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Seating Arrangements and Their Effects on Learning

Seating Arrangements and Their Effects on Learning | ITTT | TEFL Blog

A seating arrangement sometimes called a seating plan is used by teachers to organize their classrooms. It indicates the placement of desks and chairs that work best for both the students and the teacher. Here we will be seeing the different seating arrangements and how each of them affects learning or classroom dynamics.

This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Emilie J. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.

Typical Classroom

When we think of a classroom, the usual image that comes to mind is one of a classic class with rows of desks one behind the other. However, if you step into a classroom today, chances are you’ll see a different setup that is perhaps more cohesive with group learning. This change of setup was bought on by studies showing the benefits of alternative table placements. It has been shown that such changes can have positive effects on things such as classroom behavior, class participation, and even test scores.

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Now let’s look at the 3 main seating arrangements, their pros and cons and their effect on classroom dynamics

The first setup that we’ll be seeing is the most classic, the rows of tables behind one another. This is the most commonly used because of how easy it is to put into place and can be used for large groups. Teaching becomes slightly easier because the students are all facing the board and the teacher. The downfall to this is that class becomes teacher focused, and therefore leaves room for students to lose attention, and doesn’t allow students to fully interact with their peers. The last con is that while you’re able to keep a close eye on the students in the first row, it is difficult to see what’s going on in the last rows.

Next, there is the U shape class, where the table is set in a horseshoe formation in front of the board. This is the kind of table placement that can also be found in meeting rooms in offices. It’s great for classroom discussions as we can see everyone in the classroom. It makes moving around to each student easier for the teacher, which is great for study time activities. With this seating arrangement, it will be easy for the teacher to control behavior issues and create a positive and safe environment for everyone.

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Lastly, we have the table clusters, these are groups of two or three tables grouped seating 4 to 6 students. I have seen this setup mostly used in kindergarten and elementary settings. The clusters provide a small and safe space for students to work and engage together in a more intimate way than the U shape we saw earlier, this can be better for shy students. This setup is often used for younger students because it makes moving around the classroom easier, granted you have a large room. It can be difficult for the teacher to do board work as not all students are naturally facing the front of the class, with this seating chart, it can also be easier for certain students to copy off their classmates instead of doing their work and participating.

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All in all, I think that all three seating arrangements have a legitimate place in the classroom. It all depends on factors such as room size, class size, and class level. While an advanced group can benefit from a U shape for class discussions, a beginner class might do better with clusters where the teacher can talk to each group individually, or have a small space where they can practice their peers.

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