Flexible classroom space on the Chapman University campus is becoming more popular. As shown in part 1 of this series on flexible classrooms, it’s clear to see the variety of layouts for the classrooms. Part 2 of this series (this post), seeks to demonstrate one specific pedagogical style, namely large group collaborations, which are facilitated by this type of flexible furniture. See below for explanations and design ideas for the use of flexible furniture to promote classroom activities such as the large group discussion, fishbowl activity, and enhanced debates.
Large Group Discussion
The easiest example of using flexible seating for this purpose is the large group discussion. As stated in part 1, it’s easiest to communicate when people can actually see each other’s faces. Flexible furniture in the classroom affords this ease of communication for improved large group discussions. As long as all seats are in a circle, eye contact between participants should be fairly easy.
Another activity for large group work is the fishbowl activity. In this activity, representatives from the group form a center circle while observers are in a wider circle around the center group. This activity is often used for role-playing topic-appropriate scenarios or discussing issues based on a topic. The center circle plays out the roles or discussions; the observers in the outside circle can be tasked with writing an evaluation of the center group or drawing out key points. The flexible furniture facilitates the interactions and observations.
Debates, whether as forced prompts by the instructor or based on student opinion, can be played out in the larger group discussions or in a manner similar to the fishbowl activity where central participants are lined up against each other and observers take note of the debate points from their observation deck on the outside. As long as all participants have an activity, students typically remain engaged in the process. A slight shift in the flexible furniture from the circle model to a more rigid line-up can make this activity even more powerful. These are only a few examples of large group activities that are supported by flexible furniture. Feel free to share other ideas with us.