When Deputy Principal Sandi Tyson walked back into her Dainfern College classroom after a 12-year break from teaching, her first thought was: “My classroom hasn’t changed at all.”
But instead of giving her a comforting sense of familiarity, it caused Mrs Tyson alarm.
“There’s been a huge change in the technology we use in education. And the methods and practices of teaching have become much more progressive and fun. But school classrooms haven’t changed. They look the same as they did in the 1920s,” she comments.
Research shows that today’s pupils find the traditional classroom space boring, uninspiring and uncomfortable. And when they’re bored and uncomfortable, they do not learn as well and their critical-thinking abilities simply switch off.
These insights inspired Mrs Tyson to revamp the Dainfern College classroom space, with the school’s endorsement. She attended various courses on the topic of flexible classrooms, and started testing out new furniture items in her classroom. The College has now adopted flexible spaces throughout the Prep School, in line with the school’s commitment to innovation and top-class education, and is now rolling these changes out in the High School too.
In a flexible classroom, there are a variety of seating options available to the student – from bean bags to stools and rocker chairs. And they’re colourful and attractive. The students decide where they would like to sit, depending on the task they have been given by the teacher, or the way they are feeling.
“The biggest change we’ve witnessed since adopting a flexible classroom is that teachers are reaching more children. This learning space has sparked their interest and their enthusiasm for learning. They’re also taking ownership for their learning, because they are choosing where they sit. What’s more, the group work noise is more constructive. I hear students really engaging with the group-work task and seeing it through, rather than losing focus and talking about their weekend plans,” Mrs Tyson explains.
This new flexible space at first raised questions about classroom discipline, students with concentration problems and student posture.
Says Mrs Tyson. “We’ve actually found it easier to maintain discipline in the classroom, because the children are taking greater ownership for their learning and their behaviour in general. For the children who need to fidget, the flexible classroom has proved a wonderful solution: the round-bottomed stools allow them to move around without disturbing their classmates, so they are better able to focus.
“The traditional plastic chair encourages slouching, or an incorrect posture. The back-less chairs, stools and ottomans in the flexible classrooms force the children to sit up straight and engage their core.”
As these flexible spaces promote better engagement and happier learning, our teachers feel that students are performing better and enjoying school more, too.