Last semester, Instructional Technology Services and the Provost office held an Active Learning & UDL (Universal Design for Learning) Forum. Seventeen faculty and staff members participated in the forum. We exchanged ideas for designing classrooms, consistent with the principles of Universal Design for Learning.
We received a number of excellent ideas from faculty members regarding classroom designs for interactive learning and here are the four common principles repeated by multiple faculty members.
- Enough work surface for students’ notebooks, laptops, and textbooks
- Instead of tablet-arm chairs, use tables for students
- Ample shared workspaces
- Individual whiteboards for students, extra whiteboards on the wall, or writable walls
- Flexible furniture to support different teaching strategies
- Movable tables & chairs, furniture with variable heights
- Easy access to all student
- Enough space for faculty and students to move about easily in the room
We should keep these points in mind when designing or renovating classrooms on campus!
You can see below some of the comments that were made by our faculty during the discussion.
- In order to effectively rearrange classrooms for different activities, classes need sufficient space. Some classes have enough space, such as the Stokes basement. However, there are so many extra chairs in that get in the way.
- Group work, especially, requires extra room space.
- There is a tension between using space efficiently for maximum student capacity vs. instructors having ability to move around the room and visit students at their seats/tables.
- Room size must be much larger than the number of chairs.
Writable Spaces and Technologies
- Rooms need an abundance of a whiteboard and/or chalkboard space. Having both whiteboards and chalkboards in a single classroom is great, as different faculty members have a strong preference for one vs the other. Or some rooms can have whiteboards and others blackboards.
- Faculty want a way to have students share work with more whiteboard/chalkboard spaces
- In general, participants liked to have a lot of writing spaces, but did not need multiple projection spaces, unless there was a specific reason, such as pillars in the middle of the room.
- Using an iPad Pro with Explain Everything app as an interactive whiteboard is great: it lets you move around the classroom. However, you need to keep the projector screen down during the class and the screen obscures the whiteboard. Whiteboards along the wall or rolling whiteboards would be great.
- Some participants preferred classrooms that can be easily rearranged.
- Some preferred classrooms that were predictably set up in their preferred arrangement, and did not want to ever have to move the furniture.
- Rather than all rooms having a flexible setup, flexibility can come from a choice of classrooms. Some rooms can have one particular setup, whereas other rooms can have other types of setups.
- If remodeling a number of classrooms, a few can be inexpensive setups with just chairs and tables. That could leave more in the budget for a few high tech classroom setups.
- When thinking of classroom design, keep in mind that some students have a hard time sitting for long periods, and may want desks that allow them to stand.