Unit 1: What is flexible seating and the history behind it?


ETAP 623 Spring 2020 (Zhang) Sydney Wilk Mini-Course

Unit 1 Learning Outcomes

  • Students will explore what flexible seating is and what it may look like
  • Students will be able to describe the pros and cons to flexible seating

What is Flexible Seating

To begin, it's important that we discuss what flexible seating is within the classroom. "As educational practices have evolved and changed, teachers and other school employees have begun to acknowledge that 21st-century learning may require a change in classroom layout and furniture (Kennedy, 2017). Flexibility in the school setting applies to not only the design of the school but also to furniture and seating options that allow for student choice, modifiability, and versatility (Kennedy, 2017)". With flexible seating, teachers are changing around their classroom layout with different options for students to choose from when it comes to seating. A flexible classroom is not just a classroom with desk and classic classroom chairs. Instead there can be bean bags, lawn chairs, stools, cubes, and more.

Why might teachers decide to use flexible seating? "Opinions were expressed by teachers who claimed that when students could choose their type of seat the engagement was higher from students and the quality of their work was increased (Kennedy, 2017). Flexible seating might be something more educators may consider utilizing in the classroom" (Allen, 2018, pg 24). If we allow students to choose where they'd like to sit and what they'd like to use as a seat for the day, students tend to show more interest as well as great on-task behavior. We're able to keep the attention of students for a longer period of time and ensure that they're comfortable within the classroom setting to learn on a daily basis.

How Does Flexible Seating Work?

Now that we know what flexible seating is, how does it work? The benefit of flexible seating is the teacher can have creative freedom. There isn't specific instructions of how to design a flexible seating classroom setting other than making sure that the design supports all learning styles and behaviors for the classroom. Below are some of the items you may find within a flexible classroom:

  • Yoga Balls
  • Beach Chairs
  • Picnic Table
  • Lawn Chairs
  • Stools
  • Bean Bags

It's important to note that in flexible classrooms there are some traditional desk and chair options for students. By having a variety of seating options in the classroom, students are able to discover which works best for them and where they think they may learn the best in the classroom. It's important to note that we as educators should stress to students that flexible seating must be treated the same as if it was a traditional classroom. If students are getting distracted by the seating in the room, this affects the overall purpose of flexible seating and may not be the best learning environment for your students.

Please watch this video to see what flexible seating looks like within a current classroom: .

Link here as well: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9GvfuT1Vz-s&t=4s

I believe this is a good video to start with because you are able to see a laid back style of flexible seating as well as a list of pros and cons to this design. I would like you to write down the pros and cons as the video plays to compare at the end. Could you think of ways you could possibly make the cons into pros somehow depending on your classroom of students? If so, how?

Activity 1: Share your thoughts on flexible seating

To conclude unit 1, please log into our shared classroom "Thoughts Log" to share some information on what you've learned in this unit or what you thought about the video. What questions would you like to explore within this course? How do you plan on researching those questions to find results? You can find the activity here.


Allen, C. (2018). Flexible seating: Effects of student seating type choice in the classroom (Order No. 10812813). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global. (2061668236). Retrieved from https://search-proquest-com.libproxy.albany.edu/docview/2061668236?accountid=14166

Kennedy, M. (2017). Seat yourself: Providing students a variety of seating choices in a classroom helps enhance learning opportunities. American School & University, 89(8), 26-28.