Tuesday, February 28, 2012

please be seated for learning

As the lecture year began, my colleague and I decided to play with the seating.

It is a post-graduate class, of whom a maximum of 18 could turn up, although because these are all folk active in ministry, the usual turn up is around 14.

Historically we have gathered the desks in a circle. While this expresses collaboration, over time, a number of downsides have become apparent.

First, you have to put in enough seats to cater for the maximum. If you don’t, and everyone turns up, then the result is quite disruptive as everyone has to pull their seats back to widen the circle. Second, the circle gets quite wide, and thus the sense of intimacy is reduced. Third, a scorched zone tends to appear around wherever the lecturer sits in the circle, as folk have this instinctive aversion to being seated to close to lecturers.

So on Monday we played with groups of three, spread in 5 areas around the class. If all turn up, it’s easy to add a 6th cluster. The use of three meant that conversation in small groups was instantly easier. Further, it created an accessible inner area. So we were able to start by all moving into the centre to stand, share and pray. Physically we were closer and it seemed to make us feel closer.

It felt good. Discussion seemed to flow much more easily, to weave in and out around the group and to be less lecturer-centric.

Posted by steve at 02:45 PM


  1. Good leadership, good teaching, good idea. Fancy treating students as though they know something worthwhile.

    Comment by ian — February 28, 2012 @ 6:26 pm

  2. thanks Ian. I presume your last comment is ironic :). We live in a world where you need to be trained, which often is on basis of information transfer. and then those who’ve had information transfered, who’ve subconsciously absorbed that way of teaching, are rewarded for their expertise and invited to teach.

    it’s a whole paradigm shift to start to imagine other ways


    Comment by steve — February 29, 2012 @ 1:24 pm

  3. love it.. i have basically been doing this for college classes…and sometimes church..such an encouragement to see it here… Circles are so overrated..and I do love how Douh Paggit does church with a rotating stoll in the center…but this rocks!

    Comment by Dave Wainscott — March 2, 2012 @ 8:38 am

  4. Steve: where are you as teacher in this setup: up front by a whiteboard? It IS a tougher dilemma fir church..re: where pastor sits/stands. Thanks

    Comment by Dave Wainscott — March 2, 2012 @ 8:42 am

  5. Dave,
    This time I sat at one of the desks. I had a remote, so could move the slides and I thus was placed as one of the participants,

    In another class, I stood and wandered among the tables.


    Comment by steve — March 2, 2012 @ 9:16 am

  6. Thanks, that is awesome. Brilliant!

    Comment by dave wainscott — March 2, 2012 @ 6:38 pm

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