Please ensure that all furniture is returned to the original position
Instructions such as this are very common in my own institution and many others I visit. I have been pondering this for a while and have been trying to think of the rationales for doing so. In the example shown the tables are on wheels and are easy to move, so the assumption exists that there will be some sort of furniture movement. But why does the furniture need to be moved back into the original position in time for the next class.
Possible rationales for putting the furniture back to the original position.
- May make it easier to move furniture into a wider variety of configurations for the next class
- May make it easier for cleaning staff (though this rationale would only make sense for the last class of the day).
- Maybe the default position the most versatile for effective teaching if you don’t have the time/ inclination to start moving furniture around.
- It restore orders to the untidiness of furniture all over the place.
- It ensures that furniture is not left in places where health and safety will be compromised.
Issues raised by the ‘original position’ directive:
- Is it possible that the default position is seen by someone as the ‘ideal’ layout for using the classroom effectively?
- Might some teachers presume that the original layout is somehow pedagogically researched as appropriate for the type of teaching than will occur in that learning space?
- In some cases the original position is different in each classroom. In some classrooms of quite similar sizes and capacity the ‘original position’ is in groups as in the photo. In others the original position is in rows. For others still users are requested to restore the tables and chairs to a horseshoe position.
Why does this matter?
I suppose one of my questions is ‘Does it matter? I must admit I don’t particularly like to come into classroom where tables and chairs are strewed all over the place, often making it difficult to get to the front of the class. On the other hand if the original position is seen as the way the furniture is ‘supposed’ to be used is this suppressing creativity on the part of teachers and students?
Most of our universities building where built before the age of PowerPoint and smartboards, some before slide projectors and Overhead projectors (OHPs), (see below), but I've only started noticing the instructions about the correct position in the last few years.