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From swimming pool to collaborative learning studio: Pedagogy, space, and technology in a large active learning classroom

Abstract

To promote student learning and bolster student success, higher education institutions are increasingly creating large active learning classrooms to replace traditional lecture halls. Although there have been many efforts to examine the effects of those classrooms on learning outcomes, there is paucity of research that can inform the design and implementation process. This study investigates how spatial and technological features of a large collaborative classroom support active learning based on the Pedagogy-Space-Technology framework. The findings from our study suggest short lecture and class-wide discussion are essential in framing learning content before group activities, and connecting group outputs to the learning content after group activities. Through interviews, surveys, and focus groups, we found that-while small group activities are generally well-supported in large active learning classroomsfacilitating short lecture and class-wide discussion is key to the success of active learning in large classrooms. Technology should be carefully laid out in the space to accommodate those activities. Specific design and implementation suggestions and implications are provided.

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Acknowledgements

The authors thank Ian Arthur for his assistance in conducting the student focus groups and some of the faculty interviews and Sarah Engel for her helpful comments on an earlier version of this manuscript.

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Correspondence to Dabae Lee.

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Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Appendices

Appendix A: Faculty interview questions

Semi-structured interview aimed at capturing instructor insights related to beginning of semester themes following a semester of teaching in the CLS.

Possible questions and follow-ups

We would like to hear about your experiences teaching in the CSL this semester.

  1. 1.

    For the class you were teaching, what do you feel worked particularly well in (or about) the room? OR Are there some success stories you can share with us about your teaching in the CSL this semester?

    1. a.

      What, specifically, about the room do you feel may have enhanced teaching and learning?

    2. b.

      Is there anything about the space that you think may have interfered with, or detracted from, teaching and learning?

  2. 2.

    What kinds of problems did you run into over the course of the semester?

    1. a.

      Were these problems able to be addressed/resolved to your satisfaction?

  3. 3.

    What were your impressions of student experiences in the space?

  4. 4.

    What kind of impacts do you think the space may have had on student learning?

    1. a.

      Were there noticeable differences between different types of learners?

  5. 5.

    Did you make any unanticipated changes in your approach to teaching this course, as a result of being in this space? OR How did teaching this course in the CSL compare with teaching the course in other spaces?

    1. a.

      What was different?

    2. b.

      What stayed the same?

  6. 6.

    What kinds of courses do you think are best suited to this space? AND/OR Are there courses that you think would not work well in the CSL?

  7. 7.

    What would make this space better? OR What ideas or wishes do you have for improving the CSL?

  8. 8.

    If you could return to the beginning of the semester and be able to teach this course over again, knowing what you now know about working in this space—would you do anything differently, and if so, why?

  9. 9.

    How has your experience in this space impacted your beliefs about teaching and learning?

    1. a.

      How has this experience influenced your plans/approaches to teaching in more traditional spaces?

  10. 10.

    How would you characterize the support/training you received for working in the CSL?

    1. a.

      What was helpful? OR What was most helpful?

    2. b.

      What could you have used more help with? OR What could you have used more support with/for?

  11. 11.

    What advice would you give to instructors preparing to teach in a space like this?

Appendix B: Faculty online survey

Please focus your responses on your experiences teaching in the Collaborative Learning Studio.

  1. 1.

    Did you personally request to teach in this classroom?

    • Yes

    • No

  2. 2.

    Including this semester, how many semesters have you taught in this classroom?

    • 1 semester

    • 2 semesters

    • 3 semesters

    • 4 semesters

    • 5 semesters

    • 6 + semesters

  3. 3.

    What are you doing differently in this classroom that you haven’t done (or couldn’t do) in other rooms?

  4. 4.

    If you have changed any aspects of your teaching because of your experiences in this classroom, which, if any, of those changes have you taken back to other classroom settings?

  5. 5.

    Have you noticed any changes in student attitudes or behavior that you think might be attributable to this classroom or how you’ve changed your class because of the space? What are those changes, and how do you think the classroom directly or indirectly led to them?

  6. 6.

    We built this classroom in part to test out new classroom design elements. What elements of this classroom would you most like to see carried forward into new classroom designs? Why?

  7. 7.

    Please share any challenges to teaching in this classroom that you think we should keep in mind as we consider renovating other classrooms.

Thank you for your valuable input. Once we compile the results of this survey, we might have more questions that would be best addressed by a focus group toward the end of the semester. We hope that you will consider joining that in-depth conversation, should you receive an invitation later this spring.

Appendix C: Student focus group questions

Focus group will be aimed at capturing student attitudes and impressions regarding both the aesthetics and actual pedagogical practices in the CLS. It will also attempt to capture implicit/idiographic theories of learning and attitudes toward collaborative pedagogy and technology use in the classroom.

Possible questions and follow-ups

We are interested in learning about the experiences of students in the new CLS space

  1. 1.

    Could you please describe what a “typical” day in your class is like? OR How does your instructor use the CLS?

    1. a.

      What other learning activities have you’ve participated in/experienced in the CLS?

      1. i.

        What are those activities like for you?

        1. 1.

          How helpful/effective would you say they are?

  2. 2.

    What do you like and/or dislike about the space?

    1. a.

      Can you recall what your first impressions of the room were?

      1. i.

        What stood out to you about the room?

    2. b.

      What do you think works particularly well in the room?

    3. c.

      What isn’t working in the room? OR What would make the room better?

  3. 3.

    What differences do you notice between the CLS and the other spaces you attend classes in?

    1. a.

      How might the differences you notice be impacting your learning?

    2. b.

      Are there differences in how attentive or distracted you are? If so, what do think might be responsible for those differences?

  4. 4.

    Are there classes you are taking that would not work in a space like the CLS? What are they, and why do you think they wouldn’t work in there?

  5. 5.

    What experiences have you had previously with collaborative learning approaches?

    1. a.

      What were those experiences like? OR How did you feel about those experiences?

    2. b.

      Do you feel like collaborative approaches make a difference for your own learning?

      1. i.

        In what way? OR Why or why not?

  6. 6.

    How do you learn best? OR Thinking back over all the experiences you’ve had as a student, tell me about the class (or classes) that you feel you learned the most in.

  7. 7.

    How do you feel about the use of technology in classrooms?

    1. a.

      What experiences have you had with different learning technologies?

    2. b.

      What do you see as pros and cons of using technology in the classrooms?

    3. c.

      What difference, if any, has technology use made for your learning?

    4. d.

      What have been the most helpful/least helpful applications of classroom technology that you’ve experienced?

Appendix D: Student online survey

This survey asks about your experience in the Collaborative Learning Studio (SB015) this semester. We appreciate your honest and thoughtful responses to these questions.

1. Please select the class that you are enrolled in that meets in SB 015:

  • GEOG-G237, MW, 9:30–10:45 a.m.

  • GEOG-G110, MWF, 1:25–2:15 p.m.

  • ANTH-P240, W, 5:45–8:45 p.m.

  • ANTH-E101, TR, 4:00–5:15 p.m.

  • GEOG-G208, TR, 9:30–10:45 a.m.

  • SOC-S201, TR, 11:15 AM–12:30 p.m.

  • SOC-S346, MW, 11:15 AM–12:30 p.m.

  • COLL-C105, MW, 2:30–3:45 p.m.

  • SPH-H351, M, 4:40–7:10 p.m.

  • SPH-B150, TR, 2:30–3:45 p.m.

  • SPH-H220, TR, 1:00–2:15 p.m.

2. What types of learning activities worked best in this classroom?

3. What types of learning activities worked least well in this classroom?

4. Please rate the extent to which the following technology was used in the classroom.

  Used every class meeting Occasionally used Rarely used Never used
Video wall for display of student work Video wall for display of student work used every class meeting Video wall for display of student work occasionally used Video wall for display of student work rarely used Video wall for display of student work never used
Video wall for display of lecture material Video wall for display of lecture material used every class meeting Video wall for display of lecture material occasionally used Video wall for display of lecture material rarely used Video wall for display of lecture material never used
Computer and monitor at student tables for group work Computer and monitor at student tables for group work used every class meeting Computer and monitor at student tables for group work occasionally used Computer and monitor at student tables for group work rarely used Computer and monitor at student tables for group work never used
Push to talk microphones on student tables for whole class discussion Push to talk microphones on student tables for whole class discussion used every class meeting Push to talk microphones on student tables for whole class discussion occasionally used Push to talk microphones on student tables for whole class discussion rarely used Push to talk microphones on student tables for whole class discussion never used

5. To what extent did group activities help your learning in the classroom?

  • A great deal

  • Somewhat

  • Not at all

This question is not applicable because we did not do group activities during class.

6. To what extent did the display of student work on the video wall help your learning?

  • A great deal

  • Somewhat

  • Not at all

This question is not applicable because student work was not displayed on the video wall.

7. How do you feel that the room helped or hindered your learning?

8. Please indicate which of the following is appealing to you about this classroom. (Select all that apply.)

  • Multiple images displayed on video wall simultaneously

  • Technology on the student tables

  • Tables that support group work

  • Comfortable chairs

  • Natural lighting

  • Spaciousness of the room

  • Attractiveness of the classroom

  • Other (please specify)

9. Additional comments.

Appendix E: Fall 2015 faculty survey

Thank you for agreeing to participate in our study. We are trying to learn more about how instructors use the various technologies in the CLS. Your responses will help us improve training for this room and determine what kinds of technologies should be considered for future room designs. Please base your responses on your most recent teaching experience in the CLS.

Video wall

Please indicate how often you use the video wall for the following purposes:

1. Displaying learning/lecture materials

  Used every class meeting Once every few class periods A few times during the semester Never used
One large view
Quad view
16 panel gallery view

2. Displaying or comparing student work while the class is engaging in class-wide discussion

  Used every class meeting Once every few class periods A few times during the semester Never used
One large view
Quad view
16 panel gallery view

3. Monitoring student group work while students are engaging in group discussion

  Used every class meeting Once every few class periods A few times during the semester Never used
One large view
Quad view
16 panel gallery view

4. Displaying a combination of instructor materials and student materials at the same time

  Used every class meeting Once every few class periods A few times during the semester Never used
One large view (one by one)
Quad view
16 panel gallery view

5. How effective do you think the Video Wall is for comparing student work for class-wide discussion?,

  1. Not used for the purpose

  2. Very effective

  3. Somewhat effective

  4. Somewhat ineffective

  5. Very ineffective

6. Please explain the reason for your answer above. If not used, please explain why you did not use if for comparing student work for class-wide discussion.

7. How effective do you think the Video Wall is for monitoring student group work during group discussion?

  1. Not used for the purpose

  2. Very effective

  3. Somewhat effective

  4. Somewhat ineffective

  5. Very ineffective

8. Please explain the reason for your answer above. If not used, please explain why you did not use it for monitoring student group work during group discussion?

9. Please share what you think is your most useful or unique use of the video wall.

Other technologies in SB015

10. How often do you push learning/lecture materials to the monitors at all student tables for the following activities?

  Used every class meeting Once every few class periods A few times during the semester Never used
For lecturing
For group discussion
For class-wide discussion

11. How often do you push student work to the monitors at all student tables for the following activities?

  Used every class meeting Once every few class periods A few times during the semester Never used
For lecturing
For group discussion
For class-wide discussion

12. How often do you use the following technologies in SB015?

  Used every class meeting Once every few class periods A few times during the semester Never used
Document cameras at student tables
Microphones at student tables
Portable white boards at student tables
Speakers at student tables
Instructor’s wireless microphone

Appendix F: Selected segments for inter-coder reliability check

Source Data Category
FI “…the fact that they have the chance to work in class to bring things together has mitigated the tension that I felt in other courses, where I’ve had to say: okay, you’re going to have to do some of this outside of class. Because they don’t have to schedule, find a common time to do some of the integration because I provide significant opportunities in class for that to happen around the tables. And I think it also means that it’s harder for people to shirk. Unless they don’t come to class, they’re going to be sitting at the tables and they have to be working.” PS
“I needed a classroom environment that allowed for the teams to function as a unit interacting with other teams” PS
These tables seem to be conducive for people to really work together PS
There is no spot where everyone can see you (the instructor) well because of sightline issues (in the context of discussing doing a lecture) PS
It is difficult to spot students raising hands during lecture even when using only the lower level PS
“..the ability to get a small group of students clustered around a single station where they can collaboratively talk and work through some of the technology issues and think about the principles—both in terms of, like, problem solving on the technical side, but also thinking about the conceptual ideas behind what we’re doing in class—works really well for what I’m trying to do.” PST
After small group activities it is hard to transition away from the technology and capture students’ attention because of how the room is set up, with the monitors in the way to the front of the room. PST
Discussion is disembodied because students can’t see the person talking, although they can hear it through using the mics PST
Because of stationery instructor’s control panel and desktop in a large space where I move around, it is difficult or cumbersome to control technology PST
I don’t lecture much but I do need to frame things for people.” PT
Technology sometime distracts students from face-to-face interaction with each other to exchange ideas, experiences, and perceptions. I asked them to turn off thier monitors off for those times PT
SFG “You are like all in your own little group and you just do things as a group, and when your group is done then you leave.” P
all the TVs have his PowerPoint up and it is really distracting. Like, I’m back there, so I see eight or nine screens that I could look at.” PST
a. “sometimes she’ll have us create a document with pictures or something like that, and then sometimes she’ll post them all on there so we can see what’s on all the monitors, which is kind of cool.” PT
She (the instructor) used Google Doc for group work and displayed it on the monitors. PT
I prefer watching presentation on the student monitor to on the video wall. I’d say it’s definitely more vivid on the monitors themselves. PT
“We haven’t done it a lot, but we’ve done it once where she was like, “Do three pictures you think of when you think of complimentary alternative medicine,” or something like that, so that everyone would find three pictures and then you’d put it up. And it was cool to see the similarities between groups,” PT
It took a while to get used to the push-to-talk microphone when talking to the class PT
(The large spaces makes the student feel) “not confined, comfortable, and relaxed” S
Being far away in the corner of the room make them feel disconnected and distracted S
Abundant natural light helps students to stay alert and makes classes more enjoyable S
  1. Note FI faculty interviews, SFG student focus group

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Lee, D., Morrone, A.S. & Siering, G. From swimming pool to collaborative learning studio: Pedagogy, space, and technology in a large active learning classroom. Education Tech Research Dev 66, 95–127 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11423-017-9550-1

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Keywords

  • Active learning classroom
  • Active learning space
  • Active learning
  • Collaborative learning
  • Technology integration
  • PST framework
  • Student-centered learning
  • Instructional technology