Quoting investigations carried out over a 20-year period, the researchers say: "In every reported case, children have spent a markedly greater proportion of their time actively engaged with their individual work when seated in rows rather than in their normal groups."
Studies showed that concentration, even among easily distracted children, improved when seated in rows. Two case studies show how teachers use different des arrangements for different subjects, so those engaged in individual or paired efforts follow one seating plan, while group activities follow another. On average it takes around a minute to make room changes.
The researchers say the amount of space has no bearing on flexibility. "Some (case study teachers) have plenty of space... most work in... normal classes and some in very tight accommodation."
Space for Learning in Primary Classrooms: Bridging the Gaps, by Nigel Hasting and Karen Chantrey Wood, Nottingham Trent University.