Class Layout Options

Decorative: a very small version of a variety of possible desk layouts


Many classrooms have fixed seating, so instructors do not have a choice about how they arrange the students' seating for different learning activities.

  • However, if you are fortunate enough to be in a room with movable seating, there are a variety of seating options beyond the standard rows, small group, and/or circles, each of which may facilitate specific forms of interaction, cooperation, collaboration, and/or active learning.
  • Changing the seating pattern changes the dynamic and may help (or hinder) various learning activities.
  • Below are some teaching and learning factors to consider as well as images of options beyond rows, squares, and circles as you plan your in-class activities. 

A. Some Teaching Factors to Consider (from "Creating an Effective Learning Environment")

  • "[T]he types of activities your class will do on a regular basis"
  • "[W]hen students need to work independently and ... when they will work within a group"
  • "[E]asy access to all the materials they will need" for learning, e.g. screens, boards, etc.
  • "[P]romot[ing] reflective learning ... to develop skills in analysis and critical thinking"

B. Some Learning Factors to Consider (from "How Classroom Design Affects Student Engagement")

Within the context of a planned teaching/learning activity, desk/chair/table arrangements should be considered for their potential and/or limitations in regard to the following factors:

  • Collaboration
  • Focus
  • Active involvement
  • Opportunity to engage
  • Repeated exposure to material through multiple means
  • In-class feedback
  • Real-life scenarios
  • Ability to engage ways of learning best
  • Physical movement
  • Stimulation
  • Feeling comfortable to participate
  • Creation of an enriching experience

C. Some Common Models

1. 11 Options

A chart showing 11 seating models: Theatre (instructor at front, students in rows with walking space down the middle); U-shape (instructor at open end of U); Clusters (groups of four facing each other, instructor at one end of groups); Rectangle (open space in middle, instructor outside rectangle at one end); Classroom (traditional structure); Herringbone (students in slanted rows facing instructor at front); T-shape (a row of students at the back facing front, two columns of students facing each other, instructor at bottom of T); Conference (students arranged as if around a long conference table, instructor at one end); Circle (instructor as one member of circle), Combination (4 Clusters & 3 Herringbone rows facing instructor at front)

2. 4 More Options

Verb Classroom (9 Clusters of 4 desks, 4 clusters in the centre of the room, 3 at the back of the room, 1 on each side of the room); Scape classroom (five groups of seven students each seated in a U around a U-shaped table and facing a screen for each group), LearnLab (4 angled tables of six students angle inward around central open space), Node classroom (individual tables arranged in non-touching groups of 6 or 4 around the class)


Printer Friendly, PDF & Email