Flexible Classroom Structure


“Learning is not a spectator sport…[Students] must talk about what they are learning, write about it, relate it to past experiences, apply it to their daily lives.  They must make what they learn part of themselves.” 

Chickering and Gamson

As an educator, it is your privilege to invite students into a stimulating environment where they are sure to encounter a safe oasis for learning.  Include variety and freshness throughout your lessons, transform your environment, and join your students with success as you think beyond borders to best meet your students where they are.  Create a place for differentiated learning to flourish and your students are sure to succeed!

Creating flexibility within learning can assume a plethora of appearances depending on your end goal.  Below are several suggestions to freshen a student’s experience as you seek to provide a safe place where learning is nurtured.

Promote Comfort and Classroom Design 

By first promoting classroom comfort, students benefit from a sense of well-being as well as a focused mind and limited distractions.  Taking it further to classroom design, interaction among students and faculty can be increased simply by a revised design.  Inside a traditional classroom tacit hierarchies often form in which vocal and more confident students sit toward the front and receive more individualized attention while the quieter and more timid students gravitate towards the back and encounter less interaction (Rethinking the Classroom, n.d.).  Switch up seating arrangements, place students in groups, and alternate the front of your classroom to bring a freshness inside your walls.

Work Beyond a Single Curriculum

Don’t be afraid to switch things up and think beyond borders.  In one study of an adult ESL literacy class (Finn, 2015), the observed classroom experienced flexibility in structure rather than abiding by a particular curriculum.  As a result, instruction was designed to emphasize student empowerment through a learning-centered model focusing upon writing, reading, discussion, leadership, and publication.  Inside the classroom, students could earn the title of “assistant teacher” in which they were expected to assist the head teacher during class time.  Student volunteers would then help lead class weekly and were titled “experts” upon assuming leadership roles.  Such leadership roles gave students opportunity to actively participate in learning (Finn, 2015).

Introduce a New Classroom Model 

Prepare to totally transform your learning space by utilizing uniquely designed chairs and work tables, multi-purpose cabinets, and flexible boards, among other elements.  Be sure your students are given an environment in which they feel free to collaborate as well as learn beyond traditional expectations.  Garner ideas, or copy one specific model as it is presented in the following video:

What will you do to provide flexibility inside your classroom?  Perhaps it’s simply alternating seeting or supplementing expired curriculum.  Or maybe you’re looking to totally revamp your classroom appearance.  Either way, I’d love to hear what you’re doing to allow students flexibility in learning!

Finn, H. B. (2015). A need to be needed: The intersection between emotions, apprenticeship, and student participation in an adult ESL literacy classroom. Journal of Research and Practice for Adult Literacy, Secondary, and Basic Education, 4(1), 36-47.

Rethinking the classroom: Spaces designed for active and engaged learning and teaching. (n.d.). Retrieved 2016, from http://www.hermanmiller.com/research/solution-essays/rethinking-the-classroom.html


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