By: Melissa Perry @MBM_Perry
It is an established precept that traditional schools are not a reflection of the real world, and the classroom, is certainly no better. As we make the shift from teacher-centered to student-centered learning, we are seeing changes in traditional education as the roles of students and teachers change and how information is consumed and produced is emphasized. And, with such a grand shift, we are also seeing more consideration for the atmosphere and layout of the classroom.
Looking at the traditional classroom layout, we are presented with rows of desks and chairs, uniform, rigid, and designed to keep even the most imaginative in line. But, in the 21st century as the educational paradigm has moved toward technology integration, pushed creativity, and encouraged student ownership, the former arrangement of antiquity is no longer conducive. As reflective of the real world, students have been given more choice, but why shouldn't the classroom reflect that? We are changing mindsets and atmospheres. In the 21st century classroom, we are seeing couches, collaborative tables, maker spaces, quiet spaces in place of desks. Teachers are choosing to lecture in more casual spaces filled with beanbag chairs and rugs, and students are choosing places to where they are best able to do their work. If we want students to truly experience the "real world," then, the classroom should be arranged like so. When we do so, we are allowing the students to not only take ownership of their learning but of their own space that they truly feel a part of. We are giving them choice in how and where they choose to learn and also providing them a refreshing space free of the rigidity of classrooms of the past.
It is certainly not an easy task to go about creating such spaces, but it can be done. Teachers have to consider how they want to utilize their spaces and write down their vision and goals before choosing to move toward flexible seating. Looking at other examples as well as observing the spaces around you will help refine your vision. Do I want my classroom to have the atmosphere of Starbucks? Do I want it to feel more like home? After this, the space must be measured and furniture purchased based on need and space availability. Teachers may also have to give up some furniture, like desks, chairs, or even the teacher's desk, if it means creating a more liberating space for optimal learning. Over-cluttering can easily become a problem and disrupt the natural flow of any space. Consider how you want your students to "flow" throughout the room and where stations or designated areas can be set up. Color choices must also be considered, as well as the kinds of emotions they invoke and the impact they have different age groups. Classroom furniture does not have to be designer or expensive; great furniture can be picked up from places like Wal-Mart, yard sales, and office/school furniture auctions, but it all depends on your creativity and budget.
Below are a few resources for designing your own classroom: