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Case Study: Collaborative Learning Spaces

The University of Arizona has focused some of its efforts to redesign classrooms into collaborative learning spaces (CLSs). Thanks to these recent efforts, the university currently has ten CLSs ranging in size from 30 to 264 student-seat spaces, and plans to redesign ten additional classrooms into CLSs ranging in size from 25 to 135.
One faculty member, Dr. Zoe Cohen from the Department of Immunology, documented her thoughts about participating in the AAU STEM Initiative and teaching in CLSs:

“I had been thinking about trying a “flipped” classroom for a while and decided to take the plunge and apply for one of the rooms. I was lucky enough to get accepted and spent the summer preparing for a completely new form of teaching. I taught Physiology of the Immune System (PSIO 431) to 160 students in the Science and Engineering Library in Fall 2015, and this experience not only changed me as an educator, it has opened opportunities to me to continue along this pathway. Once I started teaching in this room, I became involved in a Faculty Learning Community regarding the CLS as well as an Educational Faculty Learning Community. Through these, I was able to develop the materials to incorporate active learning (through discussions) within the classroom setting …. Based on teacher course evaluations and other comments, as well as looking at the overall grade distribution in the course (compared to previous semesters when the course was taught in a traditional lecture style), the changes made resulted in more active and meaningful engagement and understanding by the students.”

Prof. Cohen has seen more As and Bs and fewer Ds and Es on the final exam since transforming her Physiology of the Immune System course. Her experiences match those of other faculty for different classes and departments (including physics, chemistry, molecular and cellular biology, and engineering), who also have seen positive impacts on student learning. These impacts include better grades and fewer failures, stronger performance on pre-post course tests, and better performance in follow-on courses.