Your Classroom, Do You Love it or Hate It?

Posted by Bernie Wirzba – Educational Facilitator (Research/Digital Media) – Teaching Centre

Does the type of space in which you teach your class affect how you teach that class or affect how students learn in your class? That is one of the questions that LEE, the Learning Environment Evaluation project, is examining.

LEE is a working group comprised of Faculty members, Facilities – Capital Projects staff, Information Technology Services (ITS) staff, Teaching Centre staff and Graduate Student – Research Assistants. LEE’s stated purpose is to champion the cause of improving teaching and learning spaces on campus and to inform and influence the planning process of future classroom, both newly constructed and renovated.

It became clear from the beginning that what we needed to do before we could affect positive change was to gauge faculty and students perceptions of the current state of our classrooms. The working group has been hard at work for over one year now meeting and planning and consulting various stakeholders to get a good sense of how faculty and students feel about our classrooms on campus. In the Fall of 2012 we began conducting research in classrooms to investigate student and faculty perceptions of the effect of environmental factors on teaching and learning. We have selected two classrooms, L1050 and L1060 as our project classrooms and using student surveys, student focus groups, faculty interviews, faculty focus groups and in class observations, we are gathering data on how things like lighting, sightlines, classroom configuration, space, color, furniture type, instructional technology, etc. affect faculty and students perception on teaching and learning.

That research is continuing in both classrooms through the Spring 2013 semester. Based on some very preliminary findings from the Fall 2012 research, we decided to do some renovations in L1050 during Reading Week in February 2013. This would enable us to query the same group of students and faculty on the environmental effects of the classroom before and after the renovations and collect data on their perceptions of the classroom pre and post renovation. Our hope is that this will provide useful information on whether changes made during renovations have improved the teaching space or did it make things worse.

One of the things that we are also trying to investigate / achieve with the LEE project is to model a process of how to affect change that takes into account the needs and constraints of all the various stakeholders. One of the most rewarding things about this project so far has been how with very little time and a shoestring budget we have been able to get the enthusiastic cooperation and efforts of many different people from carpenters and painters, housekeeping staff and ITS to pull together and within a week transform a classroom that we can be proud of. Our thanks go to all the people involved from Facilities and ITS as well as Faculty and Teaching Centre staff that made this happen.

To learn more about (and to see) how we changed the L1050 Classroom in a week, join us on March 15 for a Talking about Teaching session in L1050 @ 2:00 PM for A Discussion About Your Classroom.