I entered the new active learning classrooms with excitement as well as apprehension of the unknown. Being in an active learning classroom has given me the permission to think outside the box, and relinquish control of my classroom to my students.
I am much more willing to give students group work in class in the active learning classrooms, since it does not require the moving of desks. I find I ask students to work together on an example problem in the middle of a lecture and then discuss their responses. In the past I would just call on students individually and work through the problem as a class if it appeared during my lecture because to have them get together and talk to each other in their desks was much more tedious.
Being in an active learning classroom that has standing height tables allows me to walk up to a group and immediately be at their height and a part of the group. When students would put their desks together in groups in a regular classroom, I immediately found myself on the periphery of the classroom not engaging with the students. The chaos that becomes the center of the classroom is terrible for navigating between groups to answer any questions. Even once I engage with a group, I feel like I am engaging with individual students as opposed to a collaborative team.
The two pictures below illustrate this perfectly. In the active learning classroom, the students are more willing to talk with one another because there is no real barrier between those in the group. However, in a regular classroom, all the students within the group are still in there own pods. You will notice in the regular classroom, you are not really sure where one group ends and the others begin. This leads to irrelevant conversation between groups and my inability to engage groups individually. Also in the regular classrooms configuration depends on how the students choose to arrange groups as opposed to the tables already being established. This leads to students kneeling or sitting on the floor by their group because there are no desks left in the area of their group.
In these three short weeks, I have discovered a great deal about how my students learn in addition to how I teach. The most important thing to remember, and research has shown, that students will learn better if they can create content understanding for themselves as opposed to me simply providing the content to them.