Environmental quality in active learning spaces
ABSTRACT: The past 25 years has seen the emergence of active learning classrooms on higher education campuses. The goals of these spaces are to: improve student learning outcomes; change the way instructors engage with students; and offer increased flexibility and access to technology. In short, active learning classrooms aim to provide new, innovative, and state-of-the-art learning environments. Research on active learning classrooms tends to focus on the virtual learning environment independent from the physical classroom conditions. However, there is limited evidence that physical environmental factors in classrooms can influence (help and/or hinder) student performance outcomes, perceptions, and behavior. The study addresses a gap in the literature by examining indoor environmental quality (IEQ) parameters (e.g. air quality, comfort, lighting, and acoustics) in five refurbished active learning classrooms.
This mixed methods study relies on two frameworks for field studies of existing indoor environments: postoccupancy evaluation and the ASHRAE Performance Measurement Protocol (PMP). Data collection involved: interviews with stakeholders and observations in the classrooms; occupant surveys to gauge satisfaction levels with the physical environment; and spot measurements in the classrooms as a way of comparing existing conditions to industry metrics and benchmarks.
Findings suggest that the classrooms meet or exceed industry benchmarks for IEQ. Several surprising outcomes also emerged from the study. Classroom users do not appear to take advantage of opportunities to adjust IEQ conditions in the classrooms. Furthermore, retrofitted classrooms present spatial and environmental constraints for active learning environments. The five active learning classrooms examined provide satisfactory IEQ conditions, but these spaces may not be achieving their full potential. Additional research is needed to optimize these spaces and inform future classroom design and classroom research.
KEYWORDS: active learning, indoor environmental quality
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