The growing trend to toss the traditional classroom in favour of flexible options, where children choose where and how they sit (stand or slouch), is, in my opinion, a bit of a stretch.
Right now, across the country, many schools are being issued grants to replace desks with flexible seating and equipment, despite the apparent lack of research to support it. So why are our educators giving primary school children, as young as six, the autonomy to choose seating, whether it be a fitball, cushion on the floor, high bench, couch, next to a friend, in a group or alone?
It seems flexible seating “gurus” are attracted to ‘un-seating’ to foster creativity and collaboration, but is it working and what of the consequences?
At first, being a social creature and restless to boot, she was excited about it, and it seemed to suit her, but as the term wore on she became worn out. The choices of where to sit and with whom weighed heavily on her and getting her to school became a constant battle.
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Being separated from her friends this year didn’t help matters; but this wasn’t a concern, until faced with the challenges of a fully-flexible and socially demanding classroom.
I wondered, if my socially well-adjusted child was struggling, how were other children faring. It seemed that playtime politics were no longer confined to the playground, but now followed our children into the classroom. It reminds me of the social media challenge we face, where a difficult day at school follows our children home if we don’t monitor and makes restrictions on devices.
Ngaire Stirling, owner of Brisbane Kids, says – as a mother of a special needs and neurotypical child – allocated seating matters. “What it means is that children with a lack of friends or social challenges are seated next to different and varying personalities offering them new friendship opportunities that would never be afforded if the seating was organised via the children themselves.”
So, does permitting young children to choose their own learning space impact negatively on the classroom atmosphere? Should teachers take responsibility for the social and emotional well being of children via allocated seating?
Researchers, Van den Berg, Segers, and Cillessen stated in their research paper that, “careful structuring of the classroom environment, especially the seating arrangement, could be a non-intrusive way to promote a more positive classroom climate with less victimisation, aggression, and rejection, and more acceptance, cooperation, and friendship.”