Structuring physical spaces
General teaching spaces have been dominated in the last century by one type of design: tutor-focused, one-way facing and presentational, with seating arranged in either a U shape or in straight rows. Technologies have subsequently been added – interactive or conventional whiteboards mounted on the wall behind the main speaker, ceiling-mounted projectors with cabling to a laptop, a wireless network and/or wired computers – but these have rarely altered the dynamics of the design. According to JISC (2006)…”the prevailing pedagogic approach has swung towards active and collaborative learning, but room design and staff skills sets do not always reflect this” (p.10).
How you set up your classroom impacts on the type of learning it promotes. Sitting in rows facing a teacher at the front supports individual and focussed learning; sitting in groups enables collaborative and interactive learning.
Refer to image under "Problem 2: Grouped layouts = chattiness and disruption"
The use of technology in itself does not ensure effective teaching or learning, but it can extend the reach and flexibility of what the space offers. What is essential is that the adopted design is influenced by clearly defined pedagogic goals. When considering the intended learning outcomes of your session, determine the appropriate room design to promote that learning.
The video clip below explores how redesigning the physical teaching space can enhance the learning experience.
Active Learning Spaces
Many Universities are reconsidering how pedagogy, technology and space can be better integrated for a greater impact on teaching and learning. This is especially true when increasing class sizes from the traditional 20 students to 50+. An active learning space is a space that facilitates, much more readily than traditional spaces, active learning and participative learning amongst and between students, and between the students and staff. The video clip below explores the vision, budget, non-negotiables, real estate and long-term considerations when developing an active learning space.
Resources, strategies or assistance
Resources - Text/Articles
- JISC (2006) Designing Spaces for Effective Learning: A guide to 21st century learning space design. Higher Education Funding council for England (HEFCE): Bristol, UK.
Resources – Websites
- Classroom Climatology: Simple ideas of a happy and successful class climate
- Educause: Learning Space
- University of Michigan: Guidelines for Learning Spaces
- University of New South Wales: Active Learning Spaces
- Contact your School’s Associate Dean of Teaching Quality or your School's Learning Designer to arrange for the upskilling of our teaching team to help develop the necessary components of your physical learning spaces.