Today we welcome to the Mosaic Blog, Yu Kay Law, an Assistant professor of Chemistry, Natural Sciences and Mathematics on the Indiana University – East campus. Yu Kay participated in our first annual Mosaic Design Symposium. Along with Mosaic Fellows from many of Indiana University’s seven campuses, Yu Kay engaged in a day of workshops and conversation about the future designs of Indiana University’s learning spaces. Below, Yu Kay, shares his experiences and insights from the Mosaic Design Symposium, which was held June 15th on the IUPUI campus.
I was invited to attend this symposium which promised to look at how classrooms are designed. Having worked through the Mosaic Faculty Fellows program and the year-long series of meetings and interactions with Tracey Birdwell and Kelly Scholl, it was clear that this would be an interesting event.
When I arrived, we were assigned to different groups based on the specific type of classroom (i.e., medium-sized classroom, computer lab, and so) we were most interested in redesigning. I was assigned to the medium classroom design group, where we examined possible designs for classrooms that seat between 25 and 75 students. I was particularly interested in this type of classroom, as my Principles of Chemistry lecture classes typically have enrollment in the 40-90 student range. I worked with three other faculty in my group from the Bloomington and IUPUI campuses – this was an interesting change in perspective for me, allowing me to meet with Mosaic Fellows from other cohorts and who were not from the regional campuses.
After a brief introduction, we began by examining photographs of various types of active learning classrooms from a number of different institutions, and looked for features to include (or not include) into our design. This was followed by a lively discussion, during which we discovered our common views on the benefits (and detractions) from the rooms shown. From this discussion, we were able to extract some common themes for our classroom design: a tiered room system with larger tables and boards on the side walls that can be used to share information.
Once we had a general idea for the type of room we wanted to design, it was then time to design the room, but in a way that was free from technical and financial restrictions. We also drew on our experiences of facilitating group work during our tenure as Mosaic Fellows. Some of the other lessons that I learnt from faculty who used tablet-chairs with wheels, for instance, was that it was often too unstructured to facilitate group work, despite the initial apparent flexibility of that design. While we liked classroom designs that facilitated active learning, we also considered a couple of other factors. First, we wanted a design where whole-class presentations and occasional lectures can be presented to support a range of pedagogical approaches. We also wanted a design that enables the instructor to have “clean” sight lines across the room, so they have full view of their students (and the students of them, too).
As a result, our group came up with a design similar to the room where the symposium was held (Hine Hall, Room 118, IUPUI), slightly scaled down to meet the needs of a mid-sized class.
We also pooled our expertise from teaching in different disciplines. For example, based on feedback from informatics faculty and their concerns with a complete “bring-your-own-device” approach to computers, the decision was made to incorporate retractable computers to the tables that the students shared. These were also designed to be shared with the class via a “4×4” grid of screens at the front of the room. This “screen”, made of an array of 16 monitors (in a 4×4 array), could be used to show each group’s screen, an individual groups’ screen, or the instructor’s monitor.
The final part of the symposium gave each faculty design group an opportunity to share their design ideas. The variety of ideas (many of which I would have never considered), went beyond simply facilitating active learning. For example, the “large lecture hall” group presented a design that facilitated active learning via flexible seating. However, it was also based on the idea of a circular classroom design, where a central stage/podium area, rather a traditional lecture hall design, allowed for greater equality of access to the instructor. Another example was the “inside-out” design offered by the “computer lab” group. Their design included desks that enabled students to view other students’ desks. Every group presented insightful ideas that can help inform the design of, and conversation about, future active learning classrooms.
Through the Mosaic Design Symposium, faculty were given the opportunity to brainstorm new ideas for classroom design. But just as importantly, my faculty colleagues and I were able to share ideas and experiences with faculty from across the University, representing a variety of disciplines and teaching experience. These attributes made the symposium a valuable learning experience, and one I thoroughly enjoyed.
In mid-October, the Fellows will be presenting their designs to the Architect’s office to further engage with these ideas. Our next Mosaic Design Symposium, will occur in late Spring 2019 and will be open to all Indiana University instructors. Let us know if you wish to join us!! Keep up with all the Mosaic Initiative is doing by following us on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and of course, by subscribing to this blog page in the upper right.