Higher ed's next disruption will come in three dimensions

Rethinking classroom layout can have a big impact on student engagement

Simply changing the layout of a classroom can have a "hugely disruptive" effect on learning, Jennifer Lewington writes in the Globe And Mail.

More universities are revamping classrooms to encourage active learning, using space to disrupt the professor-controlled model. Lewington notes several examples of Canadian schools that have seen benefits from redesigning classroom layouts.

"There is a sea change in thinking about how students and all of us learn and how we engage with the material," says Donald Schmitt of Diamond Schmitt Architects, a group that designs flexible room configurations. Architecture plays "a very significant role" in reshaping student experience, he says.

How does pedagogical and technological innovation affect space planning?

Laptop friendly round tables, swivel chairs, whiteboard walls, flat floors, and video-conference portals encourage students to collaborate and engage.

The change comes as digital natives reach college-age. These "millennial" students think of education as a social experience, says Jill Scott, vice-provost of learning at Queen's University. "Being able to leverage some of this technology in and outside classrooms is a really important aspect," she says.

But high-tech tools are not necessary, says Arshad Ahmad, director of McMaster University's Institute for Innovation and Excellence in Teaching and Learning. The point is to foster student ownership of the course material.

At McMaster, a liberal arts building opening next year will feature three active-learning classrooms that feature plenty of outlets for electronic devices, level floors, and specially-painted surfaces for group work in lecture halls.

Nap rooms could lead to happier students

At Queens, a survey found the modern classrooms increased students' interactions with classmates and confidence to participate (Lewington, Globe and Mail, 10/21).


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