Researchers at the University of Michigan are using a U.S. National Science Foundation grant to examine the difference between teaching and learning in traditional lecture halls and more flexible classrooms. Their goal is understanding how flexible spaces make a difference in students' interaction with one another and with faculty, and in the way they learn.
The researchers have already conducted a pilot study in classrooms with easily movable furniture, monitors, and tablets for teachers to project content onto screens as they move throughout the room. The pilot found instructors used the monitors creatively to display material and have students work collectively on problems. In addition, faculty say the monitors minimized distractions and helped students focus.
Instructors used the flexible classroom to develop new activities, and noted that students were more likely to sit with their teammates. "The hope is in the future these rooms will encourage more instructors to use more active learning," says the University of Michigan's Aaron Johnson.
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