The arrangement of classroom desks in rows, all facing forward, is convenient usually only for the teachers who have a clear view of the class and “impart” knowledge to students (or so they believe). The arrangement of desks in the classroom determines the mode of interaction between the students and their teacher or classmates. Such interactions enable us to learn from one another. So if we want to improve the quality of teaching, we should try and adapt the desk arrangement in the classroom to the nature of activities. There are many possible layouts, but it would be best to test which configuration is the most conducive to learning. If there is really not much we can change or improve in the physical learning space of our school building, we should at least try to introduce changes in our classrooms and give our students the opportunity to learn better.
Download CHANGES? START WITH THE DESKS and read about the ideas implemented by the school in Ostojów (Poland).
It is very important to make sure that the desk arrangement is not a distraction for students, and that they do not need to look around to find the teacher. Group arrangement suitable for teamwork is beneficial when work in groups is planned and students do not need constant eye contact with the teacher. By supervising each team, the teacher becomes an observer who monitors their work, and his or her activity is increased.
Also, remember that desk arrangement affects the awareness of the roles each student has in the class team. In the early grades, the student sitting in the front of the class feels favoured, and the one sitting in the last row may feel inferior, “forgotten” in the back. This is why we usually arrange desks in a half-circle, a horse-shoe or an L shape to have equal eye contact and physical access to each student.
Let’s try to engage students in school life, support students’ self-government and teach responsibility for oneself, others and the space each person shares with the rest of the community. Maybe we should start with the places that the students feel most attached to, for instance the classroom in which they spend most of their day. How to include students in the decisions concerning classroom space? What benefits can we draw from this?
Download STUDENTS DECIDE and find out what changes were introduced by students in Kowale (Poland).
Every teacher can introduce changes in the classroom. Nevertheless, they should discuss the issue with the students in order to work out the best solution for a given subject. Every change has to be well-thought and have a purpose that everyone involved shares. The most important issue is time. Do not rush or jump into conclusions! Make sure that all students, parents and teachers accept or get used to changes. But don’t be afraid to experiment! You will see the benefits soon enough. Your modifications can have a really positive impact on the teaching process.