Setting up a classroom for a class has always been a difficult process. Rarely does the first arrangement last very long, as teachers (and the students) tweak the layout to better suit the needs of the students. As any dedicated teacher will affirm, the needs of the students are paramount, whilst the desires of the teacher are secondary. Students will often have input, and increasingly, so do parents and carers in their desire to see their children achieve.
The articles have shown a number of factors that are increasingly important in the layout of the modern classroom. Whilst there are restrictions placed by design and teachers have an established classroom space to deal with, increasingly there are other factors such as the economy and the socio-political-economic background of the students and their families.
Curriculum today is driven by politics and economy, and teachers are forced to alter classroom layouts in an effort to best achieve competencies for their students. Benchmarks are set by politicians and teachers find that a variety of classroom structures work best for learning particular skills.
Parents also drive this as they want their children to achieve the highest results possible in standardised testing. Parents also affect classrooms in that they don’t want their children attempting practices that are taxing or too demanding of them. Meaning that teachers have to find a balance between the two.
Interestingly, the text by Cinar (2010) indicated that student placement in classrooms mirrored a number of socio-political end economic factors. It was interesting to note the seating positions of village students (often perceived as having lower educational aptitude) and students with mothers with poor educational backgrounds. These tended to sit further away from the teacher than others. Less surprising was the positioning of students relative to their enjoyment of the class or self-perceived competency in the class. Girls tended to sit in more friendship based seats while academically oriented students tended to be at front and centre.
Classroom design plays a part in student interest as do the displays within the room. Read (2010) highlights the preference of young learners for curves, circles and wavy lines. Interestingly, in the centre I taught in in Singapore, the only decorations were coloured swirls and spirals in ‘company colours’ along the walls in the corridors and in the reception are. Classrooms, however, were bare white walls, with no allowance for any displays of any kind. Colour, location, natural light and defined spaces are what inspire younger learners and Read seemed to be very clear on this.
Classrooms with straight rows of desks are very much a relic from the past, but still can be found in the classrooms of teachers who are very ‘old school’ in their approaches and methodology.
Once the physical space is organised to best suit student requirements, it is up to the teacher to organise the students for the ‘best fit’ in the classroom. Teachers constantly revise their classroom seating plan, trying to achieve maximum success and optimum teaching for their class and its students. Who sits at the front? Who sits at the sides? Who should be sitting at the rear? Are there any pairings that should not be allowed or any that should be encouraged, for the benefit of the class? Who sits near the door? Near the teacher? Near the window? The list goes on and teachers continue to balance this against the changing needs of the class.
The biggest difference that this would make to my own classroom design would be in the use of display space, as I think much of the layout of classroom space is dictated by other factors. I think that in future I will use fewer rectangular displays and attempt to use more fluid designs and curving lines. Circular spaces seem to be far more inviting and encouraging to students.
Cinar, I. (2010). Classroom geography: who sit where in the traditional classrooms? Journal of International Research, 3(10), 200-212
Read, M. (2010). Contemplating design: listening to children’s preferences about classroom design. Creative Education, 2, 75 – 80
Schratzenstaller, A. (2010). The Classroom of the Past. In K. Makitalo-Siegl, J. Zottmann, F. Kaplan & F. Fischer (Eds.), Classroom of the Future: Orchestrating Collaborative Spaces (pp. 15-39). Netherlands: Sense Publishers.
Images from Google clipart.