Pros and Cons of Flexible Seating in the Classroom

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April 16, 2024

This is the eighth in a series of guest blogs by the 2023-24 Michigan Regional Teachers of the Year. Lori Richert is a second- and third-grade teacher at Childs Elementary in Lincoln Consolidated Schools.

Flexible seating in the classroom has gained popularity in recent years as educators realized the potential benefits of creating a dynamic and comfortable student-centered learning environment. I began implementing flexible seating in 2017, and I am continuing to use it today in my second- grade classroom; however, next year I will likely be making some changes.

In this blog I will talk about the advantages and disadvantages of flexible seating from my perspective.

The Pros of Flexible Seating

1. Supports comfort and unique learning styles: Traditional desks and chairs may be uncomfortable for some students, especially for those who need to have the opportunity to move their bodies during class time. If you are more comfortable, you are probably more productive. Flexible seating options such as wobble chairs, yoga balls or even a standing desk can help students who need to move. These customizations accommodate different learning preferences and needs.

2. Improved collaboration and communication: With flexible seating, it is extremely easy for students to situate themselves into partners or small group work. Students are encouraged to work together in their groups wherever they feel most productive. Many students enjoy sitting on a large rug with clipboards, while others like working at spacious tables where it is easy to collaborate. When using traditional desks for group work, students may feel uncomfortable that someone is infringing on their personal desk space. With flexible seating, it’s all public space.

3. Adaptability: It is extremely easy for me to change the arrangement of my classroom. I have taught many lessons where I was able to quickly rearrange seating to accommodate a unique lesson.

The Cons of Flexible Seating

1. Classroom management: This has been my biggest challenge with flexible seating for the past three years. Many students are not always equipped with the best self-management skills. I, for one, was an incessant talker in elementary school. I could not have handled picking a seat each day on my own (my self-management in the classroom came later). To implement flexible seating, you must have extremely clear guidelines and expectations. Many students thrive on structured seating, so flexible seating could be a challenge for them.

2. Cost: I was lucky enough to receive a grant for my flexible seating. This is how I was able to fund this initiative. Schools with limited resources may find it difficult to accommodate different seating choices. Teachers who implement flexible seating often use their personal funds to execute this endeavor.

3. Limited space: I have taught in some small classrooms that would have never been able to accommodate flexible seating to the extent that I can do it today. If you have space constraints, you really need to look at the practicality of trying to accommodate seating options.

In conclusion, it is important to consider the pros and cons of flexible seating and how it suits your teaching style. For me, I will always have various seating options for my students, such as wobble seats, resistance bands on chair legs or an option to stand. However, I have already started to reflect on what flexible seating will look like in the coming years for my students and me. I have noticed that it is not working as effectively for me as it once did. Next year, I will be making changes to accommodate the changing needs of my students and myself.