Saturday, July 15, 2023

Shifting Pedagogies with Classroom Layout

(Estimated Reading Time: 1.5 minutes)

The principal came into the classroom to observe my teaching. As he left he thanked me. 

I asked “Do you have any feedback for me?” 

“No, that is not the purpose of my visit.” 

“It would be a shame to have someone observe my class and not get any feedback.” 

“Consider changing the desk arrangement.”

That’s all he said, and it was a good point. This is how it all played out…

I disliked the layout but hadn’t considered changing it because many other classes used that room and I was new to the school. Now I had implied permission from the boss, I changed the layout from a teacher-centred classroom to a student-centred classroom.

I had been spending too much time in traditional chalk and talk teacher time interspersed with individual student activities. Changing the layout forced me to plan for more student-focussed activity, particularly collaborative and cooperative learning. 

When it comes to direct instruction some students may struggle to see the presentation - this is when having the learning materials accessible online comes in handy. If they are struggling to see the screen at the front of the classroom, they can just use their computers as a second screen. The configuration made it easier for me to move around the students and assist them with their work. I often like instructing from the sides and even the back of the room, rather than always pitching my lesson from the front when I did need to do some direct instruction. Using a presentation remote means you can stand anywhere in the room. This has the added benefit that I can observe what all students are doing (especially on their screens) compared to the teacher-centred classroom layout. Presentation remotes used to be fairly pricey, but you can pick one up under $20 these days.

Research shows that teachers talk 70 to 80% of the time (Hattie, 2012). This is a staggering proportion. Ultimately student-centred classroom layout facilitates less talk, more do, which leads to greater student growth.