We recently interviewed four instructors who taught in the west wing large classrooms of the Global and International Studies building — (GISB) rooms 1100, 1106, 1112, 1118, 1122, 1128, and 1134, on the Bloomington campus. We asked instructors to share their perspectives on, and experiences with, teaching in the building’s larger classrooms, which seat around 60 students. In this blog, Jared Allsop, Roxie Barnes, Virginia Hojas Carbonell, and Rachel Ryder share their experiences teaching in these active learning classrooms.
If you were to meet with a faculty member scheduled to teach for the first time in a west wing GISB classroom, what advice would you most want to share?
Jared Allsop: Go into the classroom before the day you teach and familiarize yourself with the control panels. It takes some time to figure out how to work the various screens and use them smoothly.
Roxie Barnes: Engage in the space, sit in every seat, look around, and try to get the student’s view and feel for how they will use the space.
Virginia Hojas Carbonell: When I started teaching in GISB 1122, I arrived early to each class to arrange the desks and have them ready for each lesson. Now, I create visuals what I want the classroom arrangement to be on each particular day so students can help me organize the tables and chairs (u-shape, groups of 4 with two tables, etc.).
Rachel Ryder: I would recommend spending extra time planning for class. You want to go into the classroom with a solid plan for how you will organize the desks, how students will work in teams, how much time will be spent on activities versus lecture, and how much time needs to be spent educating students on how to use technology and work in teams.
How did you, as an instructor, navigate the actual classroom space (i.e., the instructor’s station, the tables and chairs, focal points, or awkward spots)?
Rachel Ryder: During active learning activities I would often find myself in the middle of the room, or at the back of the room. I found the back of the space was more effective if students are using the white boards.
Jared Allsop: I love to change how the tables are configured, based upon what I was doing that day in class. For our discussion/lecture portion of the day, I frequently set up tables in the middle of the space, then set up break-out tables around the screens for our group/project work.
Explore some ideas for GISB west wing room arrangements here.
Roxie Barnes: I like to be all over the room. I like to draw pictures of anatomy and physical processes of the body, but in a traditional room there is not enough space to draw everything. In these rooms, I am able to display drawings to help students visualize what we are talking about. There are also enough white spaces for students to gather and write out their thoughts. I move the tables around because there is little space for faculty to move around when the tables are in traditional arrangement. I like to sit with and next to the students while we are learning, not only to see what kind of shoes they might be ordering online, but to help guide them through the discussions.
What do you perceive to be the biggest obstacle to teaching in west wing GISB classrooms? How did you address it?
Rachel Ryder: The biggest obstacle was getting students to move the desks. I would often get eye rolls when I asked students to move the desks into group spaces. I found that moving the desk from day one of the course made it easier for students to get into the routine as the semester progressed.
Roxie Barnes: The table seating is not always perceived as movable for optimization. The tables are often set up horizontally and 4-5 deep with chairs facing front. Without significant moving, this set up is not always inviting for collaboration.
Virginia Hojas Carbonell: The tables did not have wheels, which made moving them around challenging and loud. I suggest arriving as early as possible after the previous class to prepare the classroom, since most instructors teaching in this building are not using these rooms as active learning classrooms.
What was your favorite “thing” about teaching in a west wing GISB classroom?
Rachel Ryder: My favorite thing about teaching in this classroom was the flexibility to use different teaching methods and group work in a setting that the increased student interaction.
Jared Allsop: The options. These classrooms give you so many options to consider it makes teaching fun and engaging.
Roxie Barnes: No matter where I am in the classroom, I can draw on the whiteboards and engage my students.
How did you engage your students at the whiteboard walls?
Rachel Ryder: I often use whiteboards for practicing calculations and team-based problem solving activities.
Roxie Barnes: I draw and write all over them!
How did you engage your students at the collaborative screens at their tables?
Roxie Barnes: I encouraged students to use the screens to present their work to the entire group.
Rachel Ryder: I did not use the collaborative screens much, but when I did the students used them for finding and sharing images.
Thank you, Jared, Roxie, Virginia, and Rachel for sharing with us! The tips our faculty have shared are just a few examples of what’s possible in the larger west wing Global and International Studies Building classrooms. If you’d like to share your own ideas, please add them in the comments below. If you would like to learn more about GISB classrooms, please contact us: firstname.lastname@example.org
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