My passion for different types of learning spaces stems from watching my own child learn. I have been educated by my son on learning spaces for 12 years. For him, his ultimate learning space is not one confined to the traditional desk and chair that most students endure for 6 hours, 5 days a week. He is most productive standing, laying, crouching or all of the above. If he is not able to be comfortable in his surroundings he will not engage nor will his best learning take place. When I say “comfortable” I don’t mean kick your feet up and lounge by the pool comfortable. I mean his body is in a place where his brain can work to full capacity. At home he has options when it is time for homework. He has a desk. He has a table. He has chairs. But he also has choice. The choice he usually makes is to stand in the corner of the kitchen. Or to sit on the steps surrounded by his papers and pens. Once I realized to stop forcing him into a seat and table top, the battles with him to “do homework” were over. What he taught me about personalized learning spaces I could have never learned from a textbook or from reading articles on the Internet. He taught me choice in his learning space affected his learning- for the better. He opened my eyes to the importance of choice in learning space in the classroom.
I would never say ditch the desk. The desk is also part of the choice. What I do say is add to the desk:
- Allow for choice.
- Create learning environments that fit the student and the learning.
- Provide different seating.
- Provide the options to stand.
- Provide options for movement.
- Provide stability.
- Provide safety.
The key to making flexible learning spaces successful goes hand and hand with classroom management, student expectations and teacher vision. Many teachers are hesitant in adding bean bag chairs and rugs to lay on. That might mean giving up control of a structured, organized, and symmetrical classroom. On the contrary, if students can learn better in a bean bag they are apt to be more engaged in the lesson then if they were sitting in a chair and desk. If the expectations for students are clear and classroom management is in place, students learning will happen. A teacher must decide what their vision is when it comes to creating learning spaces. It is not a “one size fits all” way of doing things. Flexibility and failure will continuously make the environment better as the learning spaces evolve.
Flexible seating does not need to stop in the classroom. Follow Derek McCoy, Principal of Rowan Middle School, for more ideas. This is happening in his school everyday:
Not sure where to start? Read the article, “Flexible Classrooms: Providing the Learning Environment That Kids Need” by edutopia.org
Another resource on Classroom Design is https://www.cultofpedagogy.com/tag/classroom-design/ If you don’t follow Jennifer Gonzalez on Twitter, you should. She is a wealth of knowledge when it comes to Instructional Best Practices.
Whatever classroom seating or learning environment you put in place, the question to ask yourself is,
“What’s best for the students?”