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Running Head: PICK A SEAT

Pick a Seat: A Review of Learning Styles versus Seating Preferences


Sydney Carnevale, Kelsey Puliafico, Jennifer Unck, and Faith Wilkins
Touro University Nevada

PICK A SEAT

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Literature Review

Learning Style
Our study looks at the correlation between an individuals learning style and where they
choose to sit in a classroom. This research provides insight for both student and educators
regarding the ecological factors of a classroom. By determining learning styles, educators can
adapt their classroom and materials to effectively support the learning demands of their students.
An individuals learning styles can be determined through the use of standardized assessments,
such as the VARK Questionnaire. The learning styles measured by the VARK include visual,
auditory, reading/writing, and kinesthetic. The VARK Questionnaire is a brief 16-question,
standardized assessment that reviews how an individual synthesizes information. The
questionnaire does not seek to confine individuals to a single learning style as individuals are
often multimodal; having more than a single learning modality that one may prefer. Educators
can utilize this information to determine the most effective way to present information (Lujan &
DiCarlo, 2006). Understanding the dynamics of learning styles can aid in dispelling the
propensity that every student learns using the same techniques.
Seating Preference
Research has shown seating preference can influence the interaction between students
and educators, as well as give some insight into academic performance (Fernandes, Jinyan &
Rinaldo, 2011). A study conducted by Mary E. Benedict and John Hoag (2004) found that
students within an economics class had a higher probability of receiving A grades when they sat
towards the front of the room versus their counterparts in the back of the room that had a higher
probability of receiving poor to failing grades. Both studies have focused on the correlation
between seating preference, motivation, personality and academic performance. It has been

PICK A SEAT

found that students who sit towards the front of the classroom tend to have better academic
performance. Students who sit in the splash zone of information tend to be more engaged in
the material and actively participate in class discussions. Whether this is due to an unsaid
obligation due to proximity to the teacher or a reflection of the students learning style and
personality is unclear (Benedict & Hoag, 2004).
There are a significant amount of factors that must be taken into account when looking at
the arrangement of the classroom including space demands, and location of materials or
equipment. (Marx, Fuhrer, & Hartig, 1999). The composition of the furniture, such as a chair on
wheel versus a stationary chair, can also influence where a student sits (Schilling, Washington,
Billingsly, & Dietz, 2013). Other factors that may influence seating choices include interest in
the subject, relation with the teacher, class size, or physical needs (i.e. hearing or visual
disparities) (Benedict & Hoag, 2004). The use of technology, such as microphones or video
projections, may influence the seat of a student whose predominant learning style is visual or
aural. While seating may not be a direct measure of student performance, it may provide insight
as to the most effective arrangement of furniture or the position of the teachers within the
classroom.
Bridging the Gap between Learning Style and Seat Preference
Our study will be looking at the correlation between the seating preferences of
Occupational Therapy graduate students and their predominant learning style. Most studies have
centered on the interaction between grades and seating preference, however have not taken into
account the influence of a students learning style. There is limited research on the correlation
between learning style and seating preference without the incorporation of personality

PICK A SEAT

assessment. Our study is looking to isolate learning style and determine whether or not it has an
effect on the seating preference of students.
Results
Analyses focused on determining whether or not there was a correlation between
preferred learning style and seating preference of Occupational Therapy Graduate students.
Collection of learning style data began August 23, 2014 and continued until September 18, 2014.
VARK Questionnaires were emailed directly to researchers. Upon receiving VARK
Questionnaires from all 32 student participants, seating preference surveys were distributed and
collected on the same day. All students within the cohort participated fully in the research study
with zero percent mortality. All participants were members of the 2016 Occupational Therapy
Graduate Students (n= 26 female, n=6 male; age range: 21 - 47 years).
Data Analysis
Through the use of the VARK Questionnaire, results regarding preferred learning style
were collected and compiled using an Excel Spreadsheet. Results of the VARK showed the
following distribution of learning styles: Visual: n=4, Aural: n=15, Read/Write: n= 6,
Kinesthetic: n=11 (see Figure 1). Seating preference was determined by having participants
complete a survey asking them to select a seat in an optimal classroom setting. Analysis of seat
preference was based on a quadrant system to compare learning styles and seat preference (see
Figure 2). Further analysis was completed to determine the disbursement of students across the
quadrants. Results regarding Quadrant 1 expressed a majority of Aural learners over Kinesthetic
and Read/Write (4:3:1). There were no Visual learners that selected Quadrant 1. In Quadrant 2,
there was a majority Aural learners over Read/Write, Visual, and Kinesthetic learners (7:4:2:1).
In Quadrant 3, there was a majority Kinesthetic over Aural, Visual, and Read/Write (7:2:1:1). In

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Quadrant 4, there was a majority Aural over Visual (2:1). There were no Kinesthetic or
Read/Write learners that chose Quadrant 4 (see Figure 3).
Discussion and Implications
As previously discussed, the results of this study show there is a moderate influence on
seating preference based on learning style. The use of a standardized questionnaire to determine
preferred learning styles allowed for increased instrument validity. Although the survey was not
a standardized assessment tool, each student received the same directions and diagram. The
researchers found that visual learners gravitated towards Quadrant 2 which put them directly in
front of the presenter in the front of the room. No visual learners selected Quadrant 1 which may
indicate that there was a perceived obstruction to presented material. A high majority of
kinesthetic learners chose Quadrant 3, which was in the back, left quadrant of the classroom.
Kinesthetic learners may choose this distant quadrant because they may not be as engaged in the
visual and aural aspects of the lecture but rather excel during hands-on labs. There may be a high
ratio of kinesthetic learners within the cohort due to the nature of the Occupational Therapy
profession.
The results of our study could provide information to teachers regarding classroom
ergonomics and the best way to address the needs of their students. By further understanding the
physical needs of students, teachers can engage their students in a more effective manner. For
example, if a teacher finds a large of majority of their students are kinesthetic, they may choose
to set up their classroom so students are seated in groups. This setup could encourage students to
work together on hands-on projects.
The study was limited by the small sample of participants as well as the use of a
convenience sample. Generalization will be more difficult as the study focused on a small group

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of first year Occupational Therapy students within Nevada. While the VARK Questionnaire is a
standardized and valid test, the seating preference chart is not a standardized assessment tool
which could lead to bias or invalidity. The seating preference chart was based off of a real life
classroom setting which may have influenced the students choice of seat. Another limitation of
our study was the students prior knowledge of the study and hypothesis. By giving the students
this information, they may have been influenced by where they thought they should sit based on
their learning style.
Recommendations for future studies include utilizing more standardized testing to
eliminate bias and increase internal validity. To increase external validity, the hypothesis of the
study should not be disclosed to participants prior to the study. In order to increase
generalization, the subject pool should be larger with a wider array of students from other
Occupational Therapy programs.

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References

Benedict, M. E., & Hoag, J. (2004). Seating location in large lectures: Are seating preferences or
location related to course performance? Journal of Economic Education, 35(3), 215-231.
Fernandes, A. C., Jinyan, H., & Rinaldo, V. (2011). Does where a student sits really matter?
- The impact of seating locations on student classroom learning. International Journal of
Applied Educational Studies, 10(1), 66-77.
Fleming, N. D. (2008). The VARK Questionnaire. Retrieved September 2, 2014, from
http://www.vark-learn.com/english/page.asp?p=questionnaire
Lujan, H. L., DiCarlo, S. E. (2006). First-year medical students prefer multiple learning styles.
Advances in Physiology Education, 30(1), 13-16.
Marx, A., Fuhrer, U., & Hartig, T. (1999). Effects of classroom seating arrangements on
children's question-asking. Learning Environments Research, 2(3), 249-263. doi:
10.1023/A:1009901922191
Schilling, D., Washington, K., Billingsley, F., & Deitz, J. (2003). Classroom seating for children
with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder: therapy balls versus chairs. American
Journal of Occupational Therapy, 57(5), 534-541.

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Figure 1. Learning styles of OT 2016. Results of the VARK Questionnaire from the 2016
Occupational Therapy Graduate Students of Touro University Nevada.

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Figure 2. Seating preference divided by quadrant. The division of the seating preference of the
OT16 graduate students based on a quadrant system. Quad 1 being the left upper
quadrant, Quad 2 being the right upper quadrant, Quad 3 being the left lower quadrant,
Quad 4 being the right lower quadrant.

PICK A SEAT

Figure 3. Comparison of Learning Style and Seating Preference. This figure illustrates the
number of students with a specific learning style within each quadrant.

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