After classroom redesign, 12 educational institutions found that their Active Learning Centers led to better collaboration and supported instructor-led changes in pedagogy.
Cycle 1 Grant recipients share first year results
During the past academic year, 12 educational institutions decided to inspire and innovate classrooms designed to promote active learning. As recipients of a Steelcase Education Active Learning Center Grant, their experiences can be instructive to those seeking to advance learning and teaching in new ways.
- Improved collaboration and team learning
- Encouraged student engagement and participation
- Instructor-led changes in pedagogy supported
All Center for Active Learning grantees were provided with a post occupancy measurement tool. Each institution was also invited to develop its own research design and supplement the tool with additional classroom assessments. As such, the findings highlighted in this report represent common themes that emerged from data collected in a variety of ways, including most commonly student performance assessments, classroom observations.
Support for the findings is highlighted by data and observations assigned to individual institutions.
FINDING 1: ENHANCED COLLABORATIVE LEARNING
Educators who use more active approaches to learning are often interested in how to develop collaboration and team learning in their classrooms. Overall, Active Learning Center (ALC) grant recipients report that their new spaces are helping them do just that.
Better and more frequent interactions
In a survey of Grover Cleveland Middle School students who used the ALC, 87.3% said the classroom furniture made it easier to work with others. A student survey at the University of Arizona yielded similar results. More specifically, ALC students interviewed at Metropolitan Community College reported being more aware of their classmates and better remembering names and discussions with each other.
Increased movement and sharing
Many grant institutions have found that because ALC mobile furniture is easy to reconfigure, it has led their instructors to do more team learning and group projects. They also reported that whiteboards and advanced projection capabilities facilitated sharing between students and between students and instructors.
Specifically, at the University of West Alabama, faculty survey data indicated that flexible equipment in the ALC allowed for a more interactive, collaborative, and participatory learning experience. Students working in groups in the classroom were observed to gain confidence and demonstrate a desire to share ideas with the class.
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87.3% of surveyed students say that ALC furniture makes it easier to work with others.
FINDING 2: INCREASED STUDENT ENGAGEMENT
Many grantee institutions reported greater student engagement in a number of dimensions as a result of their Active Learning Classroom experience.
New creativity and success
Students interviewed at Metropolitan Community College and at HACC, Central Pennsylvania’s Community College, reported higher levels of engagement in ALC compared to their traditional classroom experiences. Most institutions reporting more attentive, participatory students generally associated these behaviors with better outcomes. Responses to a survey of students and instructors at P.K. Yonge Developmental Research High School suggested something else – that the new ALC contributed to increased ability to achieve higher grades, motivation to attend class and be creative.
Greater participation, motivation and focus
Grant recipients from the University of West Alabama and Metropolitan Community College found that the ALC experience had a positive effect on student participation and focus in class. Some have observed that students engage in more productive conversations than in traditional classrooms.
Some grantees reported that the less formal and more flexible setting within their ALCs made it easier for students and paved the way for better learning experiences. Metropolitan Community College students reported that getting comfortable at the beginning of class took much less time in ALC than in a traditional classroom. “Comfort is a big contributor to motivation,” says a faculty member at the University of West Alabama.
More active, hands-on experiences
Some grantees who reported greater engagement attributed this benefit in particular to ALC’s mobile equipment.
Metropolitan Community College and HACC described how their students and instructors can easily create a variety of configurations that support hands-on learning techniques known to promote engagement and mastery.
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89.9% of students report engaging in ALC classroom work.
FINDING 3: SUPPORTED INSTRUCTOR SUPPORTED PEDAGOGICAL CHANGES
Transitioning to new, more active, student-centered teaching and learning methods can be challenging. Overall, instructors in ALC classrooms reported feeling more creative, motivated, and satisfied with the transition.
More creative and student-oriented
University of Arizona faculty members reported in their survey that ALC inspired more creative teaching methods. Many grantees described how, for example, individual whiteboards and easels in classrooms offer multiple uses, encourage greater student expression, and inspire new teaching techniques. Unlike traditional classrooms equipped for “sage on the stage” lecture pedagogy, ALC’s flexible facilities supported a shift from lecture-dominated learning to more immersive and mutually engaging experiences.
Wide range of options and easy transitions
Some institutions, including Fairfield University and Metropolitan Community College, reported that their faculty members were able to use a wider variety of pedagogical methods in ALC, such as classroom discussions, partner and small group work, hands-on activities, media use, and interactive voting, and other techniques. Many grantees reported that the mobility and opportunities offered by the ALC classroom support ongoing changes in pedagogy. Additionally, some instructors described an improved ability to navigate the ALC during class.