Division of Academic Affairs
Garvey returns with some thoughts about how the physical space of your classroom may impact teaching and learning. He offers a few simple ideas to help you plan to use this space more effectively.
Hello! Welcome to Teaching & Learning Matters, and thank you for listening. I am Dr. Garvey Pyke, and today we are going to talk about a simple yet overlooked way to enhance your teaching: getting to know your physical classroom space.
In a past podcast, I explained how to set up a seating chart and what it could help you achieve in the classroom. But the seating arrangement is only one aspect of how the physical space of the classroom may impact teaching and learning.
Picture the room in which you teach. I know you probably use more than one, but for the sake of clarity, I will talk about just one room. Think about the layout of the room and everything in it. From a philosophical standpoint, what does the room “say,” what does it communicate, about teaching and learning?
The design of the learning space can either enhance or impede your own personal teaching style. For example, what does a room with all of the chairs bolted to the floor communicate to the students? And what if your course is designed for a lot of small group discussions or movement around the classroom, and you cannot move the seats, desks, or what-have-you? Another example would be, what if your class is heavily lecture based, and the room is all tables and chairs?
So now you can start to see why the physical space may work with you or against you, depending on your style and what activities you would like to do. Does it mean you cannot do one kind of teaching if the room does not allow it? Of course not! It just means you need to be prepared to come up with some kind of workaround.
In a large lecture room, it may take an extra few moments for students to move around through the rows and so forth to form groups, for instance, but that is no big deal. We just plan for it. And sometimes, you may just have a special activity in mind that your space cannot accommodate, so you may have to find a different space for that day—use an adjacent empty room, the atrium of the building, or perhaps go outside—or maybe adapt the lesson somehow to fit the space you are in.
Next, think about what else is particular about this room. Are there windows? How is the lighting? Temperature? Acoustics?
Is there a chalkboard in the room or a whiteboard? Is there a smart podium in the classroom, and what equipment does it have for you to use? The smart podium can be an immensely powerful teaching tool, and it is quite versatile, too—far beyond mere PowerPoint. Figure out what it can do for you, and if you are not sure, attend a workshop or speak with some colleagues about their innovative uses of the tool.
Go and visit the space beforehand, or if the semester has already started, just go to class a little early next time and take a look around. Jot down some notes. Do some planning on how you might use this space effectively. How will the space fit your style, your students’ style, and the content needs of your course?
I hope you now have a few things to think about, to mull over, regarding the physical teaching and learning space available to you. If you have any questions or want to learn more, come on over to the Center for Teaching and Learning at UNC Charlotte.
Thanks for listening, and please tune in next time. Until then, so long, and remember: teaching and learning matters.
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