Tip #240: Impact of Room Arrangements: Sunburst

Two weeks ago, Nancy from Hennepin County, Minnesota wrote in response to my less than complimentary description of the classroom style room arrangement:

“Hi, Deborah–me again. . .I couldn’t agree with you more. We use “clusters” of two tables, angled in the room so that no one has their back to the instructor. The instructor can stand at the front OR the back, or walk down the aisle between the clusters of tables, which we have three on each side of the room. The configuration is a ‘herringbone’ or chevron shape, if that makes sense.

That way participants have table groups to work with (3-5 people) and we can mix people up or have them move to different tables by various sorting methods.

We use this configuration for all classrooms, even when we go off site. However. . . it does mean that I move a lot of tables and chairs, which isn’t the best for my back ;-)”

Nancy, thanks for your description of a my much preferred room arrangement. I absolutely agree!

My favorite room set up has participants seated at rectangular tables. Each table has one end slanted toward the middle front of the room, with four participants seated around the two sides of each table and one at the far end of the table facing the front of the room. The screen at the front of the room is the focal point, with the tables creating a sunburst effect.

It is a variation of the herringbone or chevron shape in that all participants are facing toward the front of the room, as Nancy has described. The classic herringbone arrangement ends up with half of the participants facing toward the front of the room and half facing the back of the room, which makes absolutely no sense to me- although the participants’ chiropractors must have a field day!


  • It naturally creates small work groups. á
  • It is most conducive to small group interaction. á
  • It is most conducive for placing shared training materials, candy, and/or kinesthetic objects within reach of all table participants. á
  • It is easy for table participants to see and hear each other. á
  • All participants can see each other easily. á
  • All participants can see the trainer at the front of the room. á
  • ll participants have a writing surface. á
  • It is easy for participants to come and go from this seating arrangement. á
  • It is easy for the trainer to move around the tables to interact or to dipstick during individual or small group activities.


  • Since many training rooms are not set up in this fashion, the trainer often needs to move a lot of tables and chairs into the sunburst configuration. á
  • It requires a room big enough to accommodate angled tables and chairs. á
  • The legs of the table can get in the way of comfortable seating for the participants, particularly the person seated at the far end of the table facing toward the front of the room. á
  • The arrangement requires careful placement of tables and chairs to ensure that all participants can see those seated at other tables. á
  • It requires a good eye to ensure that tables are not so close to each other that participants have trouble sitting down without bumping each other’s chairs.

How’s that for an even-handed look?

This concludes our discussion of room arrangements. Next week, we’ll look at a relatively recent revision of Bloom’s Taxonomy- or, for those of you who have taken my classes, the building blocks of learning!

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