“Space and consequences: The impact of different formal learning spaces on instructor and student behavior” by D. Christopher Brooks shines a light on how different learning environments can positively or negatively affect the learning process and overall student success. He expresses to the reader that there is a great lack of research done on the topic of how new technologies in the classroom affect learning. EDUCAUSE is the main organization that has been responsible for working to transforming the classroom environment, and it is important to know how this transformation is affecting the students. Education is the most important resource in a person’s life and the most important component to a country’s success by attaining more skilled workers. Without the most effective teaching styles and environments, the education system is doing a great disservice to their students. Brooks works to provide more information about different learning environments, so the system may be changed for the better.
Students at Massachusetts Institute of Technology who conducted their Technology Enabled Active Learning (TEAL) project found that in an active learning curriculum in technologically advanced spaces, students performed better than those in a lecture style classroom. The new environment reduced failure rates and increased understanding of the material. In addition, students from North Carolina State also found that the classrooms and curriculum associated with their Student-Centered Activities for Large Enrollment Undergraduate Programs (SCALE-UP) reduced failure rates and aided understanding while increasing class attendance, student attitudes, and problem-solving skills.
Brooks conducts a study comparing the traditional classroom to an Active Learning Classroom (ALC). The traditional classroom has all of the desks facing the front of the room where the professor’s podium is, there are few thin aisles for walking around, and there is one white board in the front of the room. In the Active Learning Classroom, the tables are circular, there are white boards on every wall, and there are many wide aisles to enable free movement around the room.
Examining these features, Brooks studied how much time the professor spent lecturing, the amount of group activities conducted, where the professor stood during class, if the professor consulted a student independently, how much time was spent using Q&A between the professor and students, how often the students were on or off task, and how the students’ test scores related to the students from the opposing environment.
For the majority of the topics, Brooks rejected his null hypotheses. The students in the ALC scored higher on their exams, there was more individual and class consulting in the ALC, and the professor moved around the room more frequently in the ALC. One surprising result was that the students tended to be more on task in the traditional learning environment, but Brooks described why this may have occurred. Brooks writes, “there is a distinct possibility that the issue lies with the operationalization and measurement of on-task behavior” (Brooks). What he expected to be on task behavior was derived from what learning environment he was used to— traditional. Although students tended to be on their phones and laptops more instead of facing the professor and taking notes, it may not be true that those students were off task.
In conclusion, the ALC resulted in variations of the professor’s behavior which affected the classroom activities which in turn, positively affected the students success in the course. He also mentions that the experiment will have more validated results if the experiment included many courses and professors instead of one. Ultimately, an active learning environment produces better results than a lecture style course