Study: Standing desks strengthen student concentration

Hundreds of schools use standing desks, especially as costs drop to around $100 per unit
By: | Issue: July, 2015
June 22, 2015

Students show stronger concentration when working at standing desks, according to new research. A recent study in the International Journal of Health Promotion and Education found that students using standing desks improved their ability to stay on task in class by 12 percentÑthe equivalent of gaining seven minutes per hour of instruction time.

Researchers from Texas A&M and the University of Louisville studied 282 students in grades 2 through 4 for an academic year. Twenty-four classrooms were randomly chosen to receive standing desks or keep traditional seated desks.

Students answering questions, raising their hands or participating in discussions counted as engagement; off-task behaviors included talking out in class.

“The desks are creating an environment where teachers feel they have better classroom management, which means the whole class is learning and staying on task longer,” says Mark Benden, an associate professor at Texas A&M and co-author of the study. “The teacher is better able to do their job and affect student outcomes.”

Hundreds of schools use standing desks, especially as costs drop to around $100 per unit, Benden says. Some schools have added a back row of standing desks that students take turns using, which is a cost-effective way for teachers to try them out, he adds.

Standing also has health benefits. A 2011 study by Benden and colleagues found that students at standing desks burned 300 more calories per week than did seated classmates. The difference was even larger among overweight students, who burned about 575 more calories per week.

Fewer behavior problems

In Vallecito Elementary, a suburban K5 school located in Dixie School District near San Francisco, parents donated standing desks to three grade 4 classrooms and one grade 1 classroom this year. The parents are now campaigning for matching funds from companies so the entire school can get standing desks next year. “We’ve seen fewer behavior problems and increased production from kids,” says Principal Tracy Smith.

The desks are easily moveable so students can move together into groups more quickly. Each desk has a swinging foot stand called a “fidget bar” on which students can rest their feet.

Teachers take many breaks during instruction. After 15 minutes of standing, students may sit on the floor and then walk around the classroom.

The classrooms do have some stools, so a student can opt to sit down. “They love that they can choose,” Smith says. “We didn’t anticipate the element of choice being such a big piece for studentsÑit makes them feel good. It’s a win-win, in terms of flexibility in the classroom, improved focus and overall student wellness.”