Can Sunday School Classroom Arrangement Impact Disciplemaking?

Monday 16th August, 2010

This post answers the eighth question from Questions about Making Disciples Through Sunday SchoolIs there an ideal class arrangement which is more likely to make and grow disciples? If yes, which? The twenty questions in that post focus on how Sunday School can help the church carry out the Great Commission to "make disciples of all nations, baptizing them...and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you" (Matthew 28:18-20, NIV).

Let me get your mind thinking through a scenario and some questions that are germaine to the question of this post. Picture a classroom with rows and a lecturn. Picture the teacher standing up in front of the class. In that setting, answer these questions. What does the arrangement of the room suggest? What is the likely teaching method(s)? Where does knowledge rest? Where is attention placed? What is expected of the attenders of the class? Who is expected to prepare?

Compare that scnario to this one. Picture a classroom with chairs in a circle with no desk or lecturn. As you walk in, you cannot tell which one is the teacher. In that setting answer these questions. What does the arrangement of the room suggest? What is the likely teaching method(s)? Where does knowledge rest? Where is attention placed? What is expected of the attenders of the class? Who is expected to prepare?

Which of these learning environments is more likely to influence the making of disciples? Which of these scenarios is more likely to increase learning retention? Which classroom arrangement is more likely to increase interaction between learners resulting in greater likelihood of attendance and greater trust in sharing? As a result of teaching methods used in that environmnet, are attenders more likely to take steps forward in carrying out the truth of the lesson?

Neal McBride in his book, How to Lead Small Groups, states that a "meeting place either positively or negatively influences members' participation in the group." Many place/space factors come into play, including physical arrangement, flexibility of the space, room size, aesthetics, lighting, temperature, seating, and more. But of all these factors, arrangement of the seating and furnishings can impact the interaction and/or retention of learning. That is because classroom arrangement used purposefully can lend itself to group participation in the teaching-learning experience.

The more open the arrangement, the more it lends itself to asking questions, discussion, and a general expectation that learners have something to share. This is even more encouraged when the group can see faces, expressions, and gestures. Since 93% of communication is nonverbal, there is greater understanding when the arrangement makes seeing each other possible.

Of course, a teacher's choice of methodology and class interaction can supercede any arrangement. A lecturer can lecture to rows or to a circle. But classroom arrangement can facilitate the learning experience increasing interaction and retention with the positive expectation that a course of action as a result of the lesson will be planned resulting in life-change.

Think about your classroom arrangement? What do learners assume when they see the arrangement? How can you best use your space to strengthen making of disciples? How can it be used to increase interaction and learning retention leading to implementing obedience? Where could you make adjustments to improve the arrangement? Use everything you have for Him. Give your best to God. He deserves no less. Be revolutionary!

For more ideas about classroom arrangement, check out these blog posts:

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