Well, sort of.
While I like to think of my classroom as student-centered, for the past two years, I’d been teaching in a classroom that looked like this:
Pretty much everything but the desks and the chemicals are bolted to the floor. Even the student chairs are attached to the slanted desks, which made arranging them into pods impractical. When I tried to escape the “teacher zone” between the demo bench and chalk board, I’d mainly have to circle the perimeter of the room awkwardly. Whiteboard discussions were either held around the lab benches (very easy to lose kids behind the 2′ x 3′ boards there), or as presentations, one group at the board at a time.
This year, we made a tiny change to our space:
Ok, it has been a huge change.
Everyone’s able to see each other, talk to each other, hear each other. Every class has been a true discussion.
We doubled the number of whiteboards, so we use it frequently as a tool for discussion rather than the chalkboard. Whiteboard meetings are very easy (and frequent) as students can prop their boards by their feet, and easily see every board in the room. No one can hide.
Also, there’s an extra desk. I’m sitting in the circle along with the class. And I’m easily able to move from student to student.
Plus, now there’s a great deal of open space in the middle of the circle. Was perfect for the “blow up a student” pressure demo.
While this arrangement works naturally for modeling chemistry, it has been even better for my advanced classes so far.