Thursday, 2 September 2010

Classroom settings


The Coach

The Circle

In Dutch secondary education teachers and students are bundled through the building by the timetable, changing rooms frequently.
At my school three classroom settings are to be found: the “Coach”, the “Circle” and the “Islands” setting, to be seen in the pictures on the left. Some rooms are a mixture of these settings, the art rooms, in which I work mostly, combine the Islands setting with the Circle. I can change by moving the students without moving the desks. Most rooms are smaller and do not allow so easy a transformation.
The “Coach” is the quintessential lecture hall. It encourages working in pairs though. The “Circle” suggests a meeting of all and is suitable for lecturing and working in pairs. The “Islands” setting is meant for group work, in foursomes. Working in pairs is possible, lecturing is virtually impossible.
Tests require the rigid Grid, a Coach with separated desks.
Most classrooms have a Coach setting. In fact the Coach has always been the norm. Students have informed me that my lectures are boring and I have often infuriated a colleague by refurbishing a Coach into the Circle or Islands, without restoring the situation in which I found the room before leaving.
It has often struck me as highly idiosyncratic that teachers, when having a meeting in a classroom, wish to communicate with all face to face, so they immediately shove the furniture into the Circle. After the meeting they always rebuild the Coach co-operatively. Apparently they prefer lecturing but hate being lectured.
Now the administration has issued a diktat that in our new wing for younger students the Islands setting is the norm. Structured Co-operative Learning (SCL) is all the rage now.
Our administration is not too bad. A couple of years ago colleagues of a school nearby found the tables welded together in an Islands setting when returning after vacation.
This is going to be a hilarious show. I'll keep you informed.

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