Collaborative Learning Spaces Overview
Numerous studies provide significant evidence that engagement is critical to the success of students. Collaborative active learning in the classroom is an important strategy for achieving student engagement. The University of Arizona has committed to developing a wide-variety of centrally-scheduled Collaborative Learning Spaces (CLSs) to provide environments that supports active learning pedagogies and promote higher level thinking.
The first initiative was a fast-paced pilot project to develop and test an active learning classroom. This pilot was conducted in the Science-Engineering Library’s Journal Room (Rm 200S) which was transformed into a large, 260-seat collaborative classroom. During the month-long pilot, the space was used by eight University of Arizona classes to explore active learning spaces in order to better understand the technology, physical space requirements, and pedagogical needs for building effective collaborative learning environments at the UA. Based on the encouraging results of the pilot, a decision was made to convert the Science-Engineering Library space into a permanent Collaborative Learning Space and to aggressively pursue opportunities to transform existing classrooms and other campus spaces into Collaborative Learning Spaces.
As of Fall 2016, the University of Arizona has nine Collaborative Learning Spaces distributed across campus ranging in size from 24 to 264 students. Each of the room has a flexible furniture arrangement with students sitting in small groups and projectors/screens or monitors mounted around the room to ensure that all students have a good view of the presentation materials. The sound-absorbing carpet and splash of color on the accent wall in each room create an inviting learning environment. Tabletop whiteboards provide an effective tool for engaging students in learning tasks. Rooms are equipped with enhanced networks and ample power outlets for courses that encourage the use of technology.
Faculty and Student Comments
Both faculty and students find the Collaborative Learning Spaces to be beneficial. Below are some of the favorable comments we have heard:
“I am trying new ideas here that I have never tried in my 10 years of teaching so it has been fun for me. The classroom is a ‘partner’ in the learning process.” (ILC Rm 141 instructor)
"The ability to use whiteboards and work through some practice problems during class is invaluable. It helps me to stay more engaged in the class, and to better understand the material.” (BioSciences West Rm 301 Student)
"In this kind of active learning environment, the point is to change the roles and change the expectations. It’s not about the professor doing the work and the students passively observing, taking notes. Everyone is supposed to work.” (Chavez 307 Instructor)