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UNH Academic Technology has recently been working hard to convert two classrooms in the newly renovated Hamilton Smith Hall into collaborative active-learning spaces, instead of traditional lecture halls. These TEAL (Technology Enhanced Active Learning) classrooms have the potential to create a much more engaging learning environment for students.
The room is designed to foster active-learning which merges hands-on exercises, student collaboration, and focused instruction to create a rich learning experience. Active learning changes the traditional teaching style where the professor provides one-way delivery. Instead, the students are divided into groups and work together to tackle problems while the professor facilitates. “The thinking is if you are actively engaged, you have a deeper level of processing,” said Marshall White, Senior Manager, Customer and Classroom Services. This teaching style challenges students to synthesize information as opposed to simply memorizing it.
The students’ space consists of long D-shaped tables which divides them into smaller working groups. Each table has grommets with connector cables which allows up to three students to display their information on a monitor attached to the wall. The tables are long and smooth so that it is easy to do group work. There are also whiteboards on as many surfaces as possible so that students can easily work out problems.
The instructors have a podium that has Windows and Mac machines, along with a document camera, and annotation tool. There is also a panel that controls the light and can raise and lower the shades. The instructors have access to the students’ work as well and can pull a student’s screen onto their own device, display the student's screen to 4 LCD TVs or share the student’s screen to everyone’s devices. The rooms are equipped with assisted listening systems as well and also have plenty of closets to be used as storage.
The idea of a TEAL classroom came from MIT professor, John Belcher who was frustrated that students were not absorbing the course material. His solution was to redesign the classroom to foster active learning pedagogy. The TEAL classroom concept was brought to UNH by physics professor, Dawn Meredith, and renovations were done to Kingsbury N129 to turn the space into a TEAL classroom.
UNH now has seven TEAL classrooms. There is one in Kingsbury, two in Demeritt, two in Paul, and two in Hamilton Smith. While the other classrooms tend to be on the smaller side, the new classroom in Hamilton Smith can seat up to 99 people. The other room can hold 45.
While there was already research that showed the profound impact TEAL classrooms have on learning, the Center for Excellence and Innovation in Teaching and Learning (CEITL) will assess how UNH students are performing in the new classrooms.
Overall it has been a big and impressive project that has been in the works for ten years. “I’m really excited to hear what people think about it,” White said. “It’s been a really fun project to work on.”