Take 20 minutes to purposefully consider the following and record one goal for yourself after doing so.
There are three basic arrangements (rows, horseshoes, and clusters/groups) and each have advantages and disadvantages. Most all other arrangments are some hybrid of these basic models. One can search to their hearts delight on Pinterest and other sites exploring the many arrangements. The following site give a typical rundown of advantages and disadvantages of these basic arrangements. It is the resource for the pictures below as well.
No seating arrangement has been found to be better than another in all situations. However, specific arrangements have been correlated to increased achievement for specific learning goals. One should consider how an arrangement impacts the learning environment for which a lesson is designed.
Research indicates that twice as much learning can occur if one matches seating arrangement with type of instruction and learning. For example, desks facing one direction (e.g, facing the front of the room) with some individual spacing correlates to increased learning on individual tasks (e.g., math problems or writing prompts). The reason is as one expects. There is an increase time on task with fewer distractions.
Conversely, if planned work is group-based where students are required to learn from one another (e.g. jigsaw cooperative learning) then more time on task leads to learning. Additionally, some researchers have identified that group work leads to developments in emotional intelligence, citizenship skills, and creativity. The later is true when connected to lessons designed around authentic project-based learning (PBL) lessons or Real-World Learning Object (RWLO) lessons.
One respected program that you may wish to investigate further is the Kagan Learning System. Among its many strategies to promote student engagement is purposefully connecting cooperative learning to individualized tasks. Reference for Kagan learning material and training is below. Please note that it is a commercialized product so it will likely be something you want to tuck away for future reference.
Three important issues to consider when deciding about any seating arrangement and classroom workspace.
1. What is the learning target of the lesson and might it be impacted by the type of seating arrangement in place? In general student (mis)behavior is directly correlated to time on task.
2. Can you and the students get around the room easily? It is important that YOU can so that you can manage academic, social, and managerial aspects in the classroom.
3. Can you easily see the eyes of each student?
4. What type of individualized space might you be able to incorporate (maker spaces, reading corners, meeting spaces (for students and parents), and learning centers to review or engage in "extra" material.
Three basic arrangement plans (select to enlarge and read)
Professional resources to consider
Kagan Learning (they are selling a product but respected by many educators and schools) http://www.kaganonline.com/index.php