So I will be the first to admit that I have never really been “on the bus” when it comes to flexible seating.  You might even say that I am pretty “old school” when it comes to seating in my classroom.  I have always allowed freedom of choice when choosing their initial learning space and then I use seating charts to help learn their names plus it gives me another classroom management tool.  “Thank you for XYZ, you may sit where you want today!” or “New seating chart today!  Find a new friend!”  I do this mainly because I want students to interact with peers they would not normally and to keep them on their toes.

Can you still maintain classroom management while implementing a flexible seating concept?  Why in the world should I have flexible seating to begin with?  What will my expectations be for learning?  Is it simply rearranging the environment or a true tool of differentiation?

These questions have run through my mind over the last couple of years as a teacher and, until now, I really did not have a good answer.

A study conduct by the National Training Laboratories in 200 found the following:

  • 80% retention occurs IF the students teach others

RESEARCH

I decided to hit up the trusty old Google and do some searches myself on actual studies completed pertaining to flexible seating.  The amount of information that emerged from that search was a bit overwhelming at times but all-in-all helpful and solidified my choice to implement flexible seating.

A study conduct by the National Training Laboratories in 200 found the following:

  • 5% of information delivered through lecture aka sit-n-get style teaching is retained by a learner
  • 50% is retained IF a discussion group is utlizied
  • 70% retention if they practice doing the concept
  • 80% retention occurs IF the students teach others

Wow!  Simply wow!  I mean, many teachers have experienced success with all of these options in some way, shape or form BUT the numbers really make it real.

So what does this have to do with flexible seating you ask?  EVERYTHING.

By creating an environment where students sit next to, across from, move here, lay there this allows them to get comfortable and discuss when they need to really break it down.  Let’s be realistic about this, who wants to attempt to learn while sitting straight at a desk starring at a board or screen alone.  I mean, I lay in bed when I type most of these blog posts so why should I expect my students to learn or maintain engagement sitting uniformed in a desk.

Herman Miller, a company that “places great importance on design, the environment, community service, and the health and well-being of our customers and our employees,”  completes and shares some amazing research on design and its relationship to employee and student success.  (Visit their site here to learn more about Herman Miller.)  The company published a research paper titled, “Rethinking the Classroom.”  From this research I related most to the following quote:

“Classroom design can help to develop skills for life and work beyond the classroom.  Self-directed learning and collaborative problem solving are essential skills for success.”

Creating a learning environment that allows opportunities for both self-directed and collaborative learning is exactly what a classroom SHOULD scream to our students, our learners.  (Read the article here.)

ANSWERING MY OWN QUESTIONS

Can you still maintain classroom management while implementing a flexible seating concept?

YES! I have a visual of expectations related specifically to flexible seating and what it looks like in the room.  We will practice this daily and reinforce those expectations.

Why in the world should I have flexible seating to begin with?

I feel the research above truly answered this question for me but even more so, I simply don’t like to sit at a desk and study.  I do most of that relaxing on the couch or in my bed so why consider the need of my students.

What will my expectations be for learning?

I borrowed this visual from a flexible seating blog post I found on teachcreatemotivate.com.  Create read PLUS I love the visual.  Win! Win!

Is it simply rearranging the environment or a true tool of differentiation?

It all depends on your approach and what you make of it!

FINAL THOUGHTS

So, is flexible seating a fad or innovation?  I think the verdict is still out on this question statistically BUT I personally feel it is innovation at its finest.   While there is some research to support the increased success of learners in the classroom and work place, it is still very new to both environments.  I look forward to being a part of pushing the boundaries to discover the possibilities in my classroom.

“If you always do what you always did you will always get what you always got.”

Albert Einstein 

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