Teaching in the experimental classroom
Teaching in the experimental classroom can be a springboard for updating a course and developing oneself as a teacher. There is also scope for testing how new technology and flexible furniture arrangements can affect the teaching. A few examples are briefly presented below.
Educational and technical support
Teachers in the experimental classroom should never need to be solely responsible for the technical equipment or worry about standing in front of the students and suddenly finding that nothing works. There is therefore always a technician present in the room or the immediately adjacent one.
All teachers who book the experimental classroom for teaching are contacted by an educational developer and offered a preparatory meeting. If the teacher so wishes, an educational developer is then present during the actual teaching to observe and give feedback. Teachers have often made changes in their teaching and want to know how they work, whether the effect is as they expect or whether they can do it better in some other way. Since it may be difficult to teach and simultaneously see the outcome of various elements, many people appreciate an extra pair of eyes and ears.
After completing a teaching session, the teacher has a follow-up discussion of experience and impressions with an educational developer. When courses are entirely or partly held in the experimental classroom, they are always monitored by educational developers.
Every Wednesday afternoon, from 2:00 to 4:00, there is an open workshop in the classroom. Educational developers and technicians are then available to answer questions, give advice and show how the equipment can be used in teaching.
MOVEMENT IN THEORY AND PRACTICE
In the experimental classroom, nothing is fixed to the floor: chairs and tables alike can be moved easily and quickly. The room can serve as a lecture hall where the students sit in rows facing one direction, for group work with the furniture in clusters, as an open arena completely free from furniture, or be arranged in many other ways. It can also be split up into smaller rooms.
When the Physiotherapy Programme students were taught in the experimental classroom the morning started, for example, with an introduction for everyone given by Dag Nyholm, the course director, from the Department of Neuroscience. The classroom was divided by partition walls to enable the students to work on problem-solving in separate groups. The assignment was about diagnosing deviant movement patterns, and the students studied various film sequences in detail. The discussions were lively and much use was made of the interactive boards in the analysis, but the floor space was also used when a way of walking or moving needed to be illustrated. The teacher circulated among the groups, but the focus was on peer learning. At the end of the session, the walls were pulled aside once more and all the students together reviewed the different parts of the assignment.
ACTIVITIES TO FOSTER LEARNING
Anita Staaf and Eva Hovstadius of the Department of Public Health and Caring Sciences teach Nursing Programme students about fluid balance. The experimental classroom is in good time, with the furniture arranged for groups and a large table in the middle of the room, bearing hospital drip bags and other material.
The subject of fluid balance is not new for the students, but it is crucial for their further education for them to have ample knowledge of terminology and calculations. Experience from previous years shows that many do not know enough and are, moreover, not fully aware of this. The teachers’ aims in the instruction is, first, to give the students a chance to test their knowledge and see what they need to study more and, second, to repeat the teaching in this subject and make it clear why it is important for the students to know it.
Authentic case studies are used to add depth to knowledge and clarify the complexity when there are many factors involved.
The teaching has reached a stage in which mentometers play a central role. After testing different versions, the teachers agree that what is best for the activity and gets the students interested is to use mentometers so that each is shared by several people. This method stimulates discussion when the students have to agree on an answer, but also in the stage when results are followed up, since many people find it easier to argue for an answer as a group representative than as a single individual.
INSPIRATION AND CURIOSITY
When Karin Lindelöf’s ethnology students entered the experimental classroom they found themselves in what looked like one of Sweden’s best-known running races for women. Images and and music on eight screens created the sense of being in the midst of the runners and the teacher thus immediately aroused the students’ curiosity. The teaching was about analysing the shaping of a brand from a gender point of view, with the emphasis on various aspects such as consumption and health. Another key aspect was giving students an insight into the research process.
The students analysed terms and used the interactive boards to reflect on images and words. Most of the groups worked standing up, and several people were engaged in drawing and writing at the same time. The results were displayed in the form of collages or mind maps. When the time came to report on their work, everyone gathered around one board at a time and discussed it with the teacher.
This course was held at regular intervals over two years. During this period, the teaching developed from being classic in nature — with an introductory lecture, group work and reporting, and a concluding summary — into a form strongly influenced by the ʻflipped classroom’ model, with its emphasis on problem-solving and cooperation.
WHAT THE STUDENTS THINK
In autumn 2015, Linn Areskoug located most of a course on diversity for teacher trainees in the experimental classroom. The 80 students were divided into three small groups and the technical equipment and furniture of the classroom were used in various ways on different occasions.
The course ended with a conference that gathered all the students together to present posters and report to one another. In and outside the experimental classroom, activities were in full swing. The day ended with a mentometer session in which the students answered questions about what it had been like to be taught in the experimental classroom. The majority felt that more students had been more active and engaged in the teaching there than they usually were in a conventional classroom. Nearly all the students indicated that they would like to have more courses held in the experimental classroom or similar premises.
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