Just as a typical workplace has evolved over the years, so has the classroom. And just as with the workplace, the furniture to support modern educational spaces has changed as well.
In both cases, the key term is “engagement.” Workers who are engaged do more and better work, and students who are engaged do more and better learning, no doubt about it. So what does it mean to be “engaged” in the classroom, and how do furnishings support that?
Engagement is a move away from the classrooms you might have grown up in … neat rows of uncomfortable desks that were never moved, all facing the teacher/lecturer at the front of the room. The classrooms were inflexible arrangements to support an inflexible model of education: teacher speaks, students listen.
Today, education is much more of a two-way street with critical thinking, collaboration, stimulation and more participation from students as typical goals. And a bunch of hard chairs facing the same direction simply do not support this model.
Classroom furniture for the 21st century is not only more comfortable, but far more flexible, allowing spaces to change to suit group collaboration, individual pursuits and yes, still the teacher-up-front model when necessary. Swivel chairs promote greater comfort and, therefore, better learning. Tables that are easily moved can be reconfigured to support activities for groups of various sizes. And dividers can be put into place to convert those same tables for individual work (and to reduce the chance of copying from someone else’s test … some things haven’t changed).
Beyond the seating and table arrangements, looks for more whiteboards and lots of markers, or even writeable walls, to encourage creativity, collaboration and sharing. The more whiteboard opportunities there are, the better the chances of converting thoughts from verbal to visual.
This evolution has seen a shift in the epicenter of the classroom from teacher to student as learning changes from passive to active. Furniture that supports this new reality is absolutely vital to its success.