Classroom Layout: How to Optimise Seating Arrangements

Female high school student writing

Your school desk arrangement is just as valuable to your students’ learning experience as your teaching style and syllabus. An effective and harmonious classroom layout can help you optimise your learning space for efficiency. There are several factors that play a role in effective seating layouts. It’s important to know exactly what your goals are so you can base your plans around them accordingly. Here are some questions you can ask yourself before you begin:

How do you want your students to interact with one another?

  • Small groups: This seating arrangement allows students to interact in small groups or pairs.
  • Large groups: This layout allows students to participate in larger group discussions with the rest of the class.
  • Minimal: Interaction is limited to mostly the teacher and the student. Individual work and testing is prioritized.

Who is the main focus of your class?

  • Student-centered: This option prioritizes group work and group discussions. Interaction with other students and collaboration is your primary goal.
  • Teacher-centered: This arrangement works for classes conducted with the use of presentations or lectures.
  • Both: This is a flexible layout that allows for a mix between student-led discussions and collaboration as well as teacher-centric presentations and lectures.

What are your primary teaching objectives?

  • Skill growth: You want students to develop and enhance a particular skill set during your class. You focus on independent skills such as analysing, listening, and troubleshooting or more collaborative skills such as teamwork, communication, and cooperation.
  • Knowledge: You seek to help students learn and thoroughly understand the coursework material. You make use of independent activities and focus more on content.

Once you’ve identified your main intentions, you can take your pick among these seating arrangements for the best layout that suits your needs:

Collaborative Style Layouts

  • Pod Layout – A pod layout can be modified to fit both pairs and groups. You can use circular, rectangular, or individual desks to form this type of layout. Your students will be able to see each other clearly and communicate with each other without any trouble. This arrangement is beneficial if you want to facilitate cooperative group or pair discussions during your classes.
  • Perpendicular Layout – With the perpendicular arrangement, tables are spread out in two long rows perpendicular to the teacher’s table. The middle section should be free from obstructions to allow group participation. Your students will be facing each other, while still being able to see you. You can also freely walk between the two groups so you can engage them in the discussion. This set-up is ideal for debates or group discussions.

Individual Style Layouts

Student in the classroom

  • Rows and Columns – Rows and columns are perhaps the most traditional classroom layout you’ll find. This set-up allows for direct interaction between the teacher and students. It limits distractions and communication with other students, and focuses on more engaged learning. If your class is mostly lecture and presentation-centric, this is the arrangement for you.
  • Wall-Facing Desks Layout – Wall-facing desks layout are mostly found in computer rooms, but this workstation-style set-up can also work for regular classrooms. This arrangement requires students to face away from other students and requires them to focus on the material at hand. There’s not much room for students to be distracted by other students aside from those located to the right and left of them.

These are just a few seating arrangements you can implement in your own classroom. You can always get creative and design your layout according to your needs. The key is to identify your main teaching goals and how you can best represent these in your learning space.

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