Teaching Principles for Designing Spaces

(Adapted from McGill University Teaching & Learning Spaces Working Group)

The National Survey for Student Engagement (NSSE) is a respected indicator of student engagement used by over 800 universities across North America.  Both first year and fourth year students are surveyed; results provide a sense of how a given university is perceived by both commencing and graduating students.  Their five Benchmarks for Effective Educational Practice are based upon extensive educational research.  We have adopted four of these benchmarks as principles to be considered when designing or renovating learning spaces to support student learning.

1.  Active and Collaborative Learning

Students learn more when they are intensely involved in their education and are asked to think about and apply what they are learning in different settings.  Collaborating with others in solving problems or mastering difficult material prepares students to deal with the messy, unscripted problems they will encounter daily during and after college.  Informal and formal learning environments should allow students to work together: learning by doing, reflecting and learning through conversation.  Furniture should be easily moveable and sturdy enough to be moved often.  Surfaces should be appropriate for student work and materials (may include writable walls).  Acoustics should allow for productive interaction and collaboration: sound zones should support having multiple conversations without creating an unbearable din.  See how we can accomplish this in the classroom.

2.  Student-Faculty Interaction

Students see first-hand how experts think about and solve practical problems by interacting with faculty members inside and outside the classroom.  Learning spaces should allow students and faculty to meet and share ideas.  In class, instructors should be able to move easily throughout the room, interact with students one-to-on, in small groups, or in a large group.  Screen-sharing encourages student-driven learning, and further enables interaction.  Professors and students should be able ot hear one another.  See how we can accomplish this in the classroom.

3.  Enriching Educational Experiences

Complementary learning opportunities inside and outside the classroom augment the academic program.  Technological affordances such as document cameras, multiple sources/screens/surfaces, screen-sharing and writable walls substantially enrich the learning experience by allowing information to be shared or presented in multiple ways.  Spaces outside of the class can include offerings of informal computer stations and open access to computer labs.  See how we can accomplish this in the classroom.

4.  Supportive Campus Environment

Students perform better and are more satisfied at a university that is committed to their success.  Teaching and learning spaces must support the students ability to effectively engage in their studies as individuals as well as through engaging with faculty and one another.  This includes aspects of livability and sustainability.  See how we can accomplish this in the classroom.