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Active Learning Classroom Designs

Active Learning Classroom at McGill Faculty of Education

Active Learning Classroom at McGill Faculty of Education

This photograph was taken at the Faculty of Education, McGill University. It shows one of the university’s early Active Learning classroom designs. It conforms in many respects to the SCALE-UP model popularized by Bob Beichner at North Carolina State University.

We can learn a great deal by examining some of the features of this room. First of all, the tables are round and large, 7 feet in diameter, as per the SCALE-UP model. They seat 9 students. This poses an immediate question:  how many students do you want sitting together? In SCALE-UP the idea is that students work in groups of 3 and so, 3 groups per table. Some college teachers find this unappealing. They want one small group, say 4 students, per table. Such tables might be 5 feet in diameter.
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Stand-up Learning in Active Learning Classrooms

Computer Science Students at Champlain College Saint-Lambert prefer table designed for special needs students

Computer Science Students at Champlain College Saint-Lambert prefer table designed for special needs students

The furniture industry has presented us with two new ideas: first, that sitting all day in a work environment may be unhealthy and secondly, that students may be more energized if they work standing up. The response has been a sharp increase in the number of manufacturers offering either stand-up desks or desks that are adjustable. As a result we may see more stand-up learning in Active Learning classrooms.

Some institutions have installed one or two adjustable tables in each classroom in order to accommodate students with special needs who may need more clearance for their wheel chair, for example. These can become popular worksites for other students who simply prefer the stand-up working mode.

Stand-up desks have become very popular in elementary and secondary schools. But there is a particular reason for this. As a former elementary school teacher I can attest to the frequency with which students are told to sit down and be quiet. It turns out that these are the last two things young kids want to do. The use of stand-up desks seems to liberate students from silence and immobility. (more…)