Teaching in a new classroom this semester? Is it a large lecture hall? A lab? A small seminar space? No matter what your classroom design or size, I’d like to share an activity to help you think about how classroom space can directly support your teaching. I like to call it the “Blueprint Walk”.
When I lead workshops in new rooms, I will sometimes open by providing everyone a blueprint of the room. Then, I ask the session participants to take their blueprint, grab a pencil, and walk around the classroom, exploring every corner of the space and reflecting on the following prompts:
- Identify the locations in the room where you will most likely stand, lecture, and engage students. Mark those locations with an X on your blueprint.
- Identify the locations in the room where you are least likely to stand, lecture, and engage students. Mark those locations with an O on your blueprint.
When instructors finish their personal tour of the room, having marked the blueprint with X’s and O’s, I ask them to share and to discuss their (often very different) answers with each other. Comparing and contrasting their answers allows instructors to exchange ideas about different ways to use space.
Once instructors are thinking and reflecting about their classroom space, I ask them to take one more trip around the room (this time in groups) with new prompts:
As you walk around:
- think about how long it takes to move from different points of the room. For example, from the lectern to the back of the room.
- note if it is difficult to reach different parts of the room. Are there students whom you (or your teaching assistants) might not be able to physically reach? If so, what are you going to do about that?
- talk while you walk. Are there any echo spots?
- sit in a variety of student seats. Consider the student perspective of the room from several locations. What can they see? What is a challenge to see? (Make sure to display something on screens or whiteboards so that instructors can determine if students can see content, too!)
Again, I encourage the instructors to share within the group and exchange ideas on their different perspectives and ideas regarding how they would use the space and how students might experience the space.
The primary objectives of the blueprint exercise are 1.) to encourage instructors to think about how classroom space can support their teaching and 2.) to think about how students are experiencing the space. This exercise helps instructors identify problems and develop room-specific solutions.
Have you used blueprints to support faculty teaching in active learning classrooms? Are you planning on trying an activity similar to the one suggested in this blog? If so, please share your results with us in the comments below.
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