Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Where do you sit in class?

I was asked to go to speak to the incoming class of freshmen at their orientation.  When I go there, I found them sitting in the usual pattern.  The last rows at the back of the lecture hall were quite full, while the first two rolls in the front were completely empty.  They were behaving exactly like a normal class of our university’s students: the majority of the students prefer to stay as far away as possible from the lecturer. 

Before I spoke about Service Learning, my assigned topic, I sketched on the board the result of a study that I did two years ago, on my database class.  It was a graph plotting the final grade of each student (y-axis) against the distance between the student and the lecturer (me) at the first class (x-axis). 

There were a lot of fluctuations in the curve, as expected.  But there was also a easily discernable negative correlation between the grade and the distance: the further away the student was, the lower was the final grade.  The study did not look into the cause, but the negative correlation was obvious.  I wonder whether they might behave differently this year.


Anonymous said...

If you combine your data from the first lecture with the first exam grade; with the data from the last lecture with the final grade, it might tell you something more than a simple correlation perhaps? Of course that's assuming a low dropout rate etc!

StephenC said...

That's an interesting thought. I might try that. Thanks.

Cyiu Chau said...

Haha, I have read (on the internet) that similar results have been found in mainland China, Taiwan and the US.

By the way, maybe next time you can try to investigate if students sitting with opposite sex will generally do better/worse than those sitting with classmates of the same sex.

StephenC said...

What do you think? Would you say it is an additional motivating factor? or a distraction? - to have a female sitting next to you? :-)

Cyiu Chau said...

For some of them, it might be an additional motivating factor IN THE BEGINNING but guess it won't last long.

Majority of the young males/females nowadays aren't looking for hard-working students / good academic performance anyway.
Therefore I would put my bet on distraction. Interestingly, many "good schools" are unisex schools (of course there are some v.good co-ed schools but overall ratio is lower?).

I might be wrong though, and that's exactly why I am so looking forward to your results :P