How Can Incorporating Standing Desks in Schools Influence Students’ Attention and Learning Outcomes?

April 22, 2024

With the increasing awareness about the health risks associated with prolonged sitting, standing desks are becoming more popular in the workplace. But have you ever thought about bringing this trend into the classroom? Research shows that incorporating standing desks in schools could have a significant impact on students’ attention and learning outcomes.

The Prevalence of Sitting in Schools

The traditional classroom setting in the USA and many other parts of the world revolves around desks and sitting. From the first day of pre-school, students are conditioned to sit for extended periods. This is despite the fact that numerous studies have shown the negative effects of prolonged sitting on both physical health and cognitive function.

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Students, particularly those in higher grades, spend an average of 4.5 hours sitting at their desks on a school day. This does not include the time spent sitting during meals, while doing homework, or during transportation. The total sitting time can easily amount to 8-9 hours per day, which is comparable to a full-time office job.

Long-term sitting can lead to obesity, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes. On a short-term level, it can lead to discomfort, restlessness, and a decrease in alertness and energy levels. All these factors combined can negatively impact a student’s ability to focus and learn.

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The Intervention of Standing Desks

Standing desks are not a new concept, they have been in use in offices for some years now. However, the idea of incorporating them into the classroom is fairly new, even though the potential benefits are substantial.

Studies have shown that standing can help burn more calories, improve posture, increase blood circulation, and even boost mood. More importantly for the school environment, standing can also enhance attention and engagement, leading to improved learning outcomes.

A study conducted in Texas, USA, found that students who used standing desks showed a 12% greater on-task engagement compared to those who used traditional desks. This equates to an extra seven minutes per hour of productive learning time.

The Impact on Students’ Attention

The primary reason behind the effectiveness of standing desks in improving students’ attention seems to be the change in their physical state. Standing, unlike sitting, requires a certain degree of physical effort. It engages the muscles and increases heart rate, leading to increased alertness and energy levels.

The use of standing desks also allows for more movement in the classroom. Students are not confined to their chairs and can move around more freely, which can further enhance attention and engagement.

It’s also important to mention that standing does not necessarily mean students are constantly on their feet. Most standing desks in schools are adjustable, allowing students to sit when they need to rest, and stand when they need to be more active and engaged.

The Influence on Learning Outcomes

The ultimate goal of any intervention in the classroom is to enhance learning outcomes. With the improvements in attention and engagement that standing desks can bring, it’s logical to assume that they can also contribute to better learning results.

While studies on this topic are still relatively scarce, early findings are promising. A study conducted in the USA showed that students using standing desks performed better on standardized tests compared to those using traditional desks. The study also found that the use of standing desks led to a significant decrease in disruptive behavior problems.

Standing desks can also contribute to creating a more active and dynamic classroom environment. They can help break the monotony of the traditional sitting classroom and make learning a more engaging and enjoyable experience.

Final Thoughts

Incorporating standing desks in schools is not a magic bullet that will solve all the problems of the modern education system. However, it’s a promising intervention that can contribute to healthier, more attentive, and more productive students.

It’s also a significant step towards acknowledging and addressing the health risks associated with prolonged sitting. In a world where sitting has become the norm, standing desks represent a much-needed shift towards a more active and healthy lifestyle.

It’s important to remember that the successful implementation of standing desks in schools requires careful planning and consideration. It involves adjustments in classroom layout, teaching methods, and student habits. However, if done right, it can be a game-changer in terms of enhancing students’ attention, engagement, and overall learning outcomes.

Examining Relevant Studies on Standing Desks in Schools

Google scholar and PubMed host a plethora of studies that have taken a deep dive into the potential benefits and drawbacks of standing desks in schools. One such systematic review of the literature on this subject matter drew attention to the physical activity benefits and increase in step counts among students. It’s worth noting that due to the novelty of the subject, most of the studies conducted so far have been pre-post design, and a limited number have employed a control group.

Notably, one experimental study on the implementation of stand-biased desks in classrooms found a significant increase in the standing time of students and a reduction in their sedentary time. Stand-biased desks, which encourage standing but also allow for sitting when needed, can be a practical solution to combat the risks associated with prolonged sitting. The article, published on PMC for free access, concluded that students utilizing stand-biased desks demonstrated a considerable increase in energy expenditure and physical activity.

Another study conducted on children and adolescents showed that the use of standing desks helped decrease their sitting time, leading to improved postural dynamics and increased energy expenditure. The researchers found that students using standing desks were more attentive, engaged, and demonstrated better retention of information. It’s clear from these studies that the benefits of standing desks extend beyond just physical health. They also offer a significant boost to cognitive function and learning outcomes.

Challenges and Considerations in Implementing Standing Desks

While the benefits of standing desks are evident, implementing them in schools is not without its challenges. A significant shift in the classroom environment, such as introducing standing desks, requires careful planning, adaptations in teaching methods and adjustments to student habits.

One challenge is the initial resistance to change that may come from both students and teachers. It’s crucial to manage this transition smoothly with proper communication about the benefits of standing desks and the problems with prolonged sitting. Training for teachers on how to effectively use standing desks in their teaching methods would also help in this transition.

There might also be a need for a phased introduction of standing desks. Schools could begin by replacing a few traditional desks with standing desks and gradually increase their number. This approach allows students and teachers to slowly adjust to the new classroom environment and helps identify and resolve any issues that might arise.

Furthermore, some studies have noted the potential for increases in discomfort or fatigue due to prolonged standing. To counter this, standing desks in schools should be adjustable, allowing students the flexibility to sit or stand as per their comfort level.

Conclusion

The incorporation of standing desks in schools represents an innovative approach towards enhancing students’ learning while addressing the adverse health effects of prolonged sitting. This intervention has shown promising results in improving students’ attention, engagement, and learning outcomes. While the transition might present some challenges, careful planning and a considered approach can enable a smooth transition.

The world of education is increasingly recognizing the need to adapt to the physical health needs of students, and incorporating standing desks in classrooms is a step in the right direction. As more research emerges on this topic, schools should be prepared to adapt and consider implementing changes that could significantly benefit their students. As the saying goes, the riskiest thing we can do is just maintain the status quo. With standing desks, we have the chance to break free from traditional norms and create a more dynamic, engaging, and healthy learning environment.