Preferential Seating

The Strategy

Preferential seating is when a student’s seat is placed in the location that is most beneficial for their learning. In many cases, this means limiting the distractions available to the student and increasing proximity to the teacher in order to increase academic engagement and decrease disruptive behavior. 

  1. Identify environmental factors or contexts that seem to be most associated with the student’s challenging behaviors. For example, does the student seem more off task when around specific peers? Are there contents of their desk that seem to draw their attention away from the task at inappropriate times? Are they looking out the window at things going on outside? Are they sitting next to distracting materials (e.g., science equipment)?
  2. Once you have identified these challenges, move the student to a seat or area that will reduce the environmental distractions and set them up for success. In addition to this, seating the student in a location that allows for more frequent supervision and feedback opportunities (e.g., near the front of the class), may help to decrease inappropriate behaviors.
  3. Use Beacon progress monitoring tools to evaluate the extent to which this strategy is improving the target behaviors as intended.

  • There may be some trial and error while you work to identify the arrangement that will work best for the student. Be creative and consider how different subjects or expectations may affect the student’s performance. For example, during whole class instruction, the front of the class may be the best space to increase engagement, but during testing, the student may become distracted by the teacher if they are sitting up front or near distracting stimuli (e.g., bulletin boards; book shelves).
  • Preferential seating may work best when combined with an intervention that has strong evidence of effectiveness (e.g., a DRC) for producing behavior change. This will facilitate the development of skills that eventually allow the student to demonstrate adequate behavior and academic engagement regardless of where they are seated in the classroom.
  • Moving one student’s location without moving other students’ may be harmful to the target students’ peer relationships. Thus, consider making multiple moves at a given time to reduce the potential for negative stigma.
  • Communicate with the class about movement of seats. By having a discussion with the whole class about seating and why it may change throughout the year, you will reduce the likelihood of ongoing questions from students.
  • If the student is separated from peers, periodically talk to the student about experimenting with re-integration in small doses, so that he/she can be successful. For example, allow the student to be with peers for a short portion of some periods. As the student demonstrates success (e.g., work completion, absence of negative behaviors), praise the student and offer more time in that peer group.

Because preferential seating does not effectively build the skills students need to independently meet age-appropriate expectations, it cannot be evaluated for effectiveness. The goal of preferential seating is to ensure the student is seating in a location that is conducive to their learning. If this strategy is selected for use in the short term, it is recommended that it be replaced at some point with an intervention to help the student develop the skills needed to independently meet age-appropriate expectations for classroom behavior.

Intervention Scorecard

This intervention is recommended for the following presenting problems.

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Other suitable presenting problems