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Klungseth researching flexible seating in college setting

March 12, 2024

Pedal. Glide. Stand. Balance. These are a few of the options available in flexible seating classrooms, or classrooms that allow for student movement.

While there has been plenty of research on flexible seating in the K-12 education environment, that hasn’t been the case in higher education, so Dr. Scott Klungseth, Associate Professor in Exercise Science at Dakota State University, is looking to change that.

He is researching flexible seating in a college classroom by trying it out with his students. Some of his colleagues are also teaching in the altered classroom to provide additional feedback.

Klungseth received a Faculty Research Initiative (FRI) grant to conduct the research for the 2023-2024 school year.

“It’s a very unique approach to try and bring this into a higher education setting and see how it works,” he explained.

The FRI grant, funding from Dean David De Jong, and two pieces of equipment donated by a company familiar with flexible classroom seating helped outfit the room for the research.

The classroom has exercise bikes, ellipticals, Minion movement chairs, balance boards, standing desks, and a few regular seating options.  

“A big part of the idea is to allow students to have choices,” Klungseth said. “There’s not a single piece of equipment that works for everybody.”

That piece of equipment may change for the person depending on the day, Klungseth pointed out. Some days, students might want to sit, some days, they might want to stand, and some days, they might want to pedal.

“It allows students to self-regulate and to have the flexibility to get up and move in the middle of class,” he said. “If they’re sitting in a chair and fidgeting, they can get up and move to the pedal desk.”

Instructors can also offer a 30-second break for students to change seats if they choose.

In K-12 settings, research has shown that negative behaviors are reduced and students focus longer in classes taught in flexible seating options, Klungseth explained. In the collegiate setting, he will use teacher perceptions and student perceptions to determine success.

So far, students have anecdotally shared that they would have benefited from the ability to self-regulate when they were in K-12, Klungseth added.

Klungseth and fellow College of Education faculty Gabe Mydland, Kindra Schneider, and Katie Anderson hold classes in this room, as well as Wendy Simmermon in the College of Business & Information Systems, who holds her business and accounting courses in the altered classroom.

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