Comfort is a very personal thing. From being comfortable psychologically to physically, everyone’s level of comfort is different in every situation. Therefore, in designing and organizing spaces where learning and interaction is expected, such as in the lecture hall, taking extra care to make students comfortable is important, but not always a priority.
Looking back at history, comfort wouldn’t be the word you would quickly associate with the classroom. Classrooms from kindergarten through college have been known to be bleak, cold and stiff with uncomfortable desks and chairs. Progressive schools over the years have taken an approach to comfort with unique seating options like bean bag chairs. Bean bag chairs have even been found to keep the concentration of autistic children for much longer than in a classic, hard classroom chair.
With this in mind it is important to think of the college student today. Be it their phone or laptop, everyone’s attention is on technology, making it even harder to win their attention in the lecture hall. Then throw in uncomfortable seating and you’ll have students wiggling around focusing on their backache more than the topic at hand.
Comfortable classrooms improve engagement and active learning, allowing for less distraction and more productivity. This can especially help students suffering from ADD/ADHD, every little thing that helps them to feel more comfortable, relaxed and focused, makes a big difference. When someone is comfortable in their seat they can listen and not be squirming around thinking about their wobbly chair.
Comfortable seating can make a huge impact in a lecture hall, but so can the configuration of those seats. The arrangement of seats and tables can affect how students and teachers engage, as well. Traditional classrooms are set up with individual desks all facing the teacher, this doesn’t allow for much interaction, but does give students a feeling of their own space and privacy, which can be positive for learning. Horseshoe, semi-circle seating and group tables are good for teamwork and discussion, which can be helpful for some types of classes where group instruction and learning is promoted and necessary.
No matter the seating arrangement, if the chairs are uncomfortable and distracting less work is going to get done, leading to an unhealthy environment for both students and teachers. Lecture hall chairs can be one simple step toward classroom success, influencing levels of interaction, learning and retention. This article was contributed by Bra Reagan, freelance writer, on behalf of Seating Concepts.