The introduction of collaborative learning into the classroom changes the dynamics of the environment and student learning. The dynamics of a collaborative curriculum foster a team approach to education where students work with and support the learning of others in the group. Beyond the lesson plan, a collaborative learning environment promotes a student’s social interaction, builds self-esteem and enhances satisfaction with the learning experience.
The most important element to effectively implement a collaborative learning methodology is the room configuration and furniture arrangement. Unlike traditional classroom arrangements – built around single-student desk configurations – in a collaborative arrangement, the furniture is designed to support the interactive learning style by removing the physical furniture barriers that inhibit collaboration.
When implementing a collaborative curriculum, great thought needs to be put to the selection and placement of furniture. Here are some areas to consider when selecting furniture to support a collaborative learning environment:
- Shape & Size – Collaborative learning furniture comes in all different shapes and sizes, from diamond-shaped desks for one or two students, to conference-type tables that can support up to 16 students. Whatever the shape, it’s important to consider the classroom size and determine how the particular pieces will fit within that space. Try to aim for minimal wasted space.
- Subjects Taught – Different subjects call for different furniture configurations. When teaching math in a collaborative environment, a group of students work together with a group leader to help them understand the equations. Social studies activities, on the other hand, call for larger groups of students working all together. In this situation, a larger conference-type table is preferred. Considering what subjects will be taught when making a furniture selection will help you identify the best pieces.
- The Teacher – Teachers are just as much a part of the collaborative environment as students; therefore, they need furniture that is portable, flexible and mobile. Consider incorporating a smaller project table or a portable lectern set on castors in addition to a traditional desk that allows the teacher to travel around the classroom, instructing from different areas in the space.