Sunday, September 18, 2022

Active Learning Spaces Require Active Teaching

Ralph, Schneider, Benson, and Ward (2022) caution that the benefits of active learning may not be available to all students, due to a lack of space, marginalizing some. However, I suggest COVID-19 may have solved the problem, by accelerating the move to online learning.

Universities now have far more teaching space than needed for the number of students who turn up to class. My guess, and it is only a guess, is we can expect about 5% to 10% of students to turn up to class, down from 25% to 33% pre-pandemic (with the balance participating online). This provides the opportunity to decommission old lecture theaters, and replace them with active learning spaces, having flat floors.

Some large spaces can be equipped with retracting theater seating, for occasional lectures. But what we then need to do is train teaching staff so they don't waste the time of students by giving lectures, and instead focus on helping students to work together.

ANU Marie Reay Teaching Centre

An example of a modern active campus redevelopment is the Australian National University's Kambri. The Marie Reay Teaching Centre was built from pre-fabricated engineered timber, with small, medium and large flat floor classrooms for active learning (Worthington, 2019). The adjacent Manning Clarke Center, has several large event rooms, with retractable theater seating.  


Ralph, M. C., Schneider, B., Benson, D. R., & Ward, D. (2022). Separated by spaces: Undergraduate students re-sort along attitude divides when choosing whether to learn in spaces designed for active learning. Active Learning in Higher Education, 14697874221118866.

Worthington, T. (2019, December). Blend and Flip for Teaching Communication Skills to Final Year International Computer Science Students. In 2019 IEEE International Conference on Engineering, Technology and Education (TALE) (pp. 1-5). IEEE. (Presentation notes:

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