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How to create a learning environment for effective collaboration.

You might argue that every classroom is collaborative, and you would be right - collaboration in learning is nothing new. However, new technologies have radically changed the world and education has changed in response.

Michael Fullan argues that, to prepare students for a future of continuous evolution, students need deeper learning competencies, known as the "6 Cs of Education". Meaningful collaboration is critical yet traditional furniture configurations limit collaboration opportunities. Here we demonstrate how our spaces can meet the needs of a learner-led, competency and project-based curriculum.

“gone are the days where the teacher stands at the front of the room with a blackboard behind them - we’re now moving into a pedagogy that encompasses collaborative learning and students co-creating with their teacher” .

Michelle Bruitzman - Principal at St. Therese’s Primary School VIC

Prince Alfred students gravitate towards their collaboration zone.

The space to construct, critique and collaborate. 

When students collaborate, they need spaces to share ideas, and challenge opinions. They learn to listen, question, compromise, discuss and think critically, generating a feedback loop which builds community within the classroom.

Rathkeale College encourages collaboration in their STEM space.

Designing a space to facilitate all of this, while accommodating small group discussions or whole-class presentations requires some clever and flexible design thinking. 

Whiteboards are a fantastic collaborative tool for peer-to-peer learning.

An environment where everyone’s included and engaged.  

Discussion, interaction and problem-solving expose students to different perspectives and open lines of communication. Teachthought  suggest that students who collaborate retain information for longer and attain higher level thinking than those who work independently.

If you want to design a collaborative zone for a classroom, library, breakout space, common area or staffroom that encourages and facilitates this type of learning, consider the following furniture solutions:

  • Whiteboard tables for visible learning, small group work, teacher facilitation and peer-to-peer instruction. 
  • Tiered rows of chairs and stools at different heights so students can sit or stand and retain a good line of sight.
  • Flexible seating which allows students to participate in the conversation regardless of task or size of group. 
  • Room for students to present back to their colleagues. 
  • Furniture on castors so the space can be easily reconfigured for different activities. 

“it’s quite nice being able to go to your own area and work with your group, and then when you need to, you can meet up at one big table and then discuss how your pieces of the project are coming together.”

Student - Rathkeale College NZ

Grouping flexible furniture at different levels creates the perfect collaborative zone.

This collaborative zone combines a Mobile Endeavour Table with Bodyfurn Lab Stools, a Round Whiteboard Table, a Base Bench and Base Ottomans. Students can choose an elevated position at the back with direct sightlines to the whiteboard below, or sit at a lower level on ottomans or a Bodyfurn Sled Chair.

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