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Old 09-21-2023, 09:54 AM
 
3,142 posts, read 2,642,873 times
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Tldr; I think collaborative seating in elementary school is stupid and counter-productive, but I am not a full-time educator. It appears that collaborative seating has been adopted by some states based on classroom equipment manufacturer’s studies and, not independent third parties.



At back-to-school night, I saw, yet again, that our elementary-schoolers are sitting and staring at each other (supposedly without talking) in the oh-so-fashionable “student-centered learning pods” of five kids in a star-shaped arrangement.

In this arrangement, 20% of the class is sitting with their back to the teacher no matter where the teacher stands. Of course, there’s assigned seating and the teacher indicated that their space was at the front of the room, so 20% of students assigned to the bassackward desks are just SOL.

To solve this problem, the school (actually the PTA--the school is broke) has shelled out tens of thousands of dollars to bring the disaster of distance learning into the classroom. Our teacher proudly pointed out tape-marks on two walls where yet more screens would be installed over peg-boards currently displaying student writing and projects. Great. More screens, less real physical materials. I’m sure they will be very effective at displaying powerpoint slides for the backwards kids to ignore. The real teaching--or at least delivery of instructions--occurs on the whiteboard, which 30-50% of students face.

Those screens have been purchased and are already exceeding expectations by crowding out students and collecting dust in the auditorium. I expect facilities will get around to installing them sometime in the 2054-2055 school year.

Meanwhile, until the vaunted TV’s arrive, our children report that their tablemates do great collaborative learning about how many kills they racked up in Call-of-Duty and which pokemon cards they acquired while that adult behind them “wah-wah’s” Charlie Brown style about something or other, blissfully ignored by the majority of the class.

Collaborative learning seating isn’t new or innovative. It is a fad that periodically sweeps through classrooms--like a pandemic of stupid--and has been broadly circulating in the population since the 1930’s.

Digging into it a bit, I found a document from our state which points to “studies” showing new furniture makes for “more engaged” children. Of course the study cited was done by a furniture supplier (Steelcase). https://www.academia.edu/9610786/Whi...ent_engagement

This explains why I was able to pick up some pristine square desks (for our kids to use at home) from a great pile the school district was discarding while spending millions in pandemic funds on flower-shaped ignore-the-teacher podded desks.

It took some doing--because googling “elementary school seating” yields endless adds for new desks--but I found an opinion piece from an educator that explores the positives and negatives of all seating arrangements--from the dreaded “desks in rows” to the specialized “fishbowl” and everything inbetween.
https://roomtodiscover.com/desks-in-rows/

A few of the most salient points from this article--and that are supported by what my children experience in the classroom are these:
  • When students sit in groups, it can be difficult for them to follow a lecture or directions.
  • It is uncomfortable for students to sit facing each other, but without saying anything. If we don’t expect students to talk, we actually do them a favor by seating them in rows.
  • Rows can also be useful for independent activities. In any class, there are times when students need to take a test. Or write a paper. Or read a book.
I think it’s absolutely fantastic that our school district has implemented “collaborative seating” immediately after a pandemic which left (many) students with atrophied attention spans, a distaste for listening to lectures or instructions, and a thirst for off-topic conversations with their classmates that can all be facilitated (exacerbated) by collaborative seating.
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Old 09-21-2023, 11:01 AM
 
Location: Shawnee-on-Delaware, PA
7,932 posts, read 7,265,667 times
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We had what is apparently called Collaborative Seating in my 4th grade class (1969-70). Our teacher, Mrs. Levine, wore mini skirts and go-go boots, and drove a Corvette. Those were heady days.

It was fun moving the desks around periodically. Anything that breaks up the monotony of the day is a good thing, IMO. Stagnation and boredom are the enemy.
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Old 09-21-2023, 11:19 AM
 
Location: We_tside PNW (Columbia Gorge) / CO / SA TX / Thailand
34,537 posts, read 57,414,436 times
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Collaborative and NON-age segregated gets my vote!

Of course, 'Unschooled' is a higher priority for me (an educator).

No chairs / desks

Our teacher friends in Switzerland only use Fit Balls as seating in class (but they seldom sit)

Fit Balls are easy to rearrange
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Old 09-21-2023, 11:41 AM
 
Location: NMB, SC
41,576 posts, read 17,180,302 times
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Up to a certain age they are curious and actually do help each other.
But then they discover they can just copy someone else's work and get full credit themselves without doing any work.
I know that happens by middle school.
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Old 09-21-2023, 12:54 PM
 
Location: On the Chesapeake
44,843 posts, read 59,795,219 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TMSRetired View Post
Up to a certain age they are curious and actually do help each other.
But then they discover they can just copy someone else's work and get full credit themselves without doing any work.
I know that happens by middle school.
Yep, that's when it becomes cooperative cheating.

The whole "idea" (at least what was publicly said) was that the productive kids would bring up the non-productive ones by force of example and peer pressure.

What the real reason was that the productive kids will do the work so the grades of the under and non-achieving ones will rise because they'll get the credit too.

I sort of fixed that by making each kid in the group submit their own analysis of the assignment.
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Old 09-21-2023, 01:51 PM
 
Location: USA
8,824 posts, read 5,855,445 times
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We had movable pods of four desks together in kindergarten, back in the late 1950's.

Regular row by row desks in first grade. And those were the screwed to the floor desks, so the rows were always neat and orderly. As were the students.
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Old 09-21-2023, 08:45 PM
 
12,568 posts, read 8,794,211 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wac_432 View Post

Digging into it a bit, I found a document from our state which points to “studies” showing new furniture makes for “more engaged” children. Of course the study cited was done by a furniture supplier (Steelcase). https://www.academia.edu/9610786/Whi...ent_engagement

This explains why I was able to pick up some pristine square desks (for our kids to use at home) from a great pile the school district was discarding while spending millions in pandemic funds on flower-shaped ignore-the-teacher podded desks.

It took some doing--because googling “elementary school seating” yields endless adds for new desks--but I found an opinion piece from an educator that explores the positives and negatives of all seating arrangements--from the dreaded “desks in rows” to the specialized “fishbowl” and everything inbetween.
https://roomtodiscover.com/desks-in-rows/
It's no different that all the "studies" I used to get that described how:

a. High wall cubicles improved productivity and provided privacy to do deep thinking work.
followed by
b. Low wall clusters improved productivity and collaboration.
followed by
c. Shared desk/open office improved productivity and collaboration.
followed by
d. "Science on Display" and shared lab space improved productivity and collaboration.

Every study done by either a furniture company or an architect firm who just happens to have the latest furniture or design and will be so happy to help you implement the "new and improved" floor plan in your office. Design for free if you just buy the furniture from them.
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Old 09-21-2023, 11:41 PM
 
Location: We_tside PNW (Columbia Gorge) / CO / SA TX / Thailand
34,537 posts, read 57,414,436 times
Reputation: 45882
Quote:
.Digging into it a bit, I found a document from our state which points to “studies” showing new furniture makes for “more engaged” children. Of course the study cited was done by a furniture supplier (Steelcase). https://www.academia.edu/9610786/Whi...ent_engagement

This explains why I was able to pick up some pristine square desks (for our kids to use at home) from a great pile the school district was discarding while spending millions in pandemic funds on flower-shaped ignore-the-teacher podded desks.
Definitely a case for using analytics and strategic business sense to solve a known problem, with a predictable outcome.

Coming from our educated 'Educational System'....seems like the perfect example of what NOT to do... (Consult with a furniture design company to better engage student learning).

So many opportunities, lost.

Maybe we should listen to our students
They are great innovators.
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Old 09-22-2023, 07:56 AM
 
Location: Knoxville, TN
2,524 posts, read 1,862,144 times
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I used to furnish classrooms. Before we started buying the newer style tables, the primary (lower) elementary grades would get either rectangular tables or open front desks. Most of the teachers whose classroom had the desks would pull them into an arrangement that created the same groups as rectangular tables. I think that tells us something.
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Old 09-22-2023, 08:08 AM
 
Location: NC
5,407 posts, read 5,868,683 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jtab4994 View Post
We had what is apparently called Collaborative Seating in my 4th grade class (1969-70). Our teacher, Mrs. Levine, wore mini skirts and go-go boots, and drove a Corvette. Those were heady days.

It was fun moving the desks around periodically. Anything that breaks up the monotony of the day is a good thing, IMO. Stagnation and boredom are the enemy.

I taught middle school for several years. During that time i also drove several Austin Healey 3000s and Bugeye Sprites as my daily transportation.
As reward for good grades or exemplary conduct in my classes, i would offer rides home in one of my cars.

Can you imagine the "red tape" and liability doing that today?

Back then I only had to get parent permission in writing.
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