Beyond the Lecture

Studies show a link between student engagement and improved learning outcomes in the classroom. That, along with easy access to information via technology, is fueling a shift in education from a teacher-as-lecturer model to a teacher-as-guide model. “Now students can get information in the blink of an eye,” says Sean Corcorran, general manager of Steelcase Education Solutions, which offers workplace products, furnishing, and services worldwide. “The teacher doesn’t have to stand up and lecture the entire class period, which leads to a more multimodal, active learning environment in the classroom.”

UC Berkeley’s Educational Technology Services (ETS) website describes Active learning classrooms (ALC) as “teaching and learning spaces that allow faculty to move their course design beyond the lecture. The room design, flexible furniture, writing surfaces, and technology support professors in engaging with their students through the integrated use of media and collaborative learning activities.” According to the ETS website, active learning classrooms help to facilitate diverse sizes and groupings of students by creating a flexible and supportive environment for a class to transition seamlessly between a professor’s lecture and facilitated student group work.

In other words, active learning spaces support the various ways in which instructors teach and students learn.

For example, Corcorran notes, the teacher may introduce a subject, the students may then break into small groups for 20 minutes of research, and then they may gather again as a whole with each group making a brief presentation that allows time for class discussion.

Because of this change to active learning, “educators and designers of learning spaces are rethinking classrooms, libraries, hallways, common areas, and other in-between spaces,” notes the Steelcase website. “Learning spaces must now incorporate user-friendly technology, flexible furniture, and other new tools that support active learning. Today, every space on campus is a learning space.”

Furniture, specifically, is becoming more flexible. Cubes can be used for sitting, standing upon for dramatic presentation, or even kneeling next to for taking notes, drawing or otherwise assisting in floor work. Small tables on wheels can be used for individual work or brought together for group work. So, the next time you shop for classroom furniture, be prepared to see fewer tablet armchairs and more flexible options. Bonus: you may find yourself ordering less furniture! 

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