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Heritage architecture meets pedagogical innovation in the new Arts 150 ALC

Have you noticed the new active learning classroom (ALC) in the Arts building? This beautifully renovated space is creating a buzz on campus, and it’s not hard to see why.

Finished in May 2018, this renovation project combined former classrooms Arts 145 and 150 into a state-of-the-art active learning classroom — now known as Arts 150. Sitting at the heart of the Arts building, one of McGill’s architectural jewels, Arts 150 reflects best practices in current teaching and learning theory while retaining the charm of a heritage building.

ARTS 150 BEFORE RENOVATIONS

Photo credit: Erin McDonagh

The previous design in Arts 145 and 150 included long, narrow rows of fixed, swivel seats. Each room featured a single projectable surface at the front of the room, with a small, fixed instructor podium. The configuration made both group work and instructor movement through the rooms impractical. Other than periodic audio visual technology updates, the rooms had been untouched for more than a generation. The crumbling acoustic panels and outdated look of the space made this classroom scream for a makeover.  

ARTS 150 AFTER RENOVATIONS

Photo credit: Owen Egan

The design of the renovated space is ideal for collaborative group work and flipped learning. Instructors have a large surface available for their use atop a movable podium. Each table, with seats on wheels for up to eight students, is designed so that conversations are barely audible to neighbouring students. Students also have access to writable surfaces along three of the four classroom walls, which can be used for group work and brainstorming. The floorplan allows students and the instructor to move around with ease, permitting the instructor to answer questions and provide feedback to students during class activities.

Despite having a capacity of over 80 students, the features of the room foster conversation and active learning, making the student experience in the space collaborative and engaging. Additionally, the modern colours of the room and calming architectural design make the space popular among students, some of whom we’ve seen arrive early for class to use the room as a study space.

At TLS, we occasionally hear from instructors that certain disciplines are better suited to active learning than others are. To the contrary, at TLS we believe that instructors in all disciplines can successfully incorporate active learning techniques into their lesson plans. Since studies have posited a link between active learning strategies and increased student success (here, and here), the benefits to students are all too clear.

Are you interested in teaching in Arts 150, or any other of McGill’s 14 Active Learning Classrooms? Contact the Timetable Coordinator in your Faculty or Department and make your request. Eager to get started? Check out TLS’s diverse list of active learning strategy video bites to see how you can incorporate active learning into your teaching plans.

For more information on ALCs, feel free to contact TLS.

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