Thursday, October 26, 2023

Flexible Seating Pros and Cons: Things to Consider

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Flexible seating pros and cons: a look at the advantages and disadvantages of using flexible seating in the classroom.

When deciding whether or not flexible seating is something you want to incorporate into your classroom, it's helpful to weigh the pros and cons. That way you know if it's a good fit or not for your classroom, your students, and your teaching style.

There are so many things to consider, both good and bad, when it comes to offering different seating options. 

But, keep in mind, there are always things you can do to counteract any disadvantages on this list. For instance, if money is a concern, you could apply for grants and funding, try some DIY alternatives, and/or look for second hand items. Or, if safety is concern, you could go over safety rules with your class.

Hopefully, though, this list of flexible seating pros and cons can help you make a decision, one way or another.

Flexible seating pros and cons: a look at the advantages and disadvantages of using flexible seating in the classroom

The Pros of Flexible Seating

Let's first talk about the advantages. The good things. The pros. Essentially, we're going to look at some of the reasons why you would probably want to incorporate some type of flexible seating options into the classroom.

First of all, flexible seating can better meet the needs of more students. In a class of 30 kids, you know there are going to be a wide range of educational needs and sensory needs. Plus, there will be a plethora of learning styles too. Some kids will need to wiggle, rock, or move. Some will need some proprioceptive or tactile sensory input. And so offering different seating arrangements can better help meet a wide range of needs.

Flexible seating is also neurodiversity-affirming. That's because it recognizes sensory needs, allows for stimming behaviors such as rocking, helps with regulation, focuses on body autonomy, celebrates differences in learning styles and comfort levels, and more.

Speaking of comfort levels...every student's idea of what's comfortable is different. Some will be okay sitting in a hard plastic chair while others will be slouching, sliding, or falling off because they can't get comfortable. Some kids might be more comfortable standing or moving while they work, while others might prefer to hang out in a quiet spot in a bean bag chair.

As was already quickly touched on earlier, some most kids can't sit still and need more movement when relying solely on traditional seating. So skipping the crisscross applesauce and opting for wiggle cushions, rocking chairs, and scoop chairs will be better alternatives.

Finally, flexible seating is a good way to give kids choice and build independence. They have the freedom and flexibility to choose where to sit, who to sit with, how to sit, and so forth.

The pros of using flexible seating in the classroom

The Cons of Flexible Seating

While there are a lot of advantages to using flexible seating (as you learned), there are also a lot of disadvantages to be aware of. So let's take a look at some of the negatives, or cons, to using flexible seating.

Perhaps the biggest negative would be the financial cost involved. Adding different chairs and seating options to the classroom obviously costs money and some alternatives can be quite expensive. Especially if you need to purchase multiple for the classroom.

Then there are budget constraints to also be aware of. So sometimes it doesn't make sense to invest in flexible seating due to the financial costs.

Then there's also the potential for additional costs to be added for things like maintenance, repair, and replacement. After all, sometimes things break. You might find yourself having to buy frequent replacements due to improper use, daily wear, etc. However, putting together a list of flexible seating rules for the class might help reduce breakage.

Also, it's unrealistic to have enough flexible seating options for every single student in the classroom. Not only would that cost a lot of money, but it would be nearly impossible to fit every single student's needs by providing them with what they may need and finding the space in the classroom to do that. So while you can provide a variety of options, you wouldn't necessarily be able to accommodate every single student in the classroom with a unique seating option.

As I touched on in the last paragraph, another issue would be space. The classroom simply might not have the space to add a small couch, a couple of rocking chairs, and a few bean bag chairs. Even storing smaller things like scoop chairs, wiggle cushions, etc. isn't always manageable. Sometimes it's easier to stick to chairs that are easily stackable due to space constraints.

Speaking of space, maybe you don't even have a designated classroom or you share a classroom with another teacher (current realities for where we live). That might make it impossible to even consider flexible seating.

Another issue with flexible seating is safety. Things like wobble stools, for example, can come with their own sets of risks. For instance, kids might fall while they are trying to balance on a wobble stool. Although you could always do things to minimize any risks, such as going over some basic safety rules with your class.

Another thing to consider is that it can take a lot of trial and error to find the right types of seating for your students. Would rocking chairs or bean bag chairs be better? Or would wiggle cushions and mats be a better fit? It can take a lot of experimentation and time to find the right fit for your students.

The cons of using flexible seating in the classroom

A Recap of the Flexible Seating Pros and Cons

As discussed above, there are lots of advantages to using flexible seating in the classroom. There are also some disadvantages though too. Here's a quick overview of those pros and cons:

  • Perhaps the best reason to consider flexible seating is that it can help meet the needs of more students (think sensory needs and educational needs, for instance). It's also neurodiversity-affirming.
  • Since flexible seating is great for kids who can't sit still, it's an easy way to incorporate more movement into your school routine.
  • Other pros to using flexible seating include: providing choice, building independence, and meeting a wide range of comfort levels.
  • Flexible seating can be expensive and bulky, taking up a lot of space in the classroom.
  • It's unrealistic and impossible to provide flexible seating for every single student, especially since it can take a lot of trial and error to find the right ones for your students' needs.
  • Then there's the potential for things to break, which can cost even more money, and some flexible seating options, such as wobble stools, come with their own safety risks.

Flexible seating pros and cons list: a look at the advantages and disadvantages of using flexible seating in the classroom

So that's a look at some possible flexible seating pros and cons. Do you think you'll be implementing it in your classroom? Or do the disadvantages outweigh the advantages at this point?

Flexible seating pros and cons: a look at the advantages and disadvantages of using flexible seating in the classroom