Investigating the impact of flexible furniture in the elementary classroom

Abstract

Educators are beginning to consider the physical learning environment as an additional resource in meeting learning outcomes in modern classrooms. In order to better utilise classroom space, schools have begun to eliminate desks and chairs and to replace ‘traditional’ furniture with ‘flexible’ furniture that is capable of multiple reconfigurations to facilitate teaching and learning. The impact of flexible furniture in elementary classrooms has had little exploration. We investigated the various impacts of flexible furniture paired with teacher professional development (PD) on the elementary classroom. A total of 10 classrooms were included in the study of 3rd and 4th graders (N = 206 students). Classrooms were observed biweekly for 8 weeks and assigned to one of two groups: Group A received PD and flexible furniture, whereas Group B maintained traditional furniture. During observations, three students were randomly selected from each classroom and continuously monitored throughout each observation (n = 30 students). First, a between-groups design and analysis of covariance (ANCOVA) was employed to assess the effect of the intervention using pre-intervention self-assessment results as the covariate. As predicted, students who experienced flexible furniture reported greater satisfaction with the learning environment than did peers with traditional furniture. Secondly, a series of independent samples t test demonstrated that classrooms with flexible furniture provided more opportunities for student autonomy and use of furniture for learning. Insight on flexible furniture, its impact in the elementary classroom, implications and future research are discussed.

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Acknowledgements

The authors disclose receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship and/or publication of this article. This research was funded in partnership by Huckabee Inc., Education Service Center Region 12 (ESC Region 12), Midway ISD (MISD) and Baylor University. The opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not represent views of Huckabee Inc., ESC Region 12, MISD or Baylor University.

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Correspondence to Shanna L. Attai.

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Shanna L. Attai has moved to Midway Independent School district.

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Attai, S.L., Reyes, J.C., Davis, J.L. et al. Investigating the impact of flexible furniture in the elementary classroom. Learning Environ Res 24, 153–167 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10984-020-09322-1

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Keywords

  • Elementary-school students
  • Flexible furniture
  • Learning environment
  • Teacher professional development