Anyone who has taught at a college or university has experienced the follow scenario countless times: Students come to class on day one and choose their seats. Students sit in those exact same seats for the rest of the semester, even if moving (say, to be with members of a work group) would be more practical or to their advantage in some way.
Just because I am a disruptor at heart, but also because I want them to think about why they are sitting in the same seats over and over and over, I sometimes force my students to sit in a different place. If you really want to have fun in a seminar, arrive early on week four or five and grab someone else’s seat, then watch the discombob-ulation that follows as students enter the room and try to figure out where to sit in the new circumstances.
For years I’ve wondered why students cling so tenaciously to the seat they chose on day one. Now I know. Last night I was doing a teaching observation for a colleague who was teaching about behavioral economics and what the findings from this sub-discipline can teach us about the economic choices people make. It turns out that the behavioralists have a name and an explanation for my students’ behavior–status quo bias.
Now that I know the answer to this question that has puzzled me for years, I’m going to have to go read the book my colleague assigned for last night’s class (Dan Ariely’s Predictably Irrational) to see what other insights I can glean that will help me understand my students choices when it comes to learning.
3 thoughts on “Dude. That’s my seat.”
I have a bad back, so I always sat against a wall, about mid-way in the classroom. That way I could switch positions frequently without interferring with my classmates’ ability to see. So a status quo bias may be just one of many reasons why a student selects a particular seat.
I have always been fascinated by this , both as a student (in graduate school) and as a teacher. For the past two summers I have participated in the Northern Virginia Writing Project’s Summer Institute at GMU. The first summer I consciously moved seats each day, but there were enough extra seats that it didn’t impact others too much. I just wanted to sit by different people and learn from them. The second summer I did the same but for some reason had a conversations with a few people about it on the 2nd or 3rd day. Others decided to consciously do the same as well. That and the fact that there were no extra seats meant that it was hard for anyone to sit in one place for the four weeks of the institute.
It was fascinating to see who embraced that as a positive and who was really uncomfortable with not being able to sit in ‘their’ seat each day. Especially as these were all K-16 teachers.
It’s the same in corporate training, too, although that’s usually held within the same week, so it’s easier to remember where you sat.
I don’t always sit in the same exact seat, but I do have a preference for the frontish. I’ll generally stick with the same half of the room as the first day unless it feels weird. O.O
To be totally fair, I cannot sleep comfortably with my head pointing north… The last time you moved, did you stay on the same side of the mattress? Or did you switch sides with your partner? 🙂
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