In order to connect physical learning space with educational experience, this week in CEP 811 we read Barrett, Zhang, Moffat, and Kobbacy’s (2013) A holistic, multi-level analysis identifying the impact of classroom design on on pupils’ learning, and then used SketchUp** to reimagine our own classroom spaces. Check out the current space as of this past week,and my SketchUp of its hopeful future for the start of the academic year. (The wall of windows certainly gives beautiful natural light – although I had to close them to get a good picture! – so I rarely have to use the overhead lights – I think Barrett et. al. (2013) would approve!)
My classroom has undergone a substantial shift in the last few years and continues to evolve. When I first started teaching, the desks were predominantly in rows facing the front board and while students gained valuable content knowledge, I feared that they were not gaining 21st century skills that would allow for transfer of that knowledge. Ever since, I have continually sought ways in which I could better the space for more meaningful learning. Here are the transformations that my room has undergone:
- Pod it up!
- My earliest change was to arrange students in ‘pods’ of 4-5 desks so that they could collaborate with each other and ‘talk it out’ when solving problems. This works great for discussion based classes and allows students to see both the front and back boards of the room. The downside is that the desks were still very cumbersome and noisy to move (they had the attached seat and were quite heavy!).
- Visualize and Share Thoughts
- To better improve communication and give students a way to lead their podmates through thought processes, I lobbied for department funds to purchase 2 portable double-sided whiteboards to roll in between pods. (Ideal I usually have 4 pods.) The size of the boards (2×3) is large enough to accommodate concept mapping and problem solving, but not so large that they become a visual nuisance to navigate through the room. This idea came from the Node video.
- Go Zen
- Some students experience anxiety when it comes to Math and Science, as they have preconceived notions of its difficulty. To reduce this worry and make the room more welcoming I made some changes based on the advice of a coworker who researched positive energy in classroom spaces. First, I moved my desk away from the line of sight when students first walk into the room, as it is linked to power and authority, and instead placed a cozy seating arrangement on the wall opposite the entrance. The rug and furniture are all repurposed from my home, and the students love the colors of the fabrics – sure enough, they are warm colors that coincide with the research of Barrett et. al. (2013).
- Get Rolling
- The next and very very very exciting change for my room in the 2016-2017 classroom is to get rid of those old clunky desks and instead have the more adaptive Node chairs. These are quite costly and a number of discussions occurred with my Administration on their utility, but when I visited my classroom this summer, the old desks were gone (note the lack of chairs in the pictures above) so with any luck come August I will have a remarkably modernized learning environment for the students!
Looking ahead…the wall space (though minimal because of the windows, lab storage, and whiteboards) is predominantly white. Only the ‘front’ wall is colored green. A creative mural of sorts may be lovely on the half wall that divides the lab space from the classroom…
Barrett, P., Zhang, Y., Moffat, J., & Kobbacy, K. (2013). A holistic, multi-level analysis identifying the impact of classroom design on on pupils’ learning. Building and Environment, 59, 678-689. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.buildenv.2012.09.016
**A note on SketchUp….this program is incredibly sensitive and difficult to use without a mouse! Also make sure you have accurate room measurements (I did not) to help with furniture positioning.**