These days it seems that getting a class to pay attention is the foremost priority in a teacher’s day with learning sidling in at a distant second and that’s why seating is critical in the learning process. Simply keeping a class from falling asleep, looking at their phones and talking to each other can take up more time than the actual relaying of information the students are supposedly there to receive.
And we’re not just talking about primary school – this trend is seen in classrooms of all shapes and sizes, from 1st grade to graduate school, from Miami, Florida to Juneau, Alaska. And it’s an easy thing to try and attribute it to the changing times, invasive technology, and that blasted youth of America. But what if that’s not the root of the cause? Sure, in many situations the old timers may be spot on, but what if those arguments are missing a crucial piece of the equation?
Because the reality of the situation is that they are.
How External Factors Contribute to Low Attention Spans
The Learning Space
For centuries, little thought was given to the subtler aspects of the learning process, the learning space being one of the most commonly overlooked. Classroom architecture and layout varied only to accommodate budgets and varying class sizes – until recently. The 1970s and 80s generated an abundance of studies surrounding the learning process and environment, laying a foundation for much of our modern education system. Trends began to tailor more to enhancing the commitment of the student via their physical surroundings. One study even suggested that the physical learning space accounts for nearly 25 percent of information absorbed, with its dependence based solely on the effects the physical environment has on the psyche. That isn’t a negligible figure.
It is now understood to be hugely beneficial when learning spaces support a variety of learning styles – visual, audible, and tactile. A versatile learning space caters to a wider variety of students and going over similar information in different formats can be helpful, especially for those with crossover in learning styles.
Flexible and attractive seating arrangements play a surprisingly large role in aligning the physical environment with students’ ability to absorb information. Seating arrangements are easy ways for instructors to keep the situation interesting while not deviating from the necessary routine involved in the learning process.
This caters to what is called “ad hoc” learning, especially when the learning environment is physically moved to another location. This versatility will inherently engage students and keep them from getting bored coming to the same classroom with the same seating arrangement day after day, especially if it’s a subject in which they have minimal interest.
Comfort Level of Seating
Seating that allows for swinging and rocking has been known to create a calming effect in certain cases
of mental illness – this filters down to the mentally stable, as well. Students are often graced with an excess of energy that they feel the need to exercise, either through mental distractions or physical movement. After limiting the mental distractions, it may not be a bad idea to enable a small amount of physical movement. I know when I’m at my peak of productivity during the work day I am constantly wagging my knees back and forth – but that’s when I’m most focused and most absorbed in my work. When I’m “in the zone.” Incorporating a seating solution that allows for that may allow your students to more frequently enter that zone and become totally absorbed in the lessons being taught.
Another important point in the comfort level of seating is that some adults have back problems that require certain kinds of seating to maintain comfort – a person distracted by pain will not absorb the same level of information as a person seated comfortably. Many middle-aged and older people are simply unable to sit in an uncomfortable chair for long periods of time, or one that inhibits the crossing of legs to relieve pressure and joint pain.
The importance of the learning environment cannot be stressed enough. It is an aspect of the learning process so often overlooked, when it in fact would take a minimal amount of time to get creative and switch things up, catering to a wider variety of learning types. Thus can we establish an optimal environment in which students can thrive.
Jeff Hirz is a writer and freelancer and wrote this article on behalf of Seating Concepts.
READ MORE – How Teachers Can Set Up Effective Learning Environments