Learning Spaces Affect Student Engagement

The setup of your classroom space has a big impact on student learning.
by LSA Learning & Teaching Technology Consultants
East Quad B814

The setup of your classroom space has a big impact on student learning. If the physical space of the classroom can be arranged as active learning space, if it has movable chairs and tables, and students sit facing each other, this can promote interactive, collaborative, and experiential learning (Harvey, & Kenyon, 2013). The physical space of the classroom, and where that space directs attention, affects students’ perceptions and how ready they are to engage in the class. For example, students perceive auditoriums and lecture halls as a passive space, for them, one in which they should listen without interacting with each other. Sitting in circles, on the other hand, where their attention is directed toward their fellow students, is more conducive to discussions among themselves (Hodges, 2018). 

Removing the physical barriers between students and their instructor also increases instructor-student interaction and encourages an active class dynamic (Rands & Gansemer-Topf, 2017). In a classroom with grouped tables instead of rows, instructors can move around freely to answer students’ questions during class activities, and students feel encouraged to participate and engage in the activities when they have their “own” space, such as a group table. Active learning classroom arrangements enable instructors to easily implement a variety of active learning strategies, such as group work, think-pair-share, and peer instruction that encourage greater engagement and better transfer of knowledge. Things as simple as moveable student seating enables students to group together easily for any collaborative work in the class. Furthermore, studies show that students in active-learning spaces outperformed those in traditional-style classrooms when the same course was taught in both settings (Hodges, 2018).

Setting up your classroom for active learning doesn’t require the integration of high-cost technologies or redesign of the entire physical space. The inclusion of simple tools such as whiteboards and movable chairs have proven to be enough to support active learning approaches (Rands & Gansemer-Topf, 2017). Such things are available in many LSA classrooms, ready for you to take advantage of! 

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If you think you’d like to learn more about active learning strategies and on how to arrange your classroom to support active learning and encourage participation, please contact LSATechnologyServices@umich.edu to speak with an instructional consultant about it!



Harvey, E. J. & Kenyon, M. C. (2013). Classroom seating configurations for 21st century students and faculty. Journal of Learning Spaces, 2(1).

Hodges, L. C. (2018). Contemporary Issues in Group Learning in Undergraduate Science Classrooms: A Perspective from Student Engagement. CBE—Life Sciences Education, 17(2), es3.

Rands, M. L., & Gansemer-Topf, A. M. (2017). The room itself is active: How classroom design impacts student engagement. Journal of Learning Spaces, 6(1), 26.

Release Date: 02/27/2020
Category: Learning & Teaching Consulting; Teaching Tips
Tags: Technology Services
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