The learning landscape is changing quickly, and education institutions are hard-pressed to make sure their academic facilities are meeting the evolving needs of teachers and students.
Within a universe of continual change, though, school facilities still need furniture.
Furniture selection goes beyond color or size. Furniture must be flexible and functional, and support the needs of individual students. With so much at stake, forecasting furniture needs for 2010 may seem overwhelming. Whether considering a retrofit project or new school installation, furniture is a key component in the planning process. The overall design affects how furniture will be used in the classroom, how the instructor prepares the curriculum, and how students learn.
Using information on a room environment, its general purpose and the expected enrollment, administrators should look for furniture that makes spaces more versatile, enhances the overall classroom space, and improves individual work environments.
As new trends in teaching styles emerge, it becomes more important for the classroom environment to be appropriate for all types of curriculum. Furniture is not just a “thing,” but a tool to aid learning. The different teaching styles that furniture should support involve activities that are collaborative, traditional, self-paced or one-on-one.
To be most efficient, classroom furniture should work with more than one type of learning style. However, not all furniture is designed for this purpose. For example, desks designed specifically for collaborative learning are different from those designed for traditional learning. Although standard square desks can be pushed into groups, they do not support collaborative learning as well as those designed specifically for group work. In a collaborative setting, a teacher moves around from group to group, and furniture designed to work with this learning style encourages easier student-teacher interaction.
One example of the need for versatility in furniture can be found when teachers use more than one type of instruction method or style throughout the day, or if several instructors use the classroom. During first period, students may be engaged in traditional learning; the teacher is lecturing and desks are separated, facing forward. In the afternoon, students may be working in groups. And in the evening, the classroom may be used for community education. In this classroom, seating needs to be easy to move and rearrange to fit specific needs.
Another prevalent trend is the move toward “smart” classrooms and the integration of technology. With this in mind, furniture should accommodate the varied types of technology needed for learning activities. In addition to the dimensions of the work surface, consider power and cable needs.