To create a classroom space that is more student centered here are some guiding principles that can really increase student participation and engagement:
Be more deliberate about furniture configuration
The aim is to have the flexibility to create both independent learning spaces and collaborative work areas. Start off by taking an inventory of what’s available to you and create your floor plan from there. Is the furniture, seating and storage being used efficiently? If not, consider repurposing, re-positioning them, or removing them. This will provide flexibility to try different seating options, like pushing a row of desks against a wall for an independent learning space or positioning them together to form a collaborative work space.
Allow room for movement
There is now lots of research to show that optimal learning is possible when students are able to move. Have a look at classroom configurations that allow ease of movement between different areas so students can discover how they learn best. Of think about introducing standing desks. Also make sure everyone has enough table space for their books or laptops so no-one is cramped.
Ditch the teacher desk
This may seem radical but teacher desks are remnants of a more traditional classroom design. They should be one the first items to consider when creating a student-centered learning environment. This idea of educators not having a set desk allows for a more student centered collaborative style of teaching as well as a less hierarchical approach.
Utilize multi-purpose tables
If removing the large teacher desk isn’t an option, then how could it be moved or repurposed to support a vision for a student-centered learning environment? Rectangular tables or extra desks, if they’re available and uncluttered, can be used for a designated spaces, like collaborative or creative work.
Create clear sight-lines
Teachers and students should be able to see everyone else in the classroom. That may sound like an easy task in an open classroom, but projector carts, columns, or bookshelves can all present visual barriers. Ensuring a clear line of sight across the room is a way of encouraging student participation, especially during group discussions. When possible having natural light or views of the outside surroundings, particularly of nature – are shown to be highly beneficial to keep students calm and focused.
There is no prescribed method in which a classroom should be set up. Flexibility is key so its important to reassess the changes to see what is and isn’t working. This is where modular furniture can be a great advantage to staying flexible, meeting different needs and finding successful workable solutions.