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Active Learning Classrooms

Active Learning Classrooms in Welch Hall

Welch Hall has two Active Learning Classrooms (“ALC”). The goal for these new classrooms is to create an environment conducive to the learning process, where students are constantly engaged, active and learning by doing. The classrooms are modeled after the University of Minnesota’s Active Learning Classroom design, North Carolina State University’s Student-Centered Activities for Large Enrollment Undergraduate Programs, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Technology Enabled Active Learning project. The CSUDH classrooms feature state-of-the art technology with students seated in tables of nine provide access to flatscreen TV's and whiteboards mounted around the room for each table. Every table is equipped with power outlets for multiple devices. As of  fall 2015, 22 faculty teach 30 sections in these classrooms (capped at 126 and 54 seats).

Active Learning is All About Participation

Research has shown that educational space affects student attitudes towards learning. For example, in their study on the impact of classroom spaces on student learning, Elisa L. Park and Bo Keum Choi write that students view the “ALC environment as more inspirational, especially in regards to active learning participation,” and that students with high GPAs had a “greater tendency to share information and to create new ideas in ALC” than those in traditional classrooms. (Park and Choi 2014:749) A 2000 national study reinforces this finding. It found that students retain 5% of the information they receive through lecture, 70% by practicing what they are learning, and 80% by teaching one another. (Miller 2008:1) This may have led Arthur Chickering and Zelda Gamson to state that “(l)earning is not a spectator sport… [Students] must talk about what they are learning, write about it, relate it to past experiences, apply it to their daily lives. They must make what they learn part of themselves.” (as quoted in Miller 2008).  

Strategic Plan Vision and Core Values

At CSUDH, the adoption of ALC pedagogy is in line with the vision and core values outlined in the Strategic Plan 2014-2020. The creation of an innovative learning environment has been tasked as a goal for all Divisions to achieve; the charge for the Divisions is “to analyze, recommend and implement a plan for the renovation, innovation and building of effective classrooms, labs, studios and other learning spaces.” (CSUDH Strategic Plan 2014-20120:9) It is in this context that Academic Affairs, led by Provost Ellen Junn, launched the ALC initiative. In Spring 2014, Provost Junn instructed a group of faculty and administrators to begin exploring the establishment of ALC at CSUDH, and to look into how other universities implemented best practices. Accordingly, the group visited prominent ALC facilities in the CSU system (Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and CSU Long Beach) and nationwide (the University of Minnesota). Additionally, Academic Affairs invited ALC specialists to lead faculty in a series of workshops on pedagogy, syllabi design and teaching strategies at CSUDH. Those specialists included Dr. Steven Lamy, a renowned scholar, Dean, and Professor at USC, and David Matthes, a leading ALC instructor at the University of Minnesota. Academic Affairs has also funded eight faculty members to attend a one-day conference at Palomar College on learner-centered teaching.