The Impact of an Innovative Space on Learning

Naasz, Kathleen
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Although active learning results in greater learning gains, professors are still reluctant to change their style. At the same time, universities are investing in innovative spaces on campuses, but little data has been collected as to their impact on learning. The majority of active learning studies are focused on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) disciplines and include changes to pedagogical approaches, along with changes to the configuration of the classroom space. This is a quantitative research study using multiple instruments to determine the impact of an innovative learning space on active and higher order learning in a university setting. This study extended beyond STEM disciplines and a common Active Learning Classroom (ALC) to examine the connection between the space itself and perceived learning, without intentional manipulation to the pedagogical approaches. Three instruments were employed to determine the outcomes: an algorithm evaluating sound waves and online surveys of students’ and professors’ perceptions of learning (active and higher order). The innovative space, the main manipulation in this study, is a semi-open, accessible space with walls covered in whiteboard paint, such that all walls in the space are writeable, and has seating on ottomans or pillows. In the innovative space, students perceived increased learning, and professors perceived increased student engagement and collaboration, along with increases in interactivity in their own teaching style. This study suggests that universities should invest in innovative spaces and integrate them into the learning environment as a formal classroom space.