The Mystery Game of Musical Chairs

The Mystery Game of Musical Chairs

    “If I Sit in the Front Row, Will I Get a Better Grade?”

It’s Saturday night and within minutes you’re approached by someone sitting front and center at the bar.  They strike up a conversation and ask you to dance. You decline – they seem too eager.  While trying to extricate yourself from the conversation, you spot a mysterious stranger through a sea of heads at the other end of the bar. They catch your eye but make no attempt to move forward. Your curiosity is piqued.

Okay – that’s not how it works in a classroom.  Here’s what might be in the teacher’s air bubble.  Choosing to sit as far as possible from the teacher may send a signal that you want to be left alone. Of course, classrooms have just so many seats so someone has to sit in the last row. The question is how many seats were available when you walked in, bypassed the teacher and then plunked down with your back against the chipped cinderblock wall.

Students in the front row do tend to be more eager, like the chatty person from the bar. Their seating choice says – I want to be part of the conversation. It also says – I’m smarter and I’m getting an A in this class. Can’t a teacher spot this strategy? There’s no mystery there, but the teacher has 75 minutes to kill and it’s a lot easier when people participate. Suddenly, those front row students look pretty good.

Does sitting in the back row impact your grade? If participation is part of your grade and your location prevents you from offering your opinion, then the answer may be yes. Try moving up a few rows to see what happens. There’s no additional expense and the chairs are exactly the same.  If your grade is simply an average of your test scores and you’re not missing anything crucial from your Siberian outpost, then so be it.

One thing to consider – sometimes hanging out with the eager A students rubs off on you.  It’s not a permanent condition and your friends don’t have to know, but it may get you through a course.

Here’s a question – From a student’s perspective, is there an equivalent of ‘sitting in the front row’ in an on-line class?



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  • Jrizzy

    After taking an online class last semester and two online classes this semester I think the only appeal of the only class is not having to physically get up and go to the class. I’m finding it particularly difficult to understand certain points that I think I would be able to understand if I were in a classroom with a teacher. As far as a “virtual front row” is concerned I think it’s more about the ability of the student to set aside their personal life and take the time to read the book and then do the required assignments. As I had mentioned before I do think I prefer the traditional classroom setting (at least when taking more than one online class). Most people may not even learn from online classes because every test and assignment is open book and if allotted enough time a student can find any answer they’d need in the book. I think online classes would be more successful if there were virtual lectures to be attended as well.

  • AHenry

    Although you are up close to the computer which is like sitting in the front row of a classroom, you are unable to get readily information when you need it the most. In a classroom, no matter where you are, you can ask a question and get an answer immediately. When you ask a question or make a comment to a professor on an online class, getting feedback can be indefinite. Teachers have lives too, so it may take some time to get answers. This is the first time I am taking an online class, and I can say that it truly is a new experience. To me it feels like I’m pretty much my own teacher. I have to learn the information given in the text and teach myself the main concepts of the reading. Online classes requires devotion and concentration. You have to make sure you are on top of what you need to do so that you don’t get behind on assignments, and if that happens, catching up can be difficult due to the fact that you have no classmates that you can associate with to get help.

  • Roselind

    Sitting in the back row does not impact your grade. I always sit it the back of the class. I do this to see the entire layout of the class. I actually received an A in the last class I took and sat in the back. Everyone would look back to see me, I guess they were trying to “feel me out” but I was the second person who got a A in that class. The other sat in the front. That shows it doesn’t really matter who sits where, but who is really eager to pass the class. As to the on-line sitting in the back question I would say there are students who are the same as in the classroom. Students who do not reply as much or get to personal just want to pass the class and not worry about making friends. I am probably that type because on line you can not see the other classmates. You can only see their work.

  • Adam S

    Is there class participation in an online class? Aside from engaging in Blackboard online discussions, there is no ‘raising of the hand’ which goes on. Geographical location has nothing to do with it, so long as one has a good wi-fi connection and responds in a timely fashion. -One man’s opinion

  • Gregory Olin

    No, i think it doesn’t matter where you sit in class, as long as you do all of your Homework and study hard you will be fine. If the teacher requires a student to participate I feel it doesn’t really matter where you sit especially at WCC because our classrooms are small in size, usually about 10-20 people and my teachers usually walk up and down the aisle engaging with the students. I sat in the back row of my economics class , this class was heavy in participation, i debated with my teacher everyday, sitting in the back row did not effect him hearing me speak i received and A. Now lets say i was taking the same class but @ the university of Florida in a Auditorium with 300 people . The teacher might favor the students closest to him in the front, it all depends on the teacher. The online equivalent to sitting in the front class is participating in all of the classes discussions, and responding to all of your teachers emails.

  • Jian Wang

    I did have experience sitting in a large classroom with 80 students. I had to take train after work so I was always late and had to sit in the back rows. It was terrible as I couldn’t see clearly what the teacher was writing and couldn’t hear clearly either. The final exam was tough as I missed lots of stuff just because of sitting in the back rows.

    I prefer online setting to the traditional classroom. I like the flexibility online class offers. But is there any equivalency to sitting in the front rows for online classes? I think definitely yes. You can actively participate in the class discussion (not only complete the required part). You can also help other students and post your answers to their questions. If you have any question, you can always email your teacher or post it for help. Online setting is actually better as you will have plenty of time to figure out what is your real question or find a better answer for the other students.

  • LCummings

    I think this is absolutley true! I tend to sit in the front of the classroom because I feel that i pay more attention and I’m more focused. The only reason I would sit in the back of the class is if I had a teacher than spoke like Daffy Duck. Sometimes I sit in the back of the classroom when I know I’m not staying for the whole class and don’t want to disturb the teacher or the students when I’m walking out. Otherwise, I’m front and center so that I can focus and absorb the lesson. After all, we are paying for it. Might as well get your money’s worth!

  • Dontay Young

    I personally do not belive there is an equivalent to sitting in the first row on an online class. I believe in an online class, those whom normally participate in class and are organized and know how to manage time usually get good grades within their courses. What I believe supports this is the amount of communication between that student and their classmates, as well as with their professor. Those who are normally active and partcipate in class succeed, those whom normally aren’t dont feel obligated to participate as much as they would in a classroom setting. This is strictly based off of my opinion though.

  • Sheena Barnett

    I do believe when you are sitting in the front row of your class than you are more likely to be engage into the conversation. It allow you to be open minded on the specific tops that are being discuss in the course. You are more aware of certain questions that comes to your mind that you might not have thought of if were sitting in the back of the class. You can interact with students that you might have some things in common that is pertaining to the course, information or topics that the professor is discussing. Taking an online course does not give you that opportunity. Even though you are able to sit in you chair in front of the computer it does not benefit if you are taking a course that seems to be more difficult or have questions if you are not in class. When you are online you really have to do for yourself as if you were taking an online course by yourself without other students. You want to share opinions or facts with the teacher but, can not because you are on a computer. you might want to simply ask questions that comes to your mind but, can not because once again you are sitting in front of a computer. Taking online classes has its benefits if you are on of those students that do not like or can not physically go to school for whatever reason and it has it disadvantages if you like to engage in your courses with the professor.

  • tfitnin continue

    I think that online courses have its benefits and its disadvantages. If you are one of those students that can not go to school for whatever reason, than online courses might be appropriate for you to continue or education but, it does not really give you the learning experience that inside the classroom gives you. When you are online you are only engaging with your computer and that is it. If you have a question or comment to make about a specific topic you really can not speak about it because you are online or if you do speak about it, you have to go through your professors email if it is allow. it feels like you are taking a course by yourself without any other students. When you are in class you are more free to have open discussions with the teacher and the students. You are able to share thoughts and opinions with the entire class. You are able to ask questions without going through a computer to speak what is on your mine. You are also able to develop more knowledge from the professor and the students. Students may have said some things that you might not have even thought of thinking about but, because it was said you have obtain that knowledge or question. Sitting in the front row of your course allow you to be more interested into whatever topics are being discuss in your course. Some students that sit in the back are really focus on other things than what is being taught my the professor.

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  • Sheronne Tooley

    In my opinion, the equivalent of “sitting in the front row” is the student who does everything well. Everything would include handing in assignments early or on time, participating in every discussion including responding to every student, writing outstanding discussion/homework assignments so well you wonder if it was plagiarized and getting near perfect test scores. In response to this article, I think it’s true that students who assume they will do well in the class, or have a love of that subject tend to sit in the front of the class. I, on the other hand, tend to sit in the front of the class because I wear glasses and I remain focused and engaged. I’m sure the nerd in me also sits in the front of the class to get the teacher’s attention and to get in his/her good graces!

  • Debbie Falcones

    This is my first semester taking an online class so I wouldn’t know what it means to “sit in front row online.” But I guess what could make you seem more noticeable is by always contacting the teacher with questions or writing in the “discussions” section on blackboard. I love sitting in the front row I don’t know why anyone would want to sit in the back. The board is easier to see when writing notes, if you have to use the bathroom you don’t have to trip over anyones bag, and the best part is that the teacher actually knows who you are. I guess it might scream “teachers pet” but personally I don’t mind being called a teachers pet if it means I will get a better grade. I’ve had a pretty good relationship with almost every teacher, I always ask questions and stop by their office for anything thats unclear to me. I think teachers love this ! I have noticed that my test grades might not all be A’s but the relationship I build with my teachers gives me that extra push from a B+ to an A at the end of the semester :).

  • MB

    From a student’s perspective, I do believe there are equivalents to ‘sitting in the front row’ in an online class. Many have been mentioned. I don’t believe there is much of a difference at all in essence, only the variables change. I also believe that these equivalents are as easily misinterpreted, or tend to encourage value judgments as much as the act of physically sitting in the front row of an actual classroom. I would agree that if the act of avoiding the “front” actually prevents required participation in the class it may be a poor choice, but then again there may be unknown variables involved in doing so that would prevent this as well. There is really no way for the teacher or fellow students to know the motivation or circumstance behind this action without directly asking the student himself. Personally, I have been sitting up front in my classrooms lately just because I find it too difficult to hear and see from the back. I often wonder if the struggle to see well would be preferable to my current obstacles. For example, I am very sensitive to smells and a few of my front row classmates are smokers, which has me fighting nausea for nearly two hours. Also I am a bit shy and am thrown off by an instructor who likes to single me out.

    I do believe that you can be an A student and not have the stereotype “Eager A” appearance. I also believe anyone can adopt the appearance of an “Eager A” student to manipulate those that might look for these traits. Its been known to happen even when that student’s work is sub par. I think that everyone has known one of these types of students at some point in their academic life. The guy that you just can’t believe passed the class. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem we have found a platform yet in the classroom or in life in general where assumption and judgment have not found their way in. In virtual settings this can actually be even more prevalent due to the immortal nature of our comments.

  • KBerardi

    I agree with everything that was said in this blog post. I used to be that kind of student who would naturally navigate towards the back of the classroom and i would normally be one of the first people there. Even though i had the option of any seat I wanted I would walk myself to the back of the classroom. Maybe the fact that I was shy and would tend to get nervous when i would be called on had a lot to do with it. Sitting in the back of the classroom was a lot less scary to me. Now however, I pick either the second row or the third. The first row still does intimidate me a little bit and also the fact that I am so tall I tend to think that I’m blocking other people’s view who decide to sit behind me. I did find that sitting closer to the board and the teacher allowed me to focus more and not check my phone or zone out. I do believe that there is an equivalent of “sitting in the front row” in an online class. Participating in blog posts and online discussions is more or so the same. Although you’re not physically sitting in the front of a classroom you are still expected to add your input and “raise your hand” so to speak. The person who is eager to learn both in a classroom and on a computer will make sure that they are participating and understanding the material. Online classes are hard to keep up with and sometimes you might not understand a certain topic and it’s not like you can raise your hand and have whatever it is that you’re struggling with answered right away however, with online classes you can email a professor or visit them on campus so it has it’s good points too where you can get yourself through the course and the material.

  • Valerio Palermo

    I do believe their is an equivalent situation for someone to seat in the front row in an online class. A person that sits in the front row of an online class would participate more as they would in class, For example they will try and participate more in an assignment that’s giving out or if theirs extra credit they would do them all like someone that would sit in the front row would do because they show that they want to participate in the class and try to do the best they can.

  • Sandy Stephanie

    Of course there’s an equivalent, the “virtual front row” is just the material that is provided, such as blackboard, etc. It’s clear to realize who’s been sitting in your virtual front row when the professor starts being bombarded by all the assignments even before the due date.
    These individuals could be the over achievers or the procrastinators which maybe are intellectual just lazy.
    I awkwardly find myself in between both these characters. In an actual class I tend to sit in the front but not because I’m extremely eager to learn and yell out my opinion every chance given but because I have a short attention span and I like to know everything that’s going on.
    This I realize throws off the professor because like the story said, professors see these front row eager students and pick on them to talk in class discussions but when I’m called on I don’t say much of anything. Then I get a blank look from them which I find highly amusing.
    So even if a student isn’t sitting in the “virtual front row” or actual front row in class, they can still be decent students at the end of the course. I leave everything to the last minute but I’ve “trained” my mind to work pretty well under pressure or maybe it’s always been that way. Where you sit may have some impact on your learning but everything really depends on the person. I’m sure everyone knows that.

  • KLilley

    From a young child my mother always believed in the triangle chart when discussing the person that gets an “A” oppose to the student that received a failing grade. The tip of the triangle is the person who sits directly in the center of the class directly in the front row. From there the triangle then goes from A-F, while the others on the sides from front to back receive B-D. I agree with the statement above. As for an online class I do not believe there is the same system because its more flexible. An online class is for students that cannot be physically there in class because of their personal lives. An online class is more convenient, which allows the student time to get to the work in a reasonable timely matter. I believe as long as you get the work done, anybody can be a “front row student” in an online class. Yet all this is being said, I believe any student that puts their mind into their work can receive whatever grade they want by putting their mind to it regardless what seat they sit in or even where their where beings are, primarily because it’s all about knowing the subject as well as understanding the work.

  • Meco Galente

    A teacher can spot when someone is preforming the said “front row” strategy. It may not be right away due to the fact that the professor has to see how they perform in class related activity first, but after this it is almost a certainty that the professor can tell. The students in the front, or more towards the front, do tend to pay attention and/or participate more than the “back row” students do. It is indefinitely true that if you hang around or talk to someone who has a high knowledge in a certain area that it will rub off. This is the primary reason that people hang around smarter individuals, so that they can expand their own vocabulary, understanding and willingness in themselves. I have never taken an online class before this current one, but an equivalent to the “front row back row” syndrome may be things such as assignment consistency. Online things are monitored in a way that the professor can see the time and day you “hand in” your work. So if you do it closer to when the work is published and not the hour before it is due you would be seen as a “front row” student. The late assignments or the ones handed in closer to deadline time would virtually be seen as the “back row” students of a classroom.

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  • Yiwei Liu

    I’ve taken two online classes at WCC, and I like both of them. From a student’s perspective, I think the ways to be ” sitting in the front row” could be finishing homework and tests on time, also e-mail your professor when you have questions. It is very easy to fall behind in an online class,thus, keep working on your assignment is very important for online class, because that is the only way that your professor could see you are still in the class and working hard!

  • Yiwei Liu

    I’ve taken two online classes at WCC, and I like both of them. From a student’s perspective, I think the ways to be ” sitting in the front row” could be finishing homework and tests on time, also e-mail your professor when you have questions. It is very easy to fall behind in an online class,thus, keep working on your assignment is very important for online class, because that is the only way that your professor could see you are still in the class and working hard!

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