As I share new evidence-based tools for increasing calm, focus and achievement in school, I also look for any research on more traditional approaches. Recently, I focused on the traditional practice of sitting in rows. Here is what I turned up:
- “Seating Arrangements That Promote Positive Academic and Behavioral Outcomes: A Review of Empirical Research,” by Rachel Wannarka & Kathy Ruhl. Support For Learning, 2008 “There is no single classroom seating arrangement that promotes positive behavioral and academic outcomes for all tasks, because the available research clearly indicates that the nature (i.e., interactive versus independent) of the task should dictate the arrangement. Teachers, especially those who have students with special educational needs that impact on their behavior in inclusive or homogeneous settings, should be able to eliminate many disruptions that are due to inappropriate student interactions by utilizing a rows arrangement for individual tasks and moving desks together when interaction is desirable.”
- Education Week, June 23, 2014 “Smart Seating Charts: the Key to Better Performance?” “Research has found that classroom seating arrangements have a great impact on student performance and behavior. A study done by Angela Hammang at Montana State University found that when carefully crafted seating charts were in effect, teachers were twice as successful reaching students and that the attainment of lower ability students was doubled. In her research, Hammang experimented by moving students around in different seating charts to help them find their optimal place; in this case it was a biology classroom, based on learning styles and personalities. She also looked at groupings by gender and past grade performances. In all cases, the students performed at a higher level when the teacher assigned seating in a calculated manner. Students on the underachieving end of the spectrum showed the most improvement when classroom seating was developed with thought, and not simply assigned based on the alphabet or another random manner. Duncan Wilson has 16 years’ experience as a teacher who was looking for a way to streamline classroom practices to make the most of the time he spent with his students. Along with a software engineer Gintautas Sasnauskas, he formed Edukey Education Ltd in 2011 and created software that guides educators through the process of assigning classroom seating based on reasonable conclusions about the students. ClassCharts is available to all teachers for free and allows for collaboration between classrooms and among teachers. Since the software became available in 2013, more than 70,000 teachers have signed up…”
- The Illinois education department information site provides research-based information on myriad topics including seating arrangements. “There is no such thing as one right way to seat students, just as there is no single way to teach all students. Seating must be differentiated to match the activity of the lesson…In a classroom, when we want students to be on task on an individual assignment, we should give each student their own ‘island of time’. The easiest way to do this is to increase the space between students.” Along with increasing space, aligning students to face in one direction (for individual tasks) will improve on-task time. Students who face the board learn more… Anything but group seating is better for individual work.” For some tasks “…on-task behavior rose by 15% overall when students were placed in rows. ” Mixed-sex seating produces the highest pupil on-task levels. Similarly, disruptive behavior in both classes was at its lowest when boys and girls sat together. What also emerged clearly from the results was that children with the lowest on-task study levels were most positively affected by the change from mixed to same-sex seating.”
- Last, some teachers with whom I work say: (Taking into account differences based on age and need of student, available resources, supervisor expectations, and the task at hand).
- Have a variety of seating arrangements available and move from one to the other as the content and task suggests. Include time on the rug-floor, or at round tables, individual desks and individual computer desks.
- Have one desk for each student in rows, all facing the board, but create a relaxed tone with soft lamps, a couch in a corner, exercise balls to sit on if desired, and many opportunities to move around or come to the board during a lesson.
- Have round tables in the middle of the room for individual, dyad or group work and individual desks rimming the classroom where students keep their work and go for quiet reflective time. More mature students can work on independent projects at round tables if there is a little space between students, giving them the opportunity to ask for peer help when needed and the companion of a peer nearby.
Hopefully, this gives you some new ways to think about running a smoother class and meeting individual needs by enhancing seating arrangements. I also hope that one of the main ‘seats’ you will use this summer is a beach chair!