Sunday, 18 April 2010

Classrooms or learning spaces?

Chris Harte has posted some pictures of the classrooms in his department. Very interesting, though I have to say that it is not a pattern I would opt for with our particular pupils. Over the years, like many other teachers, I have experimented with different table and chair arrangements: group tables, horse shoes, traditional rows or even a combination of rows and a central horsehoe. We now use traditional rows and create a horseshoe for smaller groups, usually A-level.

Have a look at Chris's pictures and commentary:

I like the presence of the computers, though in this case pupils have to share, so, although collaboration is encouraged (can be good), less work may get done (bad). The obvious problem with group tables is the one of sight lines to the teacher and the board. If you believe that a good deal of teaching should be teacher-led, then rows may make better sense. In any case, pupils can quickly turn sideways or around to create pairs and groups.

The question of seating arrangements is a fundamental one, of course, since it is associated with methodology. If you believe that progress is best achieved with teacher instruction, whole class response, pair and individual work, then rows or similar (e.g. horseshoes) may still make sense. If you believe that there are broader educational issues to do with collaboration, teacher as facilitator, problem solving etc, then a group table arrangement may suit. If your classes respond better to group working than teacher-led approaches, then group tables may make sense. I guess you have to lay out a room in a way that suits your teaching style and the pupils' learning style.

My own experience with above average aptitude secondary children leads me to conclude that traditional rows make sense. If I had room for concentric horseshoes, then that also works well and allows pupils to be better seen and heard by their peers. Kids being kids, if they are sitting in a group facing away from the teacher, they are more likely to waste time, aren't they?

As for the computers, well, one per table in every room would be ideal, but failing that, a 30 station separate room, easy to book, works fine.

I'd be interested to hear any thoughts on this.

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