Pedagogical Furniture

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Architectural Technology report

Text of Pedagogical Furniture

Pedagogical FurnitureAlice ODonnell Emmett McNamara Dan Shanahan University of Edinburgh Architectural Technology Research: Contextual Report January 2012

Contents1.0 Introduction 2.0 History2.1 Early 20th century 2.2 Mid-20th century 2.3 Late 20th century 2.4 Orthopaedic Research into 20th Century School Furniture and Scandinavian developments 2.5 Reasons for the need of new furniture design with regards to a new pedagogical approach to teaching 2.6 Early 21st Century - Scientific and Adjustable Design

IntroductionIn 2006 an early day motion was tabled at the House of Commons by Paul Burstow (Member of Parliament) and has been supported by a number of MPs including Vincent Cable. This motion increased awareness of the incidence of back pain in school children and called for changes to school furniture. That this House expresses concern that around 10 per cent of teenagers are reporting back pain troublesome enough to visit their General Practitioner or a physical therapist with eight per cent (up to three per class) reporting some disability from recurrent or chronic symptoms; notes that these complaints are being exacerbated in no small part by ill-fitting and lowest cost furniture within schools, lack of locker space resulting in heavy load carrying and a lack of adequate exercise during the school day; further notes that these complaints affect the performance, self-esteem and relationships and participation in school and sporting activities of these young people and, if not corrected, will often develop into longer-term back problems; further notes that much of this furniture currently used in schools, if used in the workplace, would be deemed illegal under existing health and safety legislation; and so calls upon the Government to facilitate the introduction of furniture into schools which is adjustable, can cater for the wide variation in height in a given age group and is ergonomically sound and conducive to a good sitting posture. Our Architectural Technology Research report hopes to explain the importance of pedagogical furniture and its relation to improving learning amongst future generations. We hope it will form an important part of the MArch knowledge based resource and help inform others interested in future pedagogies. Our report hopes to explain the history of school furniture, orthopaedic research, the differences amongst European curriculums, the Scottish Curriculum for Excellence, and through a series of case studies we hope to illustrate institutions using pedagogical furniture to support progressive teaching methods. Pedagogical Furniture isnt all about the tables and chairs inside a classroom, it can be the experience created between classrooms that allow children to enjoy school, leading to happier children, which lead to a better education. Standard furniture for schools and offices is a major health hazard. Forward bending can while working reduce the lung volume capacity in often poorly ventilated rooms. Fluid circulation in legs can be restricted by sharp front edges of seats causing swollen legs [1]. Furniture not allowing movements and comfort while working is likely to contribute to problems with attention, health and school dropouts. By the age of 15 or 16 years, about 60 to 70% of school children experience back pain [2, 3, 4]. [1] Mandal, A.C. 1976: Work chair with tilting seat. Ergonomics 19, 157164. [2] Balagu, F. 1998: Low back pain in schoolchildren. Scandinavian Journal of Rehabilitation Medicine 20, 175179. [3] Davoine, P. 1991: Back Pain in Schoolchildren. Doctoral dissertation. University of Grenoble, France. [4] Linton, S. J. Hellsing A. L. Halme, T. Akerstedt, K. 1994: The effects of ergonomically designed school furniture on pupils attitudes, symptoms and behaviour. Applied ergonomics25(5):299304.

3.0 The Educational Workplace 4.0 Contrasting the UK with Europe and Scandinavia 5.0 Curriculum for Excellence 6.0 The Effect on the Built Environment of Schools 7.0 Case Studies7.1 Hellerup School, Denmark 7.2 Erika Mann Grundschule, Germany 7.3 Fawood Childrens Centre, England 7.4 Kingsdale School, England 7.5 Wooranna Park Primary School, Australia

8.0 Conclusion 9.0 References and Bibliography

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2.0 History2.1 Early 20th Century At the beginning of the 20th Century teaching had a very different style. Learning was based on memorising facts. It was passive learning, with the teacher as the centre of attention and the sole distributor of information, who preached from a podium. Students had little freedom, which resulted in little motivation. School timing and format was based on the 19th century factory model (Lillard, 2005) and shaped children into a factory format so they would be easily organised when adults. 2.2 Mid 20th Century By the mid century, teachers had stepped down from the podium and like the students, sat behind a desk. The reform gradually gave a more active role to students. Intellectual studies where broken up by practical work. School gained a new importance after the war. It was viewed as a means to bring social reform (21st Century Schools, 2010). Educators and designers realised that the schools envelope and furnishings shaped the children as much as the curriculum, as realised by Maria Montessori in early 1900s. 2.3 Late 20th Century With the boom of the computer in the late 20th Century, every school scrambled to modernise. The computer changed the curriculum. Computer skills were seen as vital. However, computers were not integrated into the school. Specific rooms were allocated for computer time and use. The furniture was still ugly, and sterile. Each chair was the same as the next, with a one size fits all ethos. Plastics became the widespread because of its ability to be mass produced.

2.0 History2.4 Orthopaedic Research into 20th Century School Furniture and Scandinavian developments Bad posture, back pain and discomfort amongst school children has been known and evaluated for over a century. It has meant that theoretical changes and paradigms in what good posture really is has changed over the century. For the majority of this time, the United Kingdom has promoted a flexion of 90 at the hip. In the 20th century with increased research using X-Ray machines, researchers such as Orthopaedic surgeons Donald Ray Akerblom, J.J. Keegan and Hanns Schoberth where able to prove most people could not bend at more than a 60degree angle. This meant that children sitting on a seat designed for 90 flexion, were going to slouch because they were more comfortable, nearer to that 60. These studies also showed people where bending a further 30, (60 further than the designed seating) when they needed to read or write. For schoolchildren to maintain these hunched postures required excessive strain on muscles and tendons, especially in the lower back, resulting in fatigue. It also resulted in soft vertebrae compressing. This as Dr. A C Mandal suggests, is what has led to backache and discomfort of schoolchildren, and can in some cases lead to chronic backache later in life. A major problem across Europe has been the self-selection by schools of their furniture. This was done not scientifically, but often by financial restraints. It was Danish and Swedish schools who first took a scientific approach to school furniture. In 1970, a height increase of 15 to 20cm to seats and tables, while also sloping towards each other, resulted in significant improvements in posture, and a decrease in fatigue. Ironically, since schools started using individual seating arrangements, children have tilted their seats forwards, to the annoyance of their teachers. Danish and Swedish research illustrated this was not merely disobedience. A tilting seat allows opposing muscle groups to balance and the lumbar curves are preserved producing balanced seating in which the back is straight, the joint angles are open and the muscles are relaxed. This position provides greater mobility and relieves pressure on the lungs and stomach. With the increase in height, transverse bars where added, avoided dangling feet. This change in furniture design was far more appropriate to the new pedagogical teaching methods of the Scandinavian countries - pedagogical methods which later travelled to the UK in the late 20th Century. While furniture of the old was designed with the listen and memorise method in kind, this new furniture allowed for freedom and the changing of posture between different exercises such as; listening, reading, writing, and resting. In 1989 Stephen Pheasant wrote in his book, Bodyspace, In recent years a new radical approach to seating has been proposed: Mandal (1976, 1981) has argued (quite cogently in my view) that seat surfaces should slope forwards, hence diminishing the need for lumbar flexion (particularly in such tasks as typing and writing) and encouraging lumbar lordosis.


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A photographic study by Dr. A.C. Mandal found highly significant improvements of posture with increasing heights of chairs and tables above feet level when seat and desk can slope.

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2.0 History2.5 Reasons for the need of new furniture design with regards to a new pedagogical approach to teaching

2.0 History2.6 Early 21st Century - Scienfic and Adjustable Design Now in the early 21st century, designers are looking at school furniture in a scientific manner. Industrial design companies such as Perch have invested in Research and Development to design furniture that activity helps children learn, by tackling problems such as bad posture and physical fatigue. commonly related to the one size fits all furniture designs of the 20th century. Perch have found It is not possible to maintain a healthy right-angles posture, without slouching, when using conventional seating, with horizontal desks. Young students operate