The ABCs Of Effective Classroom Design; Preparing Students For Work

Once a student reaches young adulthood, their time in education is geared towards preparing them for the world of work. For some, this becomes as  important as teaching their learners purely academic knowledge. And rightly so. Wherever a student ends up working once stepping off the educational treadmill, it is a lot different from the classroom set up they will be used to.

We have looked into how classroom layout can help you in preparing students for work  in the adult world  and present ‘The ABCs of Effective Classroom Design’.

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The type of work or position that is taken up after finishing studying can change from learner to learner, but all roles share a certain common skillset.

Many day-to-day, work-life-skills can easily be incorporated into the teaching of the curriculum through effective classroom design. Kirk Smith, a Professor at Boise State University in the US, found that “pretty much every national survey” wants current learners to possess skills in the following;

  • teamwork
  • problem solving
  • information processing
  • analyzing quantitative data in some form or other
  • communication
  • work prioritization

Most of these are incorporated into effective teaching practice as a matter of course. However, Communication and Work Prioritization can be simply covered through some tweaks to the way a classroom is designed or your layout is changed.

Once learners progress onto being employees, the typical classroom set up (front facing desks, everybody sharing one focal point) is redundant, essentially overnight. Utilising  these techniques, as recently commended during a successful Ofsted inspection of a sixth form in Lancashire, can allow young adult learners to begin to grow into worthwhile employees.

A) Fluid Desk Layouts

Routinely change and alter the layout of your classroom.

Not only will it force learners to either find a new area to sit in or new people to sit with, it acts as a kick start when they enter the classroom to find “it’s changed again!”. Teachers at the aforemention sixth form reported that students began to get used to it changing and the need to work out where to sit and how to tactically save a seat (or not) for somebody engaged and stimulated them, as soon as they entered the learning environment. It also made learners more welcoming to unfamiliar tasks and resources.

The easiest way to put this into practice is to use lightweight individual desk and chairs. Students can be engaged to change the layout themselves, promoting communication skills.

B) Designated Zones

Echoed here, having a designated meeting and/or creative space inside the classroom showed real benefits.

The learning goals can be shared or “agreed” in the meeting area or at the meeting table and a separate area can be established where student’s work can take place. The lesson can be tied together back at the meeting table/area. We don’t sit at our desks at work facing towards the boss all day, so get your learners familiar with changing between environments whilst working on the same task. The distinct zones also afford a degree of student responsibility and freedom once established; “here is for discussing and there is for working.”

An alternative that was employed in the sixth form’s English department was to use comfortable chairs and low tables to establish a “reading and creativity hub”. This was a space that was distinctly “non-classroom”, where class reading or group discussions could take place, away from the formality of the classroom desk and chair set up at the other end of the room.

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‘Elements of 21st Century Design’ from Edutopia.

C) Extra Materials

As a way of aiding differentiation and boosting stretch and challenge, try leaving additional, extra curricular resources in a section of the classroom. Make that area welcoming and open to students; try a low coffee table filled with relevant wider reading and a comfortable chair.

Alongside this, and tying in with the first sub-section, are effective and stimulating displays. “I try to add depth and meaning to my displays,” said Paul, a member of the Sixth Form English department, “as well as filling the walls as much as possible. One student said ‘I always spot something new when I come in here!'” This becomes most effective when students aren’t always sat in the same spot.

All of this promotes autonomous learning, communication and problem solving; something Ofsted and employers will desire in your young adult learners. It promotes trust and communication between each other and prepares them for the working world, in addition to the content based skills they learn at the same time.

 

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