Friday, November 30, 2012

The World is Round but Some Classrooms Will Always Be Flat

In my last blog I wrote about the benefits of a tiered classroom, especially when it comes to using the case-study approach, where a professor can challenge students by having them come up with solutions to real-world business problems. Given all those benefits one might wonder why Huntsman Hall will feature 12 flat classrooms. Why not make them all tiered classrooms?

Some of our professors prefer a flat classroom because the topics they teach can be most effectively taught in a setting where students are collaborating and working together on projects. A flat classroom gives them the ability to move tables and chairs around, creating small-group discussions that involve every student.

As you may know, studies have shown that the more students are involved in the learning process, the more they are likely to retain. The standard lecture approach has its limitations, even with the best professors. You’ve probably noticed how much more you retrain when you are in a situation where you are expected to learn something that you need to teach others. This is true even if that teaching amounts to just explaining what you understand to other members of a small group.

Anytime there is a topic like leadership, management or collaboration, a professor appreciates the flexibility to teach in a setting that allows students the opportunity to lead, collaborate and manage a project to a successful conclusion. When the educational process is working as it should, students can learn as much from each other as they do from the professor. People learn best when they can put into practice the things that are being taught.

When a new building is constructed people often focus on aesthetics, such as how it will look and how it will represent the philosophies being taught. Those things are important, but it is still in the classroom that much of the educational process unfolds. We are now at a rare point where we have a chance to design classrooms and facilities in a way that best help our students reach their goals.

It’s interesting to note that is was through a collaborative approach that we have come to our ideas about what should go in Huntsman Hall. And one of those conclusions is that if our students are to discover new ideas and explore new insights, some of our classrooms must be flat.
Ken Snyder
Ken Snyder