During my time at SMCC there has been an ongoing debate about exactly what type of furniture should be in our classrooms. At the start of my time at the College small single desks dominated the College with the Science labs being the only exception where double desks were set up in rows. This was the typical classroom back in 2008 and is still the norm in 2013.
In 2009 we undertook to change the configuration of some of the learning spaces. Large tables were placed in some of the classrooms to encourage teachers to think about the way they interact with teachers and the learning space. The tables received a mixed reception.
The main reason for this was the students were more ‘chatty’. Staff at the College had been accustomed to students working individually in silence. This was the norm across the College. Being confronted with a situation where there was possible interaction was difficult for most to deal with. The other problem was the fact that not all students were facing the whiteboard making it hard for them to copy down work. (This is an issue I will deal with later!)
The idea of putting in the larger tables was to make teachers confront these issues. The College was very much ‘teacher-centred’ when it came to teaching and learning and this was one of a raft of strategies used to move teachers forward. After three years of the larger tables being installed we are now considering our options as the tables need replacing.
It would have been great to get some feedback from staff and students as to what they think may be the best options for the future. At this stage this has not happened and the larger tables have been replaced by smaller double tables that were previously in the Science rooms as well as some of the original desks. The end result? Well we will wait and see. My homeroom was one of the rooms where the larger desks had to be replaced as they were starting to lose shape. This is how I have set the room up. I will be interested to see how long it stays this way.
The room next door has been set up a little differently. Will they be moved into groups? Will they stay in the ‘lecture’ style? Given nobody uses the Smartboards as Smartboards is it just because the data projector faces this way that the desks are facing forward? The larger whiteboard on the left is used frequently. Will the desks be set up in rows facing that way?
New desks have been purchased for the Science labs. There are a couple of different designs. When I saw them being delivered I held out hope that they may be used a little differently and that the rooms may be set up to encourage collaboration. Here is what happened.
Given these rooms cater for Years 7 to 12 it is understandable that this style dominates and it is unfair to criticise the Science staff from these images as students are often working in groups conducting experiments etc. It is interesting though to see what the default set up is when this new furniture was first put in the rooms. Is this type of setup so ingrained in our DNA that we cannot even think of an alternative?
I will be interested to see if there is any change to these rooms as we move forward.