Rolling orange chairs and movable white boards might be the key to stimulating classroom participation between local students and their teacher.
Faculty researchers from Gainesville’s P.K. Yonge Developmental Research School and the University of Florida are conducting a study on the effects of an active learning classroom on teachers and students.
An active learning classroom is one that allows for interactive learning, said Ashley Pennypacker Hill, the program development and outreach specialist at the school.
“I would describe it as a classroom that allows for flexible and personalized learning,” she said. “There is space for the students to have individualized instruction thanks to the layout and design of the classroom.”
Julie Henderson, a spokesperson for the school, said it was awarded a grant from Steelcase, an office furniture manufacturer, for up to $50,000 worth of furniture and technology. The grant gave them the opportunity to try out new furnishings in one high school classroom to try to improve students’ and teacher’s classroom experience.
“An active learning classroom is known as a verb classroom,” she said. The idea is to encourage students to be constantly doing something.
“The classroom consists of chairs on wheels, which are easy to move around during group discussions, interactive projectors and tables with small whiteboards that allow for brainstorming and sharing ideas between students and their teacher,” she said.
Jenina Yutuc, a junior at P.K. Yonge, said the classroom allows her to easily interact with other students.
“It’s definitely different from my other classes,” she said. “You don’t have to raise your hand as much when you want to participate. There is a lot more participation from students in this class versus the other traditional lecture classes.”
Yutuc said she sees a difference in her classmates.
“In the active learning classroom, we aren’t afraid to give a wrong answer during discussions,” she said. “It’s sort of a democratic form of learning and it’s OK if we make mistakes.”
English teacher, Eric Lemstrom, said his methods aren’t any different in the new classroom.
“I prefer to have my students active and moving around during class, and this furniture helps me do that,” he said. “Things that used to take a lot of time, such as moving chairs and tables, don’t take a lot of time anymore thanks to the design of the new furniture.”
He said the classroom also allows students to effectively share ideas while facilitating collaborative discussions.
“I think it’s an improvement on the traditional classroom model,” he said. “The purpose of this research grant is to find out exactly what type of impact this classroom has on students, but I think it’s generally better than any other classroom experience that I’ve had before.”
Lynda Hayes, the director of research and outreach at the school, helped develop and research the room’s design.
“This was a pretty huge project for us,” she said. “We took an old classroom and modernized it while adding a more interactive curriculum in an effort to help the older students feel as if they were in college.”
She said the entire elementary education building at the school has already been converted into an active learning environment, and this grant allowed them to test the model at the high school level.
There are plans to renovate the whole school in the future, although an exact date hasn’t been decided yet.