360 Magazine
Active Learning Classrooms




A high school in Indiana contacted Lincoln Office to help with classroom redesign. Understanding the school’s need to implement a new strategy for learning, Lincoln Office brought in a consultant from Steelcase Education to conduct an Active Learning Workshop. Lincoln Office worked closely with the Steelcase Education Consultant and a committee at the high school to create spaces that would improve student engagement.



In order to meet the learning needs of students, a new thought process was needed. Active learning begins with a learning objective – how do we want students to learn? By using multiple teaching methods, such as lecture, small group discussions, team and individual study, students and teachers have discovered an opportunity for learning in different ways. Changing how the classroom is arranged during the class period keeps students’ attention focused on learning. Educators can leverage several tools and technology, giving students multiple ways to process information – both analog and digital. The new classroom provides both students and teachers the ability to move around the room and engage with one another.



Early in the process, Lincoln Office interviewed teachers who would participate in the project, asking about concerns observed in their classrooms. The top concerns were backpacks in the aisle, storage for supplies and student desk worksurfaces.

In spring 2015, the Steelcase Education Consultant conducted a workshop for teachers that discussed active learning strategies and how the classroom environment can affect student learning. In addition to the workshop, mock classroom furniture was set up at the school for review. Following the review and discussion of Active Learning Strategies, the team decided to redesign five classrooms.

New classroom furniture was installed in the fall 2015. Steelcase Education surveyed teachers and students before and after the classroom furniture was installed. After about six weeks of use, they were asked questions about the old classroom vs. the new classroom, including how the new classroom furniture was being used. Concerns about the old classroom included it was too time-consuming to move classroom furniture for group projects and it was difficult to move within the classroom to help students. After the new classroom furniture was installed, teachers found a dramatic increase in being able to move through the space to work with students (aisles were clear), being able to see information displayed on whiteboards, having easy access to tools (whiteboards, markers, etc.), seeing and connecting with students throughout classroom activities and enabling students to work together on projects. Teachers continued to learn how they might change teaching methods since classroom furniture could be easily moved.

Student surveys echoed the teachers’ – with the top complaints about the old classroom being it was difficult to work together and they were unable to get to know everyone. After the installation of new classroom furniture, students found it easier to move around the space to work with other students on projects, and students were able to see each other when speaking. Students became more engaged and teachers discovered that students were taking more social risks because they could easily move in and out of groups. The results of the instructor and student surveys, taken before and after new classroom furniture was installed, are shown in the bar graphs below.



After conducting the Active Learning Workshop and providing furniture samples for educators to review, Lincoln Office, Steelcase Education and the project team determined the node classroom chair and Verb tables would best meet the learning needs of the students.

The node chair offers mobility, storage for backpacks and a large writing surface, and the node’s mobility to move easily supports different teaching methods – lecture, large group discussion and small group discussion. It is easier for students to connect with one another by moving into learning teams to work on an assignment. When used together, node chairs and Verb tables can accommodate different learning methods: group discussion in one part of the space and individual work in another.


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