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Flexible Learning Keeps Students Active and On-Task in the Classroom

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In today's on-demand culture, some schools are finding that flexible learning keeps students engaged while preparing them for 21st century jobs.

Flexible learning applies both to the method of learning - online, at home, in groups - and the classroom space itself. Some of the best flexible learning spaces rely on furnishings that are easy to move, allow sitting and standing and facilitate group or individual learning.

Studies have shown that when given the chance to exercise power over how and where they learn, students feel a greater sense of responsibility for themselves and their academic success.

Flexible learning offers additional benefits when arrangements allow students to be more active. More physical activity burns off excess energy, improves metabolism and increases blood flow to the brain (which in turn boosts mental cognition, concentration and overall behavior).

Let's take a look at what research on flexible learning finds:

  • A 2012 study by England's University of Salford Manchester found that classroom design can have "a 25 percent impact, either positive or negative, on a student's progress over the course of an academic year. Flexibility-defined as how easily a classroom's furniture can be rearranged to support a variety of activities-was one of six key environmental factors that showed the most effect."
  • According to an Edutopia article, studies suggest that "children who participate in short bouts of physical activity within the classroom have more on-task behavior, with the best improvement seen in students who are least on-task initially."
  • According to a Chalkbeat article, a 2011 study in the American Journal of Public Health found that "first-graders with standing desks chose to stand about two-thirds of the time and burned 17 percent more calories than classmates in traditional seated classrooms."
  • The same American Journal of Public Health study found "Overweight and obese students burned 32 percent more calories while using standing desks than seated students. In addition, teachers surveyed in the study noted that students using the standing desks were more alert and attentive and demonstrated less disruptive behavior."

"Study proves classroom design really does matter." University of Salford Manchester. 2012. http://www.salford.ac.uk/built-environment/about-us/news-and-events/news/study-proves-classroom-design-really-does-matter/

Delzer, Kayla. "Flexible Seating and Student-Centered Classroom Redesign." Edutopia. April 22, 2016. https://www.edutopia.org/blog/flexible-seating-student-centered-classroom-kayla-delzer

Schimke, Ann. "Students stand, balance and bounce to learn." Chalkbeat. May 13, 2013. https://www.chalkbeat.org/posts/co/2013/05/13/students-stand-balance-and-bounce-to-learn

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