To support research on new instructional innovations and learning space design, UMass Amherst has launched its first Experimental Classroom, a new collaboration between the Instructional Innovation group, the Institute for Teaching Excellence and Faculty Development (TEFD), and Herman Miller, the furniture design and manufacturing firm. The classroom provides a wide range of new opportunities for faculty and students, including the ability to research the connections between pedagogy, learning spaces, and student success.
“As the flagship campus of the UMass system, we recognize our role in leading in the area of instructional innovation and student-centered learning. We are delighted to be collaborating with the Institute for Teaching Excellence and Faculty Development and Herman Miller in this exciting initiative and look forward to working with faculty and students in the new Experimental Classroom,” said Alyson Gill, Associate Provost for Instructional Innovation at UMass Amherst.
The classroom features flexible, movable furniture of different heights, with three levels of table and chair configurations that replicate tiered seating. Available technologies include projectors and movable monitors, computers, tablets, and mobile devices as well as a lecture-capture system for video and audio recording of classroom activities. Faculty and students agree the Experimental Classroom permits greater flexibility for discussion groups, increased student engagement, and the opportunity for faculty to try new technologies in a flexible setting.
“Our [collaboration] will allow the Experimental Classroom to be used for research on the ways that pedagogy and the affordances of learning spaces affect student-faculty interactions and student success. We are particularly excited to launch our first set of collaborative studies on the effects of furniture layouts and heights on the classroom experience,” said Gabriela Weaver, Vice Provost for Faculty Development and Director of the Institute for Teaching Excellence and Faculty Development. “This type of university-industry [collaboration] can be incredibly fruitful to enable us to ask questions and carry out work that would be difficult in isolation,” added Weaver.
Faculty and students can easily access the Experimental Classroom on the seventh floor of the W.E.B. Du Bois Library. For more information, visit the Innovate@ UMass Amherst website. Faculty interested in applying to use the classroom can contact Alyson Gill (firstname.lastname@example.org) for details.