University of Wisconsin–Madison

Teaching in an Active Teaching Classroom

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What I wanted:

I wanted to destabilize the classroom landscape, eliminate the front/back dichotomy of the classroom setting, encourage more group activity and as an instructor be more of a guide on the side rather than a sage on the stage. The traditional classroom I was first assigned for my 2oo level history course (with 25 students), would not assist in this.

What I tried

I signed up for an active teaching classroom (2425 Stirling Hall). Room included 6 monitors with tables arranged in 6 pods, each next to a monitor. I connected my PPTs and maps to the monitors, and when lecturing walked around the classroom talking over the main points and breaking up my lecture with numerous questions.  Furthermore, I used the room layout and technology to facilitate group activities.  The students were easily broken into groups and could do projects using the monitor (students could easily connect their computer to monitor).


– No classroom front or back – I could walk around the classroom, while still leading lecture/discussion.  Students couldn’t hide in “back” and play games, couldn’t hide from questions. Also, no students had bad seat – all could easily see graphics/slides/movies.  Improved accountability – I was moving around the classroom and could look over anyone’s shoulder.

– When I walked around the class – forced students to shift in seats to follow me – this kept them awake at higher rates (compared to my previous courses)

– Layout of tables resulted in better group discussion and allowed me to switch easily between group and class discussion without having to force people to shift between chairs and tables.

– Students loved the layout –

Next time I would…

Employ advantages of the modular tables and monitors more. I would especially do more group projects that employed the room technology – especially for more classroom presentations.

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