In brief:

Active Learning Classrooms should:

  • be flexible learning spaces equipped with moveable furniture to allow for different group formations and flexibility in class set-up;
  • include a number of whiteboards to facilitate documenting of individual and group work and sharing of ideas within and between groups.
  • be high-tech rooms to support collaborative, team-based learning.

Active Learning Classrooms

Active Learning Classrooms (ALC), also referred to as “smart classrooms” or “flexible classrooms”, are learning spaces that have been purposefully designed to engage students in the learning process and promote optimal conditions for an active and collaborative teaching and learning.

Many classrooms still have fixed seating and tables that cannot be moved. If you are teaching in a traditional classroom or a lecture hall, you can still incorporate active learning techniques and activities that make it less likely for students to sit and passively listen throughout the entire lecture. Many active learning techniques, can be used in any classroom setting to allow students to move around and collaborate with others. You can also implement activities to engage students in discussion without having them leave their seats.

Although active learning can take place in any classroom, a classroom specifically designed for active learning is optimal because it provides a flexible space for a class to transition easily between a professor’s presentation and facilitated student group work.

Space Design for Active Learning Classrooms

Concordia’s active learning spaces are designed to support co-learning and co-creation of knowledge to fully capitalize on the benefits of active learning. The common features of our active learning classrooms include: 1) flexible seating configurations; 2) shared writing surfaces and; 3) technology.

1. Flexible seating configurations

Furniture is an important component of the design of active learning classrooms. Desks and chairs are moveable, on rollers, and can be arranged in different ways to support many teaching strategies including individual work, group work, and front-of-room lectures and presentations. You can have a different layout depending on the activity you’ve got planned for your students. Moreover, the small, circular or rectangular tables that take up to 8 people, encourage students to communicate and work with each other and help create a community of learners.

2. Shared writing surfaces

Another special feature of these active learning classrooms is the shared writing surfaces. There are white boards placed around the rooms for students to visualize their ideas and plans, document their individual or group work, and share their work with the rest of the class. For example, if you pose a discussion question to the class, students could discuss the problem in small groups at their tables, and then write their collective ideas and answers on the white boards.

3. Technology

Concordia’s active learning classrooms are also high-technology classrooms designed to facilitate collaboration through screen sharing, video conferencing, and digital presentation tools. Having access to these digital collaboration tools and software gives students a shared digital space to contribute ideas and help each other understand new material. Instructors can also use the available lecture capture tools to record their lectures in order to provide their students with the option of repeating the lecture at their own pace and as many times as they need for an extra chance to digest new material.

Depending on the activity, you could be either using the classroom technologies or only using the flexible classroom setup and shared writing spaces as many active learning techniques do not always require the use of technology.

The following is an example of one of Concordia’s active learning spaces:

Click on the image below to expand it

Example of Active Learning Classroom: FB 620-SGW Campus (Capacity 36). Mobile desks and chairs: all desks and chairs are on wheels and flip up so they can be easily moved around and setup for lecturing, group work, and active learning. Large touch screen with wireless display system and laptop: content from a personal laptop, mobile device or the classroom laptop can be displayed wirelessly on screen using a simple web browser setup or mobile app. Collaborative screen sharing for group work: laptops, tablets, and smart phones can all be connected to any of the seven LED screens on mobile carts so they can be moved around the rooms for students to work on together in teams. Mobile walls for two classroom setup and open configuration: the classroom has additional full writeable wall when divided into two separate classroom spaces. Multiple whiteboards for brainstorming and group notetaking: full wall and mobile whiteboards can be easily moved around the room for groups to use for generating ideas, questions, solutions, and other shared classroom work.

This video, The classroom of tomorrow provides an overview of the design and use of the Centre for Teaching and Learning’s experimental Active Learning Classroom.

Available Active Learning Classrooms

To date, there are five ALCs on SGW and Loyola campuses:

  • SGW, FB building, Room 620, capacity- 36
  • Loyola, CC building 101- capacity- 48
  • SGW, H Building, Room 603, capacity- 54
  • SGW, H Building, Room 605, capacity- 64
  • SGW, H Building, Room 654, capacity- 96

Each of the above physical spaces is designed with furniture and technology that are inviting and flexible, providing opportunities for instructors and students to interact, collaborate, and engage actively in the teaching and learning process.

Requesting Active Learning Classrooms

Please contact your department coordinator in charge of classroom booking to request an active learning classroom.

The next section will:

  • provide some active learning techniques you can implement into your lessons.
Resources & Further Reading