• Question: What can you tell me about seating/grouping in classrooms? I’ve tried lots of different methods over the years and sometimes with some classes there seems to be quite an impact on changing seating. Unfortunately, we are limited in a science lab!

    Asked by ellieerussell to Yana, Sveta, Mike, Helena, Geneviève, Gaia on 28 Feb 2018.
    • Photo: Mike Hobbiss

      Mike Hobbiss answered on 28 Feb 2018:

      It’s not my specific area of study but I remember looking some research up on this a few years ago. In general by most outcomes rows tend to be more effective than other arrangements (round tables etc.), but it does depend on what your aims are. Tables have been found to encourage more discussion, for example, so if you have very specific aims in that direction you could maybe consider that. In general though, the research suggests that children learn most effectively in good old-fashioned rows!

    • Photo: Sveta Mayer

      Sveta Mayer answered on 20 May 2018:

      If the aims are to encourage peer group learning (social learning) within the science lab then whilst the laboratory setting is fixed, learners are using science equipment and there are constraints for health and safety, you may find that developing your classroom pedagogy to encourage social group learning is the key. This may involve combinations of methods you’ve already developed for teaching science through experiment, technology-based learning, modeling within or outside the science lab with more focus on involving learners’ interaction through hands-on experience or observation and engaging them in peer-discussion about the learning.

      It might be worth taking a look at the ‘SPRinG Project’ (Social Pedagogic Research into Group-work), http://www.spring-project.org.uk. The project focuses on key stages 1-3. More generally, it take a look at the EEF projects on ‘Collaborative Learning’ which show positive impact and include suggestion or implementation within the classroom – see https://educationendowmentfoundation.org.uk/evidence-summaries/teaching-learning-toolkit/collaborative-learning/. It is also worth considering differentiation you may need to include for learners who have problems learning within social groups.

      If you’re interested in delving deeper and thinking about the neuroscience of social learning then take a look at Matthew Lieberman’s review article about social working memory and implications of this for learners who have problems with social cognition in Frontiers in Psychology (Meyer and Lieberman, 2012) – see https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2012.00571/full.