Helpful content to inspire a classroom without boundaries. 

Written by Alicia Springer

Educators around the country are eager to adopt new learning strategies that match the needs and constraints of the modern, connected world. The problem many teachers encounter, though, is that while teaching methods can easily change, creating the right active learning environment to optimize the experience is more of a challenge. It’s much easier for teachers and students to adopt active learning techniques when the classroom is arranged to support that style of learning

Obviously, a total classroom conversion from traditional, lecture-based arrangement to an active or living classroom can be overwhelming. Here’s the good news, though – the conversion doesn’t all have to be done at once, and there are steps you can take to make the conversion much easier to manage.

It all starts with understanding what active learning is all about and how your classroom can be arranged to best support it. So, we’ve broken down the active learning zones to discover what’s most important and why it’s worth the effort to create an active learning environment your students can thrive in.

Before you dive into this topic, it might help to read more on the different zones of the Living Classroom, here. Or, explore setup options for Zone 1: Instruct.


Zone 2 – Learn

The Case for Active Learning 

Active Learning engages students in the learning process, and it requires them to be responsible for their cognitive development. Teachers who support and encourage active or self-directed learning strategies are no longer responsible for choosing what is learned, why it is learned, or how it is to be learned. Students are encouraged to think for themselves.

With this in mind, it is understandable that a traditional, lecture-based classroom layout is not as conducive to active learning methods. Active learning classrooms require flexibility when it comes to desk arrangement, switching from an individual, to group layouts as the curriculum changes.


Learning Zone Pros:

  • Define individual strengths and use them effectively
  • Learn how to organize time and resources efficiently
  • Allows students to figure out how they learn best
  • Improves oral communication skills and will enable them to have a voice
  • Teaches students to think independently

Students and teachers alike need to know how to learn and how to collaborate effectively by taking ownership of their parts. This strategy builds an active learning community that supports, uplifts and empowers each other. Students who are goal-oriented, self-confident, responsible, independent and manage their time wisely will thrive in this environment.

Here are some examples of how teachers have incorporated active learning or self-directed learning strategies into their curriculum:

  • Build a personal PLN (Personal Learning Network) using tools such as blogs, journals, Netvibes, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook
  • Create personal learning tools and modules or collaborate with educators around the world to improve curriculum using platforms like OER Commons
  • Design a personal PLE (Personal Learning Environments) using tools such as symbaloo, email, or ePortfolio.


Creating an Active Learning Environment 

Re-Thinking Classroom Layouts

In the pre-digital age, most of our learning took place solely in the classroom and was controlled by a teacher. But in today’s world, we are heavily influenced by outside sources of learning that include tools such as YouTube, Google, Wikipedia, Siri, blogs and social media.

What is the result of this cultural and technological shift? The modern classroom is changing. The learning revolution is transforming the way we teach, learn and, in turn, how we arrange a classroom.


Practical Active Learning Environment Set Ups: 

Establishing an Active Learning Environment in the Classroom


1. Add Casters to Your Tables, Desks, and Chairs for easy mobility and create a flexible learning space. This allows you to quickly and easily reconfigure spaces for individual or group work. Design “pods” of shape tables and desks that can accommodate 2-person, 4-person, 8-person, 10-person, etc. setups.



Establishing an Active Learning Environment in the Classroom


2. Flip-Top Tables and Desks with Markerboard Tops allow you to create an individual workstation that can easily be transformed into a presentation space allowing students the ability to take control of their own learning path. Giving the students tools to present learning modules will help them to retain the information being taught.


Establishing an Active Learning Environment in the Classroom

3. Individual Teacher Stations can easily be incorporated into collaborative configurations. Combine the Nebula Shape Table (Teacher Station) with the 3P-120 Shape Tables and adaptable seating solutions to create a flexible learning environment that can accommodate up to 12 learners. When you need a space for individual or small group work, break them apart and move accordingly.


Establishing an Active Learning Environment in the Classroom

4. Use Alphabet BLOC & STP to create a fun and flexible learning space! Since BLOC & STP can be used from all sides, they are versatile and accommodating. Combine with Alphabet MOV and FLOT to create truly dynamic and innovative learning spaces. Use them together as casual seating, tables or even as an impromptu work surface. Mix and match the various shapes and sizes for creative collaborative learning spaces. 


Establishing an Active Learning Environment in the Classroom


Today’s classrooms are smarter, more connected, and adaptive to a range of learning styles. This shift requires classroom furnishings that support active learning environments and provide educators vital options to help them create the right learning environment for their students.

To learn more about how schools are approaching classroom conversions or to map out the plan for your own classroom, download our Collaborative Conversion brochure, or visit with one of our local partners.

Collaboration Conversion

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