Learning spaces change the way faculty teach and the way students learn. Tables and chairs are no longer seen as only places to sit or a surface to write on. They are used as learning tools. This shift in thinking has ignited a culture change across campus in support of collaborative learning.
“I am trying new ideas in the Collaborative Learning Space that I have never tried in my 10 years of teaching. It has been fun for me. The classroom has become a ‘partner’ in the learning process,” said Richard Harper who teaches in the School of Government and Public Policy at the University of Arizona (UA). The campus has begun to transform the way educators and students view the physical classroom space.
The Case for Collaborative Learning
Research, such as that done at the US Military Academy at West Point, shows that collaboration improves student learning and outdated lectures conducted from the front of the room while students sit in rows of seats do little to support the 21st century student. Students today are different from those of 20, 10 or even five years ago. They are digital natives and the job environment they will graduate into is focused on collaboration and creativity. As educators, we made a commitment to support this and our pilot project took flight.
Course redesigns, a major component of the Association of American Universities (AAU) grant we received, motivated faculty to investigate evidence-based teaching and adopt new pedagogy.
To support the growing interest in evidence-based instruction, many of the faculty who are new to collaborative instruction participate in Faculty Learning Communities (FLC) to gain new insights. We’ve grown into a network of educators committed to better learning. The participation in the FLCs has grown dramatically–there were 3 facilitators and 30 members in 2014. We now have 9 FLCs, 13 facilitators and 90 members from across campus each semester.