What is Active Learning?

Active Learning is generally defined as any instructional method that engages students in the learning process. In short, active learning requires students to do meaningful learning activities and think about and apply what they are learning. While this definition could include traditional activities such as homework, in practice, active learning refers to activities that are introduced into the classroom. The core elements of active learning are student activity and engagement in the learning process. Active learning is often contrasted to the traditional lecture where students passively receive information from the instructor.

Designs and Research of Active Learning Environments

SCALE-UP

SCALE-UP stands for “Student-Centered Active Learning Environment with Upside-down Pedagogies” or “Student‐Centered Active Learning Environment for Undergraduate Programs.” SCALE-UP classrooms include round tables of nine students to facilitate group interactions, white boards near each table, networked computers and an instructor area located near the center of the room.

Other acronyms that are used by universities for SCALE-UP environments are:

  • TEAL – Technology-Enabled Active Learning
  • ALC – Active Learning Classrooms
  • TILE – (Spaces to) Transform, Interact, Learn, Engage

Examples:

North Carolina State University (SCALE-UP)

 

Design:
NCSU Scale-Up classroom and floorplan

NCSU Scale-Up classroom and floorplan

Videos:
MIT Classroom and floorplan

MIT Classroom and Floorplan

Videos:

 

University of Minnesota (ALC)

Design:
University of Minnesota Classroom and Floorplan

University of Minnesota Classroom and Floorplan

Videos:

University of Iowa (TILE)

Design:
University of Iowa (TILE) Classroom

University of Iowa (TILE) Classroom and Floorplan

Video:

Learn Lab (Steelcase)

LearnLab is a flexible, tech-enabled classroom that is anything but traditional. Instead of rows of desks facing forward, where the podium is the stage and blackboard the backdrop, LearnLab removes the front of the room by positioning chairs and tables into an “X” configuration.

Design:
Richland College Classroom and Floorplan

Richland College Classroom and Floorplan

Research:
Videos:

Learning Studios (Herman Miller)

The new Learning Studios provided faculty and learners with an opportunity to experiment with radical flexibility in space, furnishings, and technology—all targeted at increasing student engagement and success.

Design:
California State University, Fresno classroom and floorplan

California State University, Fresno classroom and floorplan

Research:
Video:

Team-Based Classrooms

Team-based learning (TBL) is an instructional teaching method in which students work independently prior to the allotted class time to gain baseline subject matter knowledge. During class time they interact as a team (typically comprised of 4-7 students) towards a common goal of understanding class/course objectives. Compared to didactic lecture, the aim of TBL is to increase the level of the students’ engagement and promote a higher level of learning within the content.

Examples:
McGill University

Design:

McGill Classroom and Floorplan

McGill classroom and floorplan

University of Windsor

Design:
University of Windsor classroom and floorplan

University of Windsor classroom and floorplan

Stanford University

Design:
Stanford University classroom and floorplan

Stanford University classroom and floorplan

Video:

University of California, Berkeley

Design:
  • Images:
UC Berkley classroom and floorplan

UC Berkley classroom and floorplan

Video:

York University, Canada

Design:
  • Images:
York University classroom and floorplan

York University classroom and floorplan images

Turn 2 Team

Turn 2 Team environments allow students to turn their chair 180 degrees in order to collaborate with the student(s) sitting behind them. If the floor is tiered, then two rows of seats are located on the same tier.

Examples:

Indiana University

Indiana University classroom and floorplan

Indiana University classroom and floorplan

Iowa State University

Iowa State University classroom and floorplan

Iowa State University classroom and floorplan

Videos:

University of Denver

University of Denver classroom and floorplan

University of Denver classroom and floorplan

Single, Moveable Desk Solutions

The single, movable desk solution is mobile and flexible. It’s designed for quick, easy transitions from one teaching mode to the next, unlike traditional school desks and chairs.

Examples
Case Western Reserve University

Design:
Case Western Reserve University classroom and floorplan

Case Western Reserve University classroom and floorplan

Research:

Additional Innovative Examples

Purdue University

Design:
Purdue University classroom and floorplan

Purdue University classroom and floorplan

Video:
Oregon State University classroom and floorplan

Oregon State University classroom and floorplan

Oregon State University classroom and floorplan

Oregon State University classroom and floorplan 2

Video: