Rearranging the classroom: studying seating to improve learning

Traditional row seating, like the arrangement pictured above could soon be changing due to current research by professor Thomas Einland. (Fannya Cordova/Clarion)

The conventional seating arrangement of rows and columns at Citrus College classrooms might soon change due to current research that is being conducted by professor of English Thomas Eiland.

Student engagement and participation in classrooms are affected by various factors such as students’ learning styles and technology. However, perhaps the most important variable is seat arrangement.

Eiland hopes to learn how different seating arrangements can impact the learning environment and process.

“We need to pay attention to the new science on seating arrangement and how the classrooms are arranged in order to maximize the space so that the greatest number of people can use it effectively,” Eiland said.

The data from this research will help Citrus College administrators obtain a better understanding on the most efficient seating arrangement for students who are in classes that prioritize discussion and student interaction.

Samuel Lee, Ed. D, dean of language arts, said that this is the first time this topic has been researched at Citrus College.

“When we remodel classrooms in the future we will be doing it based on research that is conducted here at Citrus,” Lee said. “By having Professor Eiland study classroom design, we will see if our investment is inline with the research.”

Eiland is currently conducting an online survey specifically designed for students who have taken courses that emphasize classroom discussion and student participation.

Some of the survey questions asks students to rate their overall satisfaction on their ability to follow a lecture and the level of enjoyment and academic success they have experienced on different seating arrangements such as, traditional rows, seminar style, or computer labs.

After taking the survey, students also have the opportunity to contact Eiland and be added to the interview pool where they will be receiving open-ended questions.

Along with the student survey, Eiland is also gathering data by surveying professors and finding out their experiences teaching in different seating arrangements and how this has affected students’ ability to engage in small group discussion, ability to make presentations and their academic success.
Both student and professor surveys can be found online on his website

Citrus College student trustee, Farihah Chowdhury said that students should participate in this survey since the analysis of the data will affect how future classrooms will be structured.

Most importantly it will have an impact on students’ learning environment and how students will interact with each other and their professors.

“Students should care about this research and take part in it because they will have a higher chance of succeeding in these classes with better seating arrangements and form better relationships with peers,” Chowdhury said “Students should take the survey because they will have a direct say on how traditional classrooms settings can be morphed to better accommodate students.”

Professor Eiland expects to be done with his research by the end ˚of the summer term and will be presenting his research findings to the board of trustees by fall 2015.