During the past few years at the University of Minnesota, we have seen innovation, growth, and advancements on campus in the form of Active Learning Classrooms (ALCs), a new Science Teaching and Student Services building, the SMART learning commons, and newly-designed student study spaces and lounges. OIT's Research and Evaluation team has partnered with faculty and staff from across the U of M to conduct systematic research on these spaces, centered on the question: To what extent do formal and informal learning environments shape teaching and learning?
Pilot research: Student and faculty reactions
Exploratory research into the impact of ALCs began in August 2007. These investigations, which were funded by the Archibald Bush Foundation and conducted in collaboration with the Office of Classroom Management, showed that:
Read more about the pilot research at Transform--SoTL at the University of Minnesota.
Comparison studies: Student learning outcomes and faculty behavior
Later, more formal research combined quantitative and qualitative research designs and data collection methods to study both formal and informal learning spaces. Research on the formal learning environments involved course grade data as well as data collected using a class observation form, a student survey, an instructor interview, and student focus groups. The informal environments research used data gathered by means of student focus groups, student assignment logs, and photo surveys.
This investigation has yielded the following findings:
Read more about this research in Making the Case for Space: Three Years of Empirical Research on Learning Environments (PDF) and in Pedagogy and Space: Empirical Research on New Learning Environments (PDF).
The faculty experience: Role-differentiated responses to ALCs
In 2011, staff from OIT, OCM, the Center for Teaching and Learning, the Office of Measurement Services, and the Office of Institutional Research convened a group to study the impact of the new Science Teaching and Student Services (STSS) building and its 15 ALCs on teaching and learning at the University. In spring 2012, the group undertook a study of role-differentiated responses to ALCs, using large-scale surveys of students and faculty in 21 classes, along with systematic class observations and focus groups, to assess reactions to and perceptions of classes taught in the ALCs.
The following are key findings from this investigation:
A total of 8 variables measuring student-centered, collaborative learning activities were observed in 4 selected ALC classes and also asked about on the student and faculty surveys, with the following results:
Research into the impact of ALCs on teaching and learning continues during the 2012-2013 academic year, including
Further, the OIT Research & Evaluation team is currently editing a volume of New Directions for Teaching and Learning (Volume 137, 2014) that will explore the history, current research and best teaching practices in active learning spaces.
For researchers: our learning space data collection instruments are licensed under a licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License. This means they are available free of charge to members of the academic community who wish to use them, in whole or in part, in their own research. Please simply email J.D. Walker to let us know about your plans, and please give credit in an appropriate place in your work to the Research & Evaluation Team, OIT, University of Minnesota.