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The physical configuration of a classroom impacts student learning, motivation and participation. In-person seating arrangements affect these aspects more than stylistic choices.
Choices of classroom seating options & arrangements
The traditional lecture setup has a series of rows with fixed seats. Students face the instructor in this environment, leaving them back-to-back to one another and minimizing student communication as well as supporting an "authoritative on stage" learning experience. The highest level of interaction between professors and students typically occurs when they are sitting either first or along the middle row, while those at the back have less engagement overall.
The horseshoe is a modified roundtable setup where all participants face each other while the instructor can move about. The Horseshoe encourages discussion between students and with the Instructor, but this type of setting tends to encourage more engagement between instructors and those directly opposite them - as well as slightly lesser amounts for people immediately adjacent to them. A good example of when one might use a Horseshoe Would be if they wanted everyone in their class or group meeting engaged at once because you could put your projector screen up front so that it's visible from everywhere inside the room!
The traditional horseshoe seating arrangement is a wonderful way to get discussion going, but it can be limiting in the classroom if students are sitting too close together. This new configuration solves that problem because you have two options: sit facing your peers or turn around and face those behind you for group work.
A single large table is a great way to have your students and instructors face one another. This setup can be used in both group settings where everyone faces the same direction, or individual desk arrangements that allow for more independent work time too.
The pod or pair arrangement can be designed with rectangular, circular or trapezoidal tables, and individual desks. This learning community allows students to work in groups of three-four classmates for a large portion of class time. With regards to stations instructors can place several tables together; this arrangement is especially advantageous when working on group assignments such as those that might take up the majority of classroom time each week (e.g., 3 - 4 students).