Does it Matter Where You Teach? Insights from a Quasi-Experimental Study on Student Engagement in an Active Learning Classroom
Active learning has experienced a recent resurgence with the advent of specialized active learning classrooms. While the fundamental theory behind active learning is anything but new, a relatively recent finding is that active learning pedagogies thrive in suitable active learning classrooms. To date, studies of active learning have focused on outcomes such as student performance. The quasi-experimental study described in this article investigated self-ratings of student engagement as an outcome of active learning in active learning classrooms using a novel instrument that accounts for known factors of engagement in addition to the contribution of the learning environment—the classroom. We delineated the relative contributions of instructor, classmates, and classroom to self-rated student engagement through student surveys in both a traditional classroom and an active learning classroom in two highly similar courses with the same instructor. Our findings were that the configuration of the classroom had a direct influence on self-ratings of student engagement above and beyond instructor contributions. In this article, we describe these findings and how, with careful consideration of course design and a classroom that fits the instructor’s pedagogy, optimal levels of perceived student engagement can be achieved. This knowledge is important to future educational policy on construction and scheduling, as the resurgence of active learning in higher education increasingly reveals deficiencies in physical learning environments.
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