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Guest Author Bio: Carl French
When educators sit down and discuss how they can better improve student’s academic success, they aren’t always thinking about how the furniture in the room can affect learner engagement. However, this is an area that needs to be further explored. After all, the average student in a school day is going to be there for roughly eight hours. The physical environment they are working in is going to affect how well they process information and their behavior.
It used to be that your typical classroom contained wooden school furniture that was oddly shaped and not very comfortable to sit at for long periods of time. Desks were set up in rows, and the teacher stood at the front lecturing. Classroom walls were brown or tan with little decoration on them. It was easy to daydream about anything other than what was being taught at the front of the room and even easier for distractible students to get off task. The school desk became a sort of prison for the student to be trapped in. Is it any wonder that a child might become a behavior problem in this sort of environment?
With the advent of more active learning—where the student is not confined solely to their desk and can participate in cooperative learning groups—the functionality of the classroom furniture has changed. No longer are students required to sit alone, never allowed to do anything but raise their hand to answer a question. Many teachers prefer to create a classroom floor plan that encourages students to engage with each other while sitting at the same table.
That means classroom furniture that can be quickly shifted or moved to set up in circle configurations or small group tables is in demand. Chairs that swivel easily or are lightweight help reduce the time it takes to maneuver around a room. These factors allow students to break out of the traditional lecture format and focus on creating groups in the classroom more focused on collaborative learning.
Comfort affects the classroom environment, and therefore, the learner. No one likes to sit for long periods of time in a chair that is uncomfortable or doesn’t support the back. Choosing furniture that allows students to work comfortably can help learner engagement and keep students on task.
Even the color of furniture can impact the classroom environment. Drab grays and browns use to be the only option, but now color is starting to become a part of learner engagement. Whether or not a student realizes it, color affects how they feel emotionally and impacts behavior. Many school officials think only of the color on the walls or the decorations a teacher might put up, but the color of the furniture and how well it blends with room makes a difference as well.
Increasing learner engagement is a priority for a teacher and school administrations. While impactful lessons that foster learning are always going to be the main focus of a school, the furniture of the academic environment can assist with creating student success.