November 30, 2020

New collaborative classrooms may influence teaching style

Patty Senft, senior public relations major and Gorlok guide, gave a presentation on classrooms and facility renovations at the Spring 2012 Delegates’ Agenda.
“The East Academic Building (EAB) is beautiful and awesome, but we don’t have that throughout all of the academic facilities,” Senft said during a campus tour on April 2.

GAIL WHITEHEAD / The Journal Students get ready to have class in a collaborative classroom, a new classroom style in the East Academic Building. It provides the ability for groups of students to multitask and interact by using the additional televisions in the room that are not normally in a regular classroom.

Senft said she thinks the master plan will help change that.
“That (the collaborative classroom) is, I think, the coolest classroom ever. I think the idea behind it is innovative,” Senft said. “I would love to see more of those on campus.”
The collaborative classroom furniture is on wheels and can be easily rearranged to fit classroom needs and various teaching methods. The classroom also includes four separate TV screens, which can be controlled by a touch screen computer on the teacher’s station.
The classroom allows for teachers to use the traditional lecture set-up or to move the tables to form clusters. The clusters can face the TVs, which the professors can control. This allows professors to display activities on the TVs for each group or table.
Senft takes prospective students on tours of the EAB and hopes future buildings on campus will be modeled after it. As a senior, she won’t be at Webster for these changes. Senft presented on academic facility renovations at Delegates’ Agenda with future students in mind.
“I saw how excited my peers were about this topic (improving academic facilities),” Senft said. “I saw how passionate the two girls (presenting on renovations) were on this topic. They were so excited on updating, especially Priest, Pearson and Webster Hall, and, because they were so excited, I got so excited because I was doing it for them.”
The EAB also includes tiered-style classrooms, which have tables and chairs arranged in a U-shape on a slightly elevated platform. The teacher station is in the opening of the U-shape but not elevated with the desks. The tiered seminar classrooms also have Blu-ray players.
“We are a student-based, student-centered university and a learner-centered university,” Julian Schuster, provost and senior vice president, said at the Delegates’ Agenda response on March 22.
The University Statistics portion of Webster University’s 1998/99 Master Plan, in part, states, “Higher education is rapidly moving toward ‘learner-centered’ classes, and away from ‘teacher-centered’ classes of the past.”
The 1998/99 plan also, in part, states, “In the ‘learner-centered’ model, the teacher becomes a facilitator for learning, with a more free-flowing exchange of information among individuals, small groups of students meeting locally, sections meeting in remote locations connected by video-conferencing technology, Internet-based resources, etc.”
With the new master plan, Schuster said interdisciplinary spaces in new buildings is the, “buzz word,” the administration plans to use.
“We would like Sverdrup building to also become an interdisciplinary building like EAB,” Schuster said at the Delegates’ Agenda response.
Earlier this semester, Harrison Keller, vice provost of higher education policy and research at the University of Texas at Austin (UTA), held a seminar for UTA faculty on flipping the classroom.  Flipping the classroom refers to a more learner-centered classroom, focusing on individuals’ needs. Students would listen to lectures on YouTube or work on interactive assignments outside of class. In class, professors could focus more on specific areas.
“For the students, it can mean a much more interactive classroom experience instead of a more passive experience of a traditional lecture,” Keller said.
She said sometimes traditional lecture works great. However, these new strategies encourage more interactivity in the classroom.
Keller said reconfigured classrooms with movable furniture make it easier to flip a course and incorporate more group work.  Keller said the UTA has some reconfigured classrooms, but is trying to do more.
“In terms of space configurations and in terms of how you might think about leveraging these approaches to teaching and learning, there might be some real advantages (with Webster’s smaller size),” Keller said.
Keller said courses at UTA can include anywhere from 18 to 500 students. He said Webster should be able to be more flexible when experimenting with various teaching techniques.
“I think we are moving in a good direction with the master plan,” Senft said. “I know there are some areas that we really want to fix.”
Senft said she is excited to see the university’s timeline regarding changes suggested in the master plan.

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