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Considerations for Teaching in Active Learning Classrooms

Teaching in an ALC will likely be a very different experience from what you're used to. In order to prepare yourself for teaching in these spaces, consider the following:

  • Observe others using the room.
  • Visit the room before you meet your class for the first time. During this visit, familiarize yourself with the technology in the room.
  • If you specifically requested to teach in an ALC, make students aware of the reasons why you selected this space for your course. The rationale for an instructor's decision and pedagogy choices should be shared with students to help them become informed, empowered partners in the learning process. Be persuasive when describing the benefits of active and collaborative learning.
  • If you were assigned to an ALC, you should still talk to students about how you plan to use the room and how that use will benefit their learning. Some suggestions: 1) share with students about your teaching philosophy and how this space fits into that philosophy; 2) help students understand the evidence that shows that collaborative, problem-based approaches may help them acquire more skills and knowledge in this course and beyond.
  • Let students know that you realize the ALC is a big change for them as well.
  • Build in several opportunities to get feedback from students regarding the course.
  • Be flexible. The big advantage of an ALC space is that you get constant feedback on what the students understand and what they don't. If you feel that many students are confused, work to clear up the problem. Either find a student or group that understands things and can explain it to everyone, or explain it yourself with a mini-lecture.
  • Note that ALC spaces don't work as well as lecture halls for delivering lectures.  If you find yourself talking for long periods at a time, find an activity for the students to do.
  • Address frequently identified problems immediately with the whole class. Feel free to stop an activity session to resume lecturing if you need to clear up a misconception.
  • Remain flexible about student learning and be aware of difficulties students may be having. If many students do not understand a concept, this problem may need to be addressed in a lecture format and may require you to modify the scheduled activities during the class.

Specific Challenges

Instructors familiar with teaching in ALCs have identified several specific issues that those new to the rooms should consider. These include room issues, dealing with noise and distractions, tips for effective group work, methods of engaging students, and using the technology. For information on each of these topics, see the Specific Challenges area on this website or access the resources below: