Imagine a classroom where the students have the flexibility to choose their learning space, one in which they can easily transition from small group collaboration to teacher-led instruction," says Jackie Huber, Batesville Community School Corp. director of instructional technology curriculum. "In this classroom, they have the technology tools at their fingertips to adapt to the new active learning experience."
One such classroom can be found in each of the four Batesville public schools. A pilot classroom has been transformed in Batesville Primary, Intermediate, Middle and High schools through the generosity of the Batesville Community Education Foundation and an Indiana Department of Education Office of eLearning Digital Learning Grant.
She explains, "The transformation of learning spaces allows for easier transition and supports a student-centered learning environment. The teachers create an atmosphere that is inviting and exciting where all students are engaged in their own learning. A student from one classroom shares, 'This year is different to us, so we’re all excited to learn.'”
No longer will you see a static room arrangement with a teacher desk at the front of the room and student desks in rows. Instead, you find innovative learning spaces, combined with technology and pedagogy, that support active learning experiences to engage all students. Students in today’s classrooms have a range of learning needs, and one way a teacher can address these needs is through instructional strategies, enhanced through various seating options.
Students find success and engagement in an atmosphere that supports their learning needs, including the ability to properly see and hear at all times. BHS English teacher Paul Satchwill reports, “This furniture has given me the unique opportunity to craft a classroom culture focused on environment and the positive ways it can impact learning. My students are comfortable, so they’re more willing to participate in the learning process. My tables are large, so students have plenty of space to collaborate or work independently. Everything is on wheels so the environment can shift between group work, lecture and discussion in under a minute.” This environment cultivates the best learning opportunities for teaching and learning.
The students and teachers in the active learning classrooms participated in the Steelcase pilot program, which included the completion of surveys before and then after nine weeks in the new space. Based on the data received from the pilot, the integration of classroom space, combined with technology and pedagogy, positively impacts student learning experiences. Student indicators improved significantly on 21 of the 29 indicators measured. The areas of greatest change include communication, movement, creative activities and critical thinking activities. Students are working with their peers more frequently, working collaboratively, engaging in group discussion and co-creating content.
Based on survey results and comments, the classroom environment positively impacts student learning experiences and makes students feel welcome and motivated to learn. One comments, “The environment makes it easier to learn when you’re relaxed and ready to become involved.” A second-grader finds that the classroom “keeps me calm and helps me concentrate.” BPS second-grade teacher Sandy Westerfeld observes, “This furniture is very motivating to my class. They are more geared to work when they are relaxed and comfortable. The options for seating differentiate, they find the best fit for them. They enjoy the opportunity for small group conversations.” The transformation of learning spaces positively impacts student learning through experiences that encourage student engagement, choice and collaboration.
"The pilot classrooms experiences validate the importance of redesigning classroom spaces to enhance and support various active learning experiences," Huber concludes.