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A challenge to groupthink

ORGANISING CLASSROOMS TO PROMOTE LEARNING FOR ALL CHILDREN: Two Pieces of Action Research. By Deborah Lucas and Gary Thomas. All studies on this page are published in Putting Research into Practice in Primary Teaching and Learning, edited by Suzi Clipson-Boyles, David Fulton Publishers, pound;15

The traditional way of seating children in groups can hamper the inclusion of pupils with special needs and encourage disruptive behaviour generally. When the national curriculum dictates that children carry out a great deal of work individually, sitting in groups provides distractions, particularly for children with learning difficulties, according to research studies. They show that the way teachers organise a classroom has a profound impact on how the diverse needs of pupils are met.

Two investigations int classroom "geography" found that those sitting on their own, or on the edge of the classroom activity, work better than those who are in groups.

One researcher reorganised a classroom by joining the children's tables together in a ring and then seating pupils so they faced toward the walls. The carpet was moved to the centre of the room and became the meeting place for group work and discussions. The teacher had no fixed place and so would circulate, giving help where needed.

The result was a reduction in distractions, increased concentration, a heightened sense of inclusiveness, a greater sense of independence and self-control and a quieter working environment. Teachers were also able to pre-empt difficulties arising among some children and help those who had acknowledged problems.

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