Opinion: The new furniture in Carney Hall provides students with a collaborative and bright learning experience

Carney’s furniture remodel offers students a different learning environment than what most are typically accustomed to.


Photo: A. Gueriera

One of the most visible changes made over the summer was the new furniture brought into the classrooms. 

Going from individual desks to group-style tables may seem like a minor adjustment, but the result of that change could have ramifications on academic performance and productivity of the learning environment, both positively and negatively. 

The new furniture in Carney Hall has drawn some disagreement and sparked a debate over whether or not the furniture is an improvement from what was previously in the classrooms. 

Over the summer, Malvern took out the classroom furniture in Carney Hall, which had been navy blue chairs and desks for years. Since then, the school has implemented new butcher-block topped tables and chairs into all of the classrooms. 

Having students sit together at a table offers them a more modern and hands-on environment in the classroom, as opposed to the stationary desks which separate students from one another. With Malvern moving to a more hands-on, collaborative based curriculum, the tables make the most sense in providing students with a conducive learning environment to achieve that goal. 

While interaction is important, practicality must also be at the forefront of bringing in new furniture to the classroom. 

Certainly, the look of the furniture is a major improvement from the previous desks, bringing a clean interior to the classrooms and brightening up what at times could have been an uninspiring classroom space, yet there are aspects where the tables may fall short.

Having students at a collective table is sure to cause a heightened urge and simpler means of execution for academic dishonesty. Most likely sitting with a group of friends, students will be more inclined to help each other out if they are sitting right next to each other in much closer proximity.

From having had classes with the new tables, I personally feel that it is harder to focus on tests and assessments, when sitting right next to your closest friends at the same table, though during a typical class there are clear benefits to the collaborative environment being fostered. 

Teachers are now placed with the unnecessary burden of commandeering their students, while they take a test and are under a heightened awareness of what their students are doing and if they are communicating in any way between their peers. 

Desks, on the other hand, keep students distant and separate for assessments, while allowing them to move around for more collaborative projects and class discussions as needed. 

The idea of being able to configure desks in a way which best suits the teacher and their style of education is a benefit to that particular teacher and their students, which closely aligns to the furniture previously held on the classrooms. 

Many of the pros and cons to the furniture, thus far, have been taken from an academic perspective, however, there is also the question of functionality and how comfortable the furniture is. 

From experience, I believe that the chairs and tables are not only aesthetically pleasing, but comfortable and suitable for a learning environment. With that in mind, for larger students, with extra long legs, it seems as if they take up all the leg room, leaving their peers with less than adequate room to stretch out their legs.

The curiosity over whether the current furniture is better than the previous desks is one with many aspects to consider. While some may prefer the desks, there is no doubt that many see the tables and chairs as a step in the right direction to produce the most effective learning environment for Malvern students.

I am one that does enjoy the new furniture, the brightness it brings to the classrooms and the closeness they bring to one another in the classroom, yet I also understand some of the hindrances of them such as with academic dishonesty, the constant desire to talk with friends, and the distractions from sitting right next to each other.

With that being said, was the change necessary? Given that the purchase of several dozens of tables and chairs came at a steep cost, I wonder if the purchase was needed or if Malvern could have used the money elsewhere. 

Maybe the school could have updated the WiFi and internet system on campus, to better accommodate the faculty and students while using their laptops and electronic devices. Perhaps creating a designated space on campus for students and faculty to use for quiet time and academic work whenever they need, similar to many libraries on college campuses.   

While the furniture improved the overall aesthetic of the classrooms in Carney Hall, it was not a pressing issue that needed to be addressed, nor were the previous desks inhibiting the academic success of Malvern students. 

There is no doubt that the views of the community are mixed. Some faculty and students happen to love the furniture and the impact they have made in the classrooms, but at the same time, there are a handful of those who would rather trash the tables and dust off the old desks.