an eagerness to learn, students often find themselves in the same places in the front, back and middle of classrooms they are in a couple times a week.

Suzanne Delaney, a psychology professor, said when students sit in the same seats day after day they are actually doing something called "encoding specificity," which helps them better remember information they are learning. She said encoding specificity has everything to do with context, meaning the surroundings a student is in when learning new material.

"Encoding and retrieving information is a good match because it helps increase performance," Delaney said. "Being in the same seat or in the same mood can help you remember information."

Delaney said encoding specificity is something that has been studied since the 1970s, and it shows that people remember the context of how things were when we learned them.

"An example is, when we are depressed, we always remember the sad times in our lives," Delaney said.

She explained the same theory applies when a student sits in the same seat every day in a classroom.

Mary Peterson, a psychology professor, said she has always noticed students in her classes seem to designate a seat "theirs" and will sit in the same place for an entire semester.

Students said they pick seats based on many factors and may not know they are actually helping their grades when they stake out their spot.

Jessica Crance, a biology senior, said out of habit she usually sits in the same seat in all of her classes. She said the type of class she is taking is a big factor in what makes her decide where to sit when she enters a classroom.

"If I like the class, I sit up toward the front," Crance said. "If it is a boring class, I'll sit toward the middle or the back."

Crance said when she finds someone else sitting in her seat in a class she is not very happy, but would never ask the person to move.

"It's a little frustrating when someone is in my seat, but really, it's their right," Crance said.

Crance said that while she likes having the same seat every day, she has never felt that not having her seat made her do poorly on a test.

Tyrel Good, a media arts freshman, said like Crance he always sits in the same seat in his classes.

"I always sit roughly in the same spot," Good said. "I guess it is just because of continuity."

Good said that when he chooses a seat in a class, he does not like the very front or the very back; he prefers someplace in the middle.

"In a lecture hall I like to sit one-quarter of the way back; it's not too close but also not too far away," Good said.

Good said he would also never ask someone to get up and move out of the seat he is used to, but he sees how it could affect his concentration on a test if he was sitting somewhere he was uncomfortable.

"I have never been affected by it in the past," Good said about doing poorly on a test due to not having his regular seat. "I hope it won't be a big deal or a problem in the future."



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