Back to Page Authors: Alisha Esmail

Keywords: Seating Arrangements, Collaborative Learning, Classroom Environment, Student voices

Abstract: There is a great deal of emphasis on collaborative learning among students in today’s classrooms (Johnson and Johnson, 1985; O’Donnell and King, 2014; Slavin et al., 2003; Webb and Palincsar, 1996). However, existing research on the environment in which collaborative learning takes place is scant. Therefore, this study aimed to explore the impact of seating arrangements on collaborative learning in a Grade 8 Religious Education classroom in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania. The research adopted a qualitative, action research methodological paradigm using a critical friend, student diaries, teacher- journal, and student-led conferences as the data collection tools in which both, students and teacher’s perspectives were carefully embedded. The results of this study indicate that seating arrangements are fundamental tools in creating a conducive environment for effective collaboration to take place. In fact, depending on the objectives of the lesson, the teacher may adopt a layout that fits the collaborative plan. In this case, collaboration can occur in pairs, groups and as a whole class. This study recommends a combinational collaborative approach in which the teacher uses multiple collaborative plans to foster sustained participation and engagement in the classroom. Moreover, this study highlights the role of the teacher as a role-model who carefully scaffolds the desired communication patterns in the classroom. And lastly, this study stresses on the importance of integrating students’ voices in ensuring successful teaching and learning.