Schools of thought about what constitutes the best learning environment have evolved over the last decade.

Classrooms that are group-focused and encourage interaction have shown to improve student learning. The layout and arrangement of furniture in teaching spaces have a huge impact on where students focus their attention and how they behave in class.

In response to these insights, the University of Adelaide College has recently implemented a whole new approach to how we set-up our classrooms.

Sometimes it’s the simple ideas that are the best.

This month, you may have noticed some changes on Level 1. Our tables and chairs have moved from the traditional ‘facing the front’ to a ‘group discussion’ arrangement. Students will now experience classroom learning facing each other, rather than from the perspective of looking straight at the teacher.

This arrangement has been shown to encourage student engagement, interaction, and active learning. There’s no longer any ‘back of the class’.

The College Blog recently caught up with College Director, Andrew Foley, who shared his excitement and support of this classroom redesign:

What sparked this change?

“This change was driven primarily by the increasing prevalence of group learning environments in educational intuitions, especially the University of Adelaide, where College students will eventually transition to.”

Why is the layout of furniture so important?

“The dynamics of a classroom are shaped by its learning environment, in which furniture is a big factor. If students are simply facing forwards in rows, they are likely to be more passive and focus just on the teacher at the front.

In a group facing environment, students have more opportunity to interact collaboratively with other students.

Many school and universities have already begun redesigning their classrooms to facilitate better group activity. When you graduate from the College and go on to the University of Adelaide, you will find many classrooms arranged in this way.”

When can we expect to see this new design implemented across all our classrooms?

“We’ve only made implementations on the first level of the University of Adelaide College, which is relevant to the English language program.

We will look to broaden the initiative across teaching spaces in the school, and collecting both student and staff feedback on the first stage will be important in determining how we proceed.”