According to a very interesting article in the new Achieve IELTS Grammar & Vocabulary book, where you sit on a bus suggests a lot about your personality. A recent study from Salford University found clear patterns indicating that who you are determines where you feel comfortable placing yourself in the space you are in. In this study’s case, it was which seat was chosen and in which area of a double-decker bus, that showed if you were independent- minded, rebellious or a strong communicator, for example.
I find this connection between personality and spatial orientation fascinating and this article has rekindled my passion for some related informal research I have been doing for the past 8 years.
Back in 2002, my teacher training colleagues and I began to notice a strange pattern emerging regarding the seating choices of our trainees. We noticed that time and time again, where our trainees chose to sit in our input room directly related to how well they were doing on the course. We even found that when people’s progress on the course rose or fell, they also switched seats in the class to fit the spatial pattern we now clearly recognized. Eventually, we rather dramatically labeled one chair, The Death Chair, because if anyone sat in it for more than a week, they were usually a fail candidate.
Up to this point, our research wasn’t directly linked to any specific personality trait, it was merely a weird thermometer indicating progress.
However, some odd anomalies began to show up, which made me think this ‘chair choice = progress notification’ phenomenon had more to do with personality than I had previously thought.
Every once in a while I would be shocked to find that strong candidates sat in the ‘fail zone’ chair too. Initially I thought that made sense, after all, our observations couldn’t be perfect; it would be too weird indeed if every single struggler on every single course sat in the same chair.
Then I began to notice something interesting about this particular type of strong candidate. Although these people began the course as potential ‘A’ candidates, they, in fact, did not achieve much progress during the course. In other words, they came in with strong classroom management skills, but did not take on much of the methodology, depth of language analysis or insight into materials analysis. They paid us lip service, and could lead a class well, but essentially they were resistant and unwilling to take any feedback on board.
Since reading the article about personality and bus-seat choices, I believe even more strongly that my colleagues and I are on to something.
I am not in any way condoning the pigeon-holing of people; this is not about ‘labelling’ someone, but rather better understanding what issues are blocking their progress on the course. For example, if someone is unwilling to accept feedback, hours of repetition of concepts in different formats won’t help, but acknowledging the resistance will. In my opinion, the more insight into how people are really feeling about their course, the easier it is to adapt your approach and feedback style for that person.
And now I don’t need to spend hours wondering why strong candidates aren’t progressing on the course.
All I have to do is pay attention to where they sit.
- If you want to know which bus-seat choices reflect which characteristics, buy the book
- If you want to know where the ‘death chair’ is, contact me.
- If you want to do your own research in your teacher training institute, please contact me!
posted by Tania