Tip #238: Impact of Room Arrangements: Classroom Style

There are many different room arrangements for training. A very well-known and familiar arrangement is classroom style, in which there are parallel rows of tables and chairs facing a lectern or desk in the front of the room. There is typically a screen for audiovisual projection in the front of the room, either in the middle or angled to the side.


  • It is a familiar arrangement.
  • Every participant is facing forward.


  • It immediately creates negative transfer because it reminds participants of school situations in which they were expected to sit quietly, listen and take notes.
  • It relegates participants to the role of listeners, so they are less likely to speak up.
  • If school is an unhappy memory, the participants may “act out”in a negative way, more like teenagers than mature adults.
  • Participants can only see the backs of other participants, not their faces.
  • It may be difficult for some participants to see the front of the room, the audiovisuals, or the instructor because of the people seated in front of them and their distance from the front of the room.
  • It is not conducive to large group discussion: because the participants are not facing each other, it is more difficult for them to hear each other or pick up on non verbal cues.
  • It is not conducive to small group interaction: because the participants are seated next to each other, it is difficult to see or hear those seated further away.
  • It is not conducive to learning activities that require movement because it is awkward and cumbersome to move out from behind the tables and chair.
  • It is not conducive for the instructor to move into the group to interact or to dipstick during individual or small group activities because there is insufficient space for the instructor to walk through or behind each row.

In summary, the classroom style room arrangement:

  • creates an unpleasant and uncomfortable physical and emotional learning environment;
  • hampers the ability to use the interactive learning activities necessary to meet the needs of different learning styles;
  • adversely impacts participants’ ability to hear, see, move and speak to each other;
  • hinders effective group participation; and
  • limits the instructor’s ability to interact with individual participants.

In short, there is nothing to commend the classroom style arrangement on any level!

Can you tell that I don’t like classroom style? Any of my clients can tell you that I will spend hours moving furniture to avoid this arrangement!

However, if you feel there are some redeeming aspects to the classroom style room arrangement, please let us know and I’ll be happy to add your testimony in the next Tip!

Last week’s Tip concerning classroom style room arrangements generated some very positive feedback at Delaware Park. Julie Almont sent that Tip out to the various management groups to “address the curious seating arrangements you often find in my classroom… ”

She received approximately 10 written responses stating “I definitely like the way you set the tables up for your classes. If classrooms in school would have had your table set up, and teachers like you, it would have been much more enjoyable. ” More folks stopped her to talk about the “Tip”. As Julie wrote to me: “Nice to know that my learners have an opinion about it!”

As always, thanks so much for writing, Julie!

This week, we continue a look at how different room arrangements impact the feel and effectiveness of a learning environment.

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