June 22, 2008
June 22, 2008
June 25, 2008
Educational Research and Methods
13.280.1 - 13.280.12
Case Study: A Space Designed for Cooperative Learning with Multiple Processes
The importance of cooperative and active approaches to classroom learning has long been recognized. However most of our resources, textbooks, curriculum structures and learning spaces are not designed with these pedagogies in mind. Many instructors have developed their own materials and figured out how to conduct an engaged, active and cooperative class in any setting.
While these approaches can be used in any classroom, there are distinct advantages to having learning spaces designed with these pedagogies in mind. From their first entrance into the room, such spaces help students know that rather than sitting back and listening, they will be actively engaged in learning. Such spaces can help faculty who use cooperative learning to work more easily and efficiently with a wide range of processes. In addition, specially designed spaces may encourage some faculty to try cooperative learning for the first time. Buckminster Fuller once noted “Reform the environment; stop trying to reform the people. They will reform themselves if the environment is right.”
This case study describes such a space designed for collaborative classes. The space was designed for using multiple modes of instruction and for moving a class quickly from one mode of learning to another. The facility allows for quick small group activities, simple laboratory experiments, computer work and simulation, and mini-lectures. It was particularly designed with the needs of our first-year program in mind.
The space was renovated from a 30 by 24 foot Computer Engineering laboratory. The renovated space consists of four clusters designed to seat six students each. One wall of the room has a laboratory bench and storage. Each cluster consists of a fixed trapezoidal center for computers and services. On three sides of this central core are three trapezoidal tables where students work. Two computers are included in each core with their monitors on support arms allowing easy movement. Computer connections are accessible at the desktop. In addition, each cluster includes electric power, water and compressed air. Students break into groups of three for computer work, and can break into groups of two, three, four or six for other activities. When not in use for formal classes, students use it as an informal learning space.
Use of the room for classes has just begun. We are currently assessing the basic configuration of this space. Student surveys, room observation and instructor interviews are planned as components of this assessment.
Initial indications are that the room is well liked in spite of some early technical glitches. Students, particularly groups, regularly choose this room for study. They often choose this facility over the computer laboratory next door. Learning spaces, like this one, that facilitate alternative pedagogies are greatly needed. The basic configuration and concepts used in this
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