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Did You Know Classroom Seating Arrangements Are This Important?

Updated: Jul 9, 2022

The devil is in the detail, and teachers think everything through!

Every classroom is built and organized with intention. How the teacher orchestrates their classroom is thought out. But, who would have thought that seating arrangement would be an important element of the learning environment? Surely if there is a desk and chair, it doesn’t matter how it is arranged? Think again!

The instruction communication theory suggests that seating arrangement can impact how the instructors communicate with students and how students interact with one another, impacting engagement, motivation, and focus.

Let’s explore four seating arrangements and their importance.

  1. Traditional: This setup comprises rows of fixed seatings, one behind the other. Students face the instructor with their backs to one another. The setup enforces a feeling that the teacher is “on stage” and should be listened to. But, it has its downfalls. There is often higher student-teacher engagement in the front and middle rows. The back rows are much less engaged.

  2. Roundtable: Smaller classrooms, such as seminars, follow a roundtable setup. A large table is at the centre with the instructor at the head of the table. The same seating can be formed using individual desks placed in a circle. Since everyone is seated face-to-face, there is equal engagement throughout the class and the instructor can pay attention to all students. This setup also supports group discussions.

  3. Horseshoe: The horseshoe offers a modified roundtable setup, where all participants face each other while the instructor can move about the room. This seating arrangement partially mimics and disadvantages of the traditional setup, where students immediately facing the teacher engage more compared to students who aren’t facing the teacher directly.

  4. Pods: The pod arrangement can be designed with rectangular, circular or trapezoidal tables or individual desks. Instructors can place several tables together to form groups (3-4 students) or pairs. This setup is advantageous in classes that engage in a lot of group activities where students are mostly working with each other.

Instructors can consider ways to modify seating arrangements and align those arrangements with the demands of classroom activities to maximize student learning.

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