Accommodations Toolkit

Preferential Seating: Research

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National Center on Educational Outcomes (NCEO)

This fact sheet on preferential seating is part of the Accommodations Toolkit published by the National Center on Educational Outcomes (NCEO). It summarizes information and research findings on preferential seating as an accommodation.[1]

What is preferential seating? Preferential seating is interpreted differently by many educators and researchers. Common interpretations include the student being “close to the teacher,” “away from distractions,” and “in the front of the room” (Byrnes, 2008).

What are the research findings on who should use this accommodation? Preferential seating has benefited some students with disabilities who are easily distracted, including those with tics (Bruins, 2005; Packer, 2005). Accommodation plans should describe the action needed for the specific student receiving preferential seating (e.g., “seated away from noise of windows”) (Byrnes, 2008).

What are the research findings on implementation of preferential seating? Three studies were located that addressed the frequency of use of preferential seating. No identified studies examined the effect of preferential seating on student performance.

  • Two studies found that preferential seating was one of the most frequently used testing accommodations (Bruins, 2005) and instructional accommodations (Byrnes, 2008) on student Individualized Education Programs (IEPs).
  • Another study found that preferential seating was one of the most frequently reported classroom strategies used for students with tics (Packer, 2005).

What perceptions do students and teachers have about preferential seating? Two research studies examined teacher perceptions on the use of preferential seating.

  • One study found that both special education and general education teachers perceived preferential seating to mean “close to the teacher” and “away from distractions.” However, general education teachers also perceived preferential seating as “close to the board,” while special education teachers did not (Byrnes, 2008).
  • Another study found that preferential seating was perceived to be a “somewhat helpful” accommodation by general and special education teachers (Detrick-Grove, 2016).

What have we learned overall? There is a need for additional research on the use of preferential seating because only four studies were identified and those four only addressed the frequency and perceptions of this accommodation. No identified studies examined the effects of preferential seating on student performance, so there is a particular need for research in this area. Nevertheless, educators perceived preferential seating to be somewhat helpful to students.

References

  • Bruins, S. K. (2005). Investigating how students with disabilities receiving special education services affect the school’s ability to meet adequate yearly progress. Dissertation Abstracts International: Section A. Humanities and Social Sciences, 66(08). Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/305011908/abstract

  • Byrnes, M. (2008). Educators’ interpretations of ambiguous accommodations. Remedial and Special Education, 29(5), 306–315. https://doi.org/10.1177/0741932507313017

  • Detrick-Grove, T. L. (2016). Teachers’ perceptions and knowledge of accommodations for students with disabilities. Dissertation Abstracts International: Section A. Humanities and Social Sciences, 78(05). Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/1853127964/abstract

  • Packer, L. E. (2005). Tic-related school problems: Impact on functioning, accommodations, and interventions. Behavior Modification, 29(6). https://doi.org/10.1177/0145445505279383

Attribution

All rights reserved. Any or all portions of this document may be reproduced and distributed without prior permission, provided the source is cited as:

  • Goldstone, L., Hendrickson, K., Lazarus, S. S., Ressa, V., & Rogers, C. M. (2021). Preferential seating: Research (NCEO Accommodations Toolkit #10a). National Center on Educational Outcomes.

NCEO is supported through a Cooperative Agreement (#H326G160001) with the Research to Practice Division, Office of Special Education Programs, U.S. Department of Education. The Center is affiliated with the Institute on Community Integration at the College of Education and Human Development, University of Minnesota. NCEO does not endorse any of the commercial products used in the studies. The contents of this report were developed under the Cooperative Agreement from the U.S. Department of Education, but does not necessarily represent the policy or opinions of the U.S. Department of Education or Offices within it. Readers should not assume endorsement by the federal government. Project Officer: David Egnor