October 21: Are you studying in primary school? How does your teacher make you sit – in rows or in groups? How would you like to sit? Does sitting in rows make you feel good or does it make you feel lonely? Do you feel that sitting in a group and discussing things makes you learn more and in an easier way?
For those who were in primary school at any time, try to remember your classroom, the way the tables and chairs were arranged. How were you made to sit, and did you like it?
In the last 30 years or so, experts on teaching methods have thought about these questions. And they have felt that sitting in rows was not very useful to children, that they learnt easier and better when they sat around a table in a group. That way, they also learnt to get along with others and exchange ideas.
It seems they were not quite right. At least Nigel Hastings, professor of Nottingham Trent University, England, does not think so. He has been researching classroom behaviour for the last 20 years in England.
His conclusion is that children work much better in the old fashioned seating arrangement of rows rather than sitting around in groups. It says that students waste a lot of time talking when they are placed in groups.
The report of the research study will be released next year. It could make a big difference to how primary school children will sit and learn. Right now, they are seated in groups of four and six, according to a ‘Sunday Times’ report published in several Indian newspapers.
The study found that when children were made to sit singly or in pairs and not in groups as they were used to, they were more attentive to their work (their attentiveness increased by between 16 per cent and 124 per cent).
Nigel Hastings has very firm views on the subject. “When you examine the nature of the tasks the children sitting in the groups are doing, the great majority don’t require collaboration and each child is trying to get on with their own work,” he says in the newspaper report.
For proof he gives an example. The naughtiest children who would not allow work to happen in a group, doubled their efforts when they were made to sit in rows.
This report comes at a time when the British government and education experts are already worried that the school students are not doing well, teachers are not teaching well and so there are fewer and fewer people who are capable of taking up high technology jobs.
For these jobs, the British government is depending more on qualified people from other countries like India.
So, let’s see how primary school students start sitting in classrooms in England from next year onwards.