Due to the construction of the new building being completed, the Special Education department has gained another classroom for a total of three rooms. The addition of the classroom has given the SpEd department space for flexible seating in the form of bean bag chairs with a lowered table and two lawn chairs with small end tables alongside the traditional table and chairs learning environment. There are many benefits from flexible seating for all students including improved engagement during class, fewer behavioral disruptions, and an increased sense of community.
The main benefit that I have seen is the student’s willingness to participate. Giving students the options of where to sit has helped them to better engage in the material because it helps them to feel like they have more control over their learning. According to a 2012 study completed by Minnesota University, there was a 48% discussion participation increase when students were given the option of flexible seating as compared to students in lecture-style seating.
With the flexible seating also came a new set of rules for the classroom. If a student is being disruptive to the learning environment, after a warning they are asked to move to another seat closer to the instructor, taking away their choice of seating. Having students desire to sit where they choose helps them to self-regulate their own behaviors rather than rely on the teacher. The flexible seating also lessens disruptions that are unintentional. For instance, a student that likes to bounce his/her leg which causes the table to shake resulting in a distraction for their peers may sit completely still while in a bean bag chair.
In my experience, alternate seating has helped establish more of a community feeling in my classroom. Students have seemed to be more willing to work with me when I give them the choice of where to sit. For students with anxiety, it has seemed to also improve their comfort level in the classroom because they are able to sit in a more comfortable position. It has also been interesting that students will choose their seating based on the subject they are working on. Typically when students are working on Math, they will sit at the traditional table and when students are work on English or Health they will choose to sit at the lowered table with the bean bags.
I have seen many benefits from flexible seating in my classroom. With more studies being conducted at the University level, it is likely that more schools and classrooms will be likely to include flexible seating.