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Student enrollment decisions and academic success: evaluating the impact of classroom space design

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Instruction based on active learning is being promoted in higher education by the creation of new collaborative teaching and learning spaces, but capacity does not yet exist for all courses to be held in these new spaces. In this study, we examined how students choose between sections of the same course, with the same materials and techniques used by the same instructor, delivered in a collaborative teaching and learning space compared with a lecture-theater space. We also measured how the factors used in enrollment decision-making, and the subsequent learning experiences in the chosen environment, are associated with student attitudes related to learning chemistry. We collected student survey data from undergraduate students enrolled in Organic Chemistry II using items from the Colorado Learning Attitudes toward Science Survey for Chemistry and questions about the enrollment process. Students also responded to in-class prompts at the end of the semester about several different factors that could have influenced their decision to enroll in their section of the course. We combined these student responses with other data to create structural equation models for how the design of the teaching and learning space is associated with decision-making factors or attitudes about learning chemistry. Our models showed correlations among space enrollment, aspects of student identity, decision-making factors, and attitudes toward learning chemistry. These results suggest that students are self-sorting between the various learning spaces, which demonstrates a need for further research into the drivers of these sorting patterns over time.

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We are grateful to all the people who support us and our work, in both our personal and professional lives. We thank the KU Center for Teaching Excellence, the KU Center for STEM Learning, the KU Chemistry department, the Kansas Geological Survey, and the Gould Evans Education Research Lab for their support throughout the creation of this work. We thank the KU Institutional Review Board for their oversight and offer special thanks to Alyssa Haase for her work. We also thank the KU Center for Research Methods and Data Analysis for their support of our analysis on this project. Finally, we recognize the role of the students who chose to participate in this study and contributed their time and energy to support our research.

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Ralph, M., Schneider, B., Benson, D.R. et al. Student enrollment decisions and academic success: evaluating the impact of classroom space design. Learning Environ Res 25, 523–547 (2022).

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