Educators are always looking for ways to improve student comprehension and retention in the classroom. While there is a lot of focus on the content of the curriculum, some child psychologists are focusing instead on classroom layouts and seating arrangements.
In Australia, school furniture is evolving to meet the needs of modern educators and their students. While the classic chair and desk combination are still some of the most popular furniture choices for classrooms, there are an increasing number of more modular options available, with desks that allow for greater flexibility. They are more versatile and a welcome change from the standard ‘rows and columns’ layout of traditional classrooms.
An Effective Layout
The standard classroom layout used in most schools around the world is the standard row and columns seating arrangement – teachers are at the front, while the seats and chairs form a grid facing the blackboard.
According to a German study published in 2006, students who are seated at the front of the classroom are more likely to ask questions and generally have better performance than other students. These students have learning gains that are between 5% to 27% higher than students sitting on other rows.
Semi-circle layouts are more effective than other types of seating arrangements, as it provides classes with equal opportunities for learning. It is important to note, however, that even in a semi-circle; students who sat closer to the centre of the circle have higher learning gains.
So should all classrooms switch to a semi-circle layout?
While it is an effective way to improve learning, there are limitations to its implementation – it will require a relatively large and wide classroom with a small class size. Semi-circles tend to occupy more space than standard layouts.
Student learning can also be affected by numerous other environmental factors, including the weather, the amount of light entering the classroom and the glare from the lamps overhead. Of course, the educators’ teaching style and personality are also factors.
While semi-circles are likely one of the most effective classroom layouts for improved learning, educators should focus on other hindrances if it is not feasible.