4 Benefits of Flexible Seating: From Floor Learning to Standing Desks
- February 22, 2022
- Anthony Bowie
Author: Dr. Christina Counts
Traditional classroom seating was created with traditional learning in mind, but with many schools transitioning to modern, flexible, and active learning practices, classroom design must also transition to support new ways of learning. And while traditional seating approaches still have their function in the classroom, flexible seating options are more conducive to modern learning practices––promoting collaboration, student-centered learning, and greater student engagement.
The benefits of flexible seating options are clear: floor seating can promote healthy posture and student engagement, while standing desks improve circulation and help students stay alert and focused while they learn. Everything in between––from ergonomic chairs to lounge seating to café height stools––supports active learning and collaboration. And when combined, a variety of flexible seating options helps students take ownership of their learning and promotes movement throughout the classroom.
Prolonged sitting is connected to negative health effects for children, including decreased circulation and restricted mobility and physical development. Contrary to traditional classrooms with standard chair and desk seating, flexible classrooms offer other options like floor seating and standing desks. Sitting on the floor is believed to be the best position to maintain the natural curvature of the spine, supporting healthy posture. Having a multitude of learning space options ensures students can change positions throughout the day, minimizing long-term effects on their bodies.
These learning environments with flexible seating can also have a positive impact on students’ wellbeing, brightening students’ moods and helping them build a foundation for making healthy habits in their future workplace. Evidence even shows that switching positions and taking short movement breaks throughout the day can improve mood, focus, and attention.
Sitting for extended periods of time in one position can negatively affect mobility and strength, which can lead to long-term health effects such as arthritis, obesity, and chronic back pain. One of the benefits of flexible seating is the opportunity for students to listen to their bodies’ needs and choose seating options throughout the day that make them feel most comfortable. Floor seating is especially conducive to students’ need to move around intuitively, promoting continuous changes in position and posture that support children’s complex physical development processes.
Furthermore, students need opportunities to move in class in order to support critical developmental and learning processes. Research links memory and movement, and studies have shown that brain plasticity and cognitive function are significantly improved by physical activity.
Classrooms with flexible seating give students the opportunity to choose the learning environment that works best for them by making decisions about where and how they want to sit. Allowing students to pick the best learning space for their needs is just the first step in promoting student voice and choice in the classroom.
Choice of learning space also fosters student ownership of the entire learning environment, instead of only giving students control over an assigned seat and/or desk. This promotes the idea that the classroom is a communal space shared by all who use it, leading students to respect and contribute to the general maintenance of the learning space and helping them build important social emotional skills like sharing and collaboration.
For any age group, the benefits of flexible seating in learning environments are clear. Young learners need to be able to investigate, spread out, and move around as a part of their natural learning process and development. Floor seating can be particularly valuable for young children, allowing them to sit, squat, or lay in whatever position their body requires, and removing the distraction of physical discomfort enables children to focus more clearly on their learning. For older students, flexible seating encourages movement, therefore improving circulation––one study of high school students found that even a short movement break improved students’ performance on a series of cognitive tests.
Students will also be less inclined to fall into the habit of sitting in the same spot day after day, meaning they are more likely to engage with a wider range of their peers. This encourages natural collaboration between students, which improves student participation in discussions and can even have a positive impact on academic performance.
MiEN offers a wide range of seating options to choose from, including ergonomic rolling chairs for collaborative and active learning, convertible Sit-2-Stand desks for presentations and promoting movement, and a comprehensive range of lounge furniture to accommodate student comfort and engagement. The benefits of flexible seating are significant and bringing a variety of these options into your learning space can have a positive effect on student health and achievement.
Dr. Christina Counts, VP of Education for MiEN Environments, is a proven leader with a successful background in transforming learning spaces into modern engaging learning environments. Dr. Counts has worked in education for over 17 years with experience as a classroom teacher, district instructional leader, school administrator, and digital and innovative learning designer. In her most recent position, Christina leads a team of professionals that support schools making the transition to a flexible, collaborative, & student-centered learning space. She holds a doctorate in K-12 Educational Leadership, National Board-certified, and Google & Apple certified. Dr. Counts envisions a learning space in which educators are empowered to transform education through design, technology and innovative instructional pedagogy to create learners ready for any future!