The idea of ‘zoning’ in learning spaces is to create distinct areas that are naturally delineated without walls or barriers, each with its own identity. It’s a concept based in neuroscience; creating zones for specific tasks helps anchor the learning in the long-term memoryand primes behaviour appropriate to the space, which makes for more effective learning.
In January we shared four key learning zones that we’ve developed, each of which supports a key tenet of the learning process: Gather, Collaborate, Explore and Reflect. In this series of articles we take a closer look at each zone, what it’s designed for and why it works.
All together now…
First up, the Gather zone: a tightly focussed space where everyone can be heard. Varied height seating means each person has a clear line of sight, so it’s easy to attract attention without having to shout.
What it’s for: instruction, presentation, discussion and debate
At the start of a lesson you may want to gather your students and brief them on their tasks. During the lesson you may want to invite specific groups to the Gather zone to work with them on tasks they may need additional support with, and towards the end of the lesson you can use it to regroup to present and discuss your findings. You can also use the Gather zone for group discussion and debate.
Tiered seating is fantastic for gathering in a group, it lends a sense of collegiality and camaraderie that really brings students together. If you’re presenting, you can see everyone and everyone can see and hear you, so your audience is less likely to get distracted and you can more easily engage with them. If you want to run a debate you can put the ‘for’ group on one side and the ‘against’ group on the other and see how the sides fare, which makes it much more engaging and fun for the participants.
Why it works: the neuroscience bit
The tiered seating in this zone means you can see everyone, they can see you and there’s no fidgeting in the back because everyone has a clear line of sight. The reason this works is because attention is a finite resource and we tend to ‘spotlight’ our focus on a single subject of interest at any moment in time. Our innate biases lead us down the path of least resistance so, if you want attention focused on a single speaker, it needs to be easy for everyone in the class to do so. Tiered seating makes it easy for the teacher (or student presenter) to spot questions, register confusion and monitor class response and because it’s a tightly focussed space you won’t have to shout to be heard.