Sitting in rows is best

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elsiep
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Re: Sitting in rows is best

Post by elsiep » Fri Mar 22, 2013 3:17 pm

Elizabeth wrote:Elspie, why do you think this question might not be serious? Anyone outside the brainwashing that goes on in Early Years education would not begin to understand why chairs for every child creates the wrong ambience.
I thought it might be a rhetorical question. As in 'why would anyone...?'

elsie

elsiep
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Re: Sitting in rows is best

Post by elsiep » Fri Mar 22, 2013 3:23 pm

JIM CURRAN wrote:"I think she meant that chairs for all children make the classroom look formal, whereas she thought the room should look informal, with children busy choosing what to do in different areas, e.g. areas for painting, role play, small world toys, writing and many more."

Thanks Elizabeth.
There's a bit more to it than that, hence my reference to hot-desking. An entire literature on the link between the configuration of furniture and behaviour. That's why Andrew Adonis wanted high profile architects to design academies.

elsie

chew8
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Re: Sitting in rows is best

Post by chew8 » Fri Mar 22, 2013 3:34 pm

The advisers may not be the main culprits - they are probably in duty bound to lean on schools to implement EYFS recommendations.

Scotland was more sensible than England when our eldest child was at school in Aberdeen from 1974-77 and it sounds as though this is still the case. It's possible that the issue is affected by the fact that Scottish children are about 6 months older than English children when they start school. Another difference is that all Scottish children start school at the beginning of the academic year, whereas there are still places in England where children start in January or (more rarely I think) after Easter so have less than a full year in Reception. Perhaps researchers will at some stage look at how the various differences affect educational outcomes.

Jenny C.

kenm
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Re: Sitting in rows is best

Post by kenm » Fri Mar 22, 2013 6:45 pm

"figuring out how to show the causes of the American Revolution through whole body shapes;"

If any of my teachers had asked me to do that, or had expected me to get the information from someone else doing it, I would have thought s/he was an idiot. It strikes me as an activity that resembles dancing about architecture much more than writing about music does.
Last edited by kenm on Fri Mar 22, 2013 6:55 pm, edited 1 time in total.
"... the innovator has as enemies all those who have done well under the old regime, and only lukewarm allies among those who may do well under the new." Niccolo Macchiavelli, "The Prince", Chapter 6

kenm
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Re: Sitting in rows is best

Post by kenm » Fri Mar 22, 2013 6:51 pm

Accidental post.
"... the innovator has as enemies all those who have done well under the old regime, and only lukewarm allies among those who may do well under the new." Niccolo Macchiavelli, "The Prince", Chapter 6

chew8
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Re: Sitting in rows is best

Post by chew8 » Sat Mar 23, 2013 12:21 am

Some time in the 1990, when I was still teaching, we had a staff training day at which we were required at one point to participate in some rather cringe-making role-play. One of the most dignified and self-controlled members of staff promptly burst into tears. I think this was quite an eye-opener for the trainer and others.

Jenny C.

Kiki
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Re: Sitting in rows is best

Post by Kiki » Mon Apr 01, 2013 5:07 pm

I have been concerned about classroom organisation for as long as I have worried about the teaching of reading. And despaired similarly, as with reading, for the blatant disregard of the evidence versus popular teaching ideology.

One paper I came across many years ago gives a good concise account of the situation. http://www.leeds.ac.uk/educol/documents/00001532.htm

I remember one meta analysis of studies into this area that showed that the study that indicated the lowest improvement in on-task time (when children were mostly sat in rows or horseshoes found more that 30% increase on on-task time (some studies were over 90%). Imagine, a 30% increase; that is the equivalent of adding a WHOLE TERM of learning to the school year, every year! (in fact it is better because that is on-task learning time not break time, lunch time, Christmas play or harvest concert learning time. And that was the MINIMUM improvement found. Myself, I think that is worth a bit of table shifting when you want to do a group activity - which is what I do when teaching English as a foreign language to adults.


Following that I read a paper by (I believe) Nigel Hastings which had a very sad and poignant plea to his educator colleagues to drop their preconceptions and ideology, for a moment, to just look at the research fairly and with open-minds and see who really benefited from evidence based approaches to classroom management and organisation. The answer is that EVERYONE benefits but those that benefit most are the lower achieving pupils.

JIM CURRAN
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Re: Sitting in rows is best

Post by JIM CURRAN » Mon Apr 01, 2013 7:54 pm

Thanks Kiki for an interesting and relevant piece of research.

"To summarise, we have a body of classroom based studies which consistently shows that the normal primary classroom practice of sitting children in groups to undertake individual tasks makes work difficult for most of them and especially difficult for the most distractable. It also shows that alternative arrangements result in substantial improvements in children's engagement with their work. With individual tasks occupying a significant proportion of classroom time, and being always likely to, this evidence would seem to more than warrant a serious review of the almost uniform practice of seating children in groups irrespective of the activity. The research base is robust and relevant to an issue which concerns every primary teacher and headteacher. It calls for all schools and teachers to consider ways in which they can secure a better degree of match between classroom seating arrangements and the features of different types of classroom task . Yet this has not happened. Why?"

http://www.leeds.ac.uk/educol/documents/00001532.htm

elsiep
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Re: Sitting in rows is best

Post by elsiep » Thu Apr 04, 2013 3:26 am

Hesitate to point this out but 'time on task' isn't the same as 'concentration' or 'difficulty'. It's this conflation of variables that makes me despair over educational research.

If time on task improves children's learning, then fine, put seats in rows. But spending more time doing something simply means a child is spending more time doing something, not that they are concentrating better or finding a task less difficult.

elsie

yvonne meyer
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Re: Sitting in rows is best

Post by yvonne meyer » Thu Apr 04, 2013 10:36 pm

'Time on task' has an accepted definition in Education, examples:-
"Time-on-task, usually defined as engaged time on particular learning tasks. Engagement in particular kinds of tasks is what is wanted (not just general engagement)." (Berliner, 1990)."
“Time” is therefore not “elapsed time” but the time during which the person is oriented to the learning task and actively engaged in learning. In common parlance, it is the time during which he is ‘paying attention’ and ‘trying to learn.’ (Carroll)
This seems perfectly clear to me and not something to despair over.

elsiep
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Re: Sitting in rows is best

Post by elsiep » Fri Apr 05, 2013 8:58 am

Yvonne I'm well aware what time on task means. But it doesn't mean the pupil is actually learning anything. Nor is the length of time spent on task directly related to how much is learned (the learning curve is an inverted U-shape, with learning tending to decrease after a while). Nor does it mean the student is actually concentrating on the task. Also, for children with learning difficulties, more time on task doesn't mean the task is any less difficult.

These are all different variables, can operate independently and should be measured separately, not lumped together as if they were self-evidently the same.

elsie

Kiki
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Re: Sitting in rows is best

Post by Kiki » Fri Apr 05, 2013 11:11 am

Personally, I think it IS self-evident that an on-task learning environment with fewer distractions gives each child (but especially those on an ADD/ADHD spectrum) a much greater opportunity to learn. And I speak as someone with ADD who knows she could not have functioned in many of the modern classrooms I have spent time in.

How much actual learning goes on will be down to the individual skill of the teacher and the extent to which they have planned and differentiated tasks. What I believe is also evident is that the effect of increased on-task time (or the opportunity to learn) will never have a negative effect on learning, neither is it likely to be zero.

Neither does increased on-task-time mean that more time will be spent on the same task, it means the task that might have taken 15 mins before most children had settled sufficiently to achieve something could be reach it's optimum finishing point in 9 or 10 mins (or even less) allowing more time for extended tasks, more time for the teacher to give attention to weaker pupils or time to move onto something else entirely. Again the skill of the teacher.

If you read the material on classroom planning it does argue that teachers need to be well trained to understand and manage both time and spatial organisation.

elsiep
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Re: Sitting in rows is best

Post by elsiep » Fri Apr 05, 2013 4:03 pm

The paper cited states;
The consistency of the findings across different studies undertaken in different places, in different types of school and over a period of 20 years is striking. In every reported case, children have spent a markedly greater proportion of their time actively engaged with their individual work when seated in rows rather that in their normal groups. However, finding that 'rows' are consistently better than groups in supporting attention will only be important if the degree of difference is such as to be educationally significant. The final column of Table 1 indicates the gain in time on-task expressed as a proportion of time on-task when seated in groups for the same type of work. Increases range from 16% to 124% with only two showing gains below 30%. These are not negligible effects. The gains in class averages are substantial and likely to be of significant consequence for learning.
It then goes on to conclude from that finding;
To summarise, we have a body of classroom based studies which consistently shows that the normal primary classroom practice of sitting children in groups to undertake individual tasks makes work difficult for most of them and especially difficult for the most distractable. It also shows that alternative arrangements result in substantial improvements in children's engagement with their work.
The research showed that pupils spent less time on task in group seating, which implies that they were distracted. But all you can conclude from the findings is that seating in rows increases time on task, not that it makes tasks easier or improves concentration because those are different things and you would need to measure those separately before you could conclude anything about them.


elsie

yvonne meyer
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Re: Sitting in rows is best

Post by yvonne meyer » Fri Apr 05, 2013 10:56 pm

But all you can conclude from the findings is that seating in rows increases time on task, not that it makes tasks easier or improves concentration because those are different things and you would need to measure those separately before you could conclude anything about them.
Why continue to assert that 'time on task' refers to time elapsed, when it actually means the amount of time that a student is 'actively engaged' - ie concentrating and learning, except that you have a personal preference for group seating and rather then accept the evidence that group seating is less effective, you are misrepresenting the research methodology that informs us that traditional seating in rows is more effective in an attempt to discredit the research.

elsiep
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Re: Sitting in rows is best

Post by elsiep » Sat Apr 06, 2013 5:48 am

yvonne meyer wrote:[quote="elsiep"But all you can conclude from the findings is that seating in rows increases time on task, not that it makes tasks easier or improves concentration because those are different things and you would need to measure those separately before you could conclude anything about them.
Why continue to assert that 'time on task' refers to time elapsed,
I'm not asserting that at all. What I'm asserting is that time elapsed appears to be what was measured.
when it actually means the amount of time that a student is 'actively engaged' - ie concentrating and learning,
How did the researchers measure 'concentrating and learning'?
except that you have a personal preference for group seating and rather then accept the evidence that group seating is less effective
My personal preference is for whatever arrangement of seating gets the job done. In the second post in this thread I quoted from the conclusion of the chapter Susan originally referred to. It concluded that the optimal seating arrangements depend on what the students are supposed to be learning. It was the title of this thread, not the chapter itself that suggests 'sitting in rows is best'. Why do you think people have been discussing moving furniture?
you are misrepresenting the research methodology that informs us that traditional seating in rows is more effective in an attempt to discredit the research.
No, I'm pointing out that the research doesn't always say what people assume it says. And that educational research often conflates variables.

elsie

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