Survey: Today's Classrooms Emphasizing Spacing and Flexibility

The classrooms of today are spacing students farther apart and emphasizing other aspects of health and wellness. That's what a survey of 140 teachers by National Business Furniture found.

The company, which sells school furniture, asked respondents how they saw their classrooms changing. While more than nine in 10 teachers (91%) said they've returned to in-person classes since the fall, they're reconfiguring their spaces in new ways.

Nearly half (46%) said they've moved seats to be farther apart. Fewer than a quarter are limiting classroom capacity or setting up dividers or barriers.

Teachers have also placed more emphasis on social-emotional learning and "calm down corners" that promote a focus on mental health. Classrooms are continuing to promote the use of hand sanitizers and wipes, and teachers are pushing for the use of non-cloth/non-porous surfaces that are easy to clean with disinfecting cleaners.

More than a third of respondents (35%) reported the use of more flexible seating like stools and desk chairs, as well as tables that can be put together and taken apart to be single seats—and that include charging ports in desks and underdrawers in tables.

To encourage kids to move, teachers are also choosing standing desks, tents, "Papasan" chairs and wiggle seats. Other preferences include:

  • Smart tables that kids in wheelchairs can reach;
  • Mobile teaching stations that allow teachers to float among students rather than remain stationary;
  • Rolling desks or tables and chairs with plug-ins to accommodate student device usage; and
  • Varying set-up among classrooms for additional flexibility, including privacy booths to help with collaboration in one room, stadium seating in another, and soft seating such as couches and bean bag chairs in a third room.

"We see flexible classrooms as the future of pedagogy. These reimagined spaces give learners a choice in their environment, with the focus on flexible and modular furniture to encourage individual learning styles," said Joanna Terry, director of Education Space Planning for National Business Furniture, in a statement. "Additionally, flexible spaces accommodate both remote and in-person students, which is critical in this time of hybrid learning."

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.