Guest post: the impact of seating charts in the classroom

Duncan Wilson is passionate about seating charts and has written this guest post about their impact on learning and some new free software he has developed to enable their use. Duncan has 16 years experience in the classroom and has served as a Head of Department, Head of Year & School Data Manager. He left teaching last year to build his education software development company, Edukey Education…

I have been teaching science & ICT for over 16 years and during this time I have used seating charts for all classes from Yr7 –Yr13.


Seating charts make a real difference to the classroom learning environment in terms of teacher effectiveness and student attainment. By using a seating chart the teacher is imposing their authority before the lesson has even begun and making it clear to the students that the classroom is the teacher’s territory and they are in control of it. By using their knowledge of students and putting careful thought into the design of the seating chart the teacher can minimise negative interactions between students and take advantage of peer-peer learning strategies. Findings from research at Montana State University strongly agree with this line of thought:


A clinical scale was used with 1 being very effective in the classroom and a 10 meaning that the teacher wanted to quit their job, go home & cry. Treatment A involved the use of seating charts and the above table shows a significant impact in terms of teacher comfort, confidence & effectiveness.

The research also looked at the impact of seating charts on student results in Montana State’s Criterion Reference Tests (CRTs). In terms of pupil attainment there is always a concern that the lower ability students have a negative impact on the attainment of the high ability students but the research clearly shows a huge attainment increase for the lower ability students with no detrimental impact on the high ability students, as shown in the chart below:


When I was working as a teacher I went through the usual inspection regimes and always tried to do something a little bit extra to impress the inspectors. For the last inspection I shared the concept of adding photos & key data to seating charts and this was taken up whole school – the Assistant Head and an administrator slaved for hours with excel and powerpoint – creating a seating chart & adding data for each class in the school (with 50 teachers that meant around 800 powerpoint slides). It was alot of work but the outcome was that because the teachers were aware of students’ needs & abilities the approach was identified as outstanding practice.

The above thoughts and research led us to consider how we could develop seating charts into a useful and effective classroom tool and we came up with:

  • Adding student photos – names matter!
  • Adding key data about students so teachers are aware of student needs & abilities at a glance.
  • Using seating charts for effective differentiation – easily grouping or dispersing students in the classroom based on the data about them. For example – grouping the low ability readers for LSA support or differentiation work.
  • Monitoring behaviour and using the data in an intelligent way. All behaviour incidents are tracked and we use artificial intelligence to identify trends and patterns – all of this feeds back into the seating charts to minimise behaviour issues and maximise learning.
  • Finding which students interact positively / negatively with each other and making school leaders aware of this for when they decide class lists.
  • Collaborating with colleagues & parents to tackle behaviour as a team.

We built Class Charts from the bottom up and from the perspective of a teacher with 16 years experience at the chalkface – we hope it will have a real impact on classroom management and lead to an improvement in student attainment. Feedback has been superb and since launch in January 2013 it is already being used in over 15,000 schools around the world and a whole school version is available soon.

Class Charts is a free product and will remain so for individual users. A whole school solution is available which integrates SIMS with the seating charts.

You can say hello to Duncan at, learn more at or follow on Twitter  @classcharts

What are your thoughts and experiences using seating charts? Please leave any feedback or questions on the article in the comments below – Duncan has promised to check and respond through the day…

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Categories: Guest Post and Teaching.


  1. TanyaMatthews11

    SchoolsImprove Nope – I have a ‘first come, first served’ seating policy. Seldom have to move kids away from their selected seats.

    • Classcharts

      @TanyaMatthews11 SchoolsImprove Hi Tanya – each to their own! It sounds like you have your classroom under control!

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