In my last article I looked at the impact of the present and upcoming students changing learning behaviours, and how teaching pedagogy’s and therefore the estate will have to adapt in order to accommodate the changing demands. One common element of this teaching pedagogy change is the greater focus on group, interactive, discussion led and gamified contact hours rather than lecture based sessions (i.e. large group of students all listening to lecturer).
Many are starting to address this new demand and are seeing success as a result. For example the TEAL (Technology Enhanced Active Learning) project at MIT developed two new classrooms focussed on addressing the changing student behaviour requirements and “The teaching methods used in the TEAL classroom produced about twice the average normalized learning gains for low-, intermediate-, and high-scoring students when compared to traditional instruction”. These are remarkable results and indicate the potential gains Universities and Colleges can make by ensuring their teaching methods and teaching spaces reflect the changing student learning behaviours.
From a space management perspective there is however an obvious potential issue with wanting to change the way students are taught and that is the space this change requires. The lecture theatre style teaching spaces are one of if not the, most efficient use of teaching space when considering the number of students they can accommodate per m2. Group style teaching rooms however, due to the nature of the activities that they must accommodate require much more space.
For example, AUDE estimates that a lecture theatre capacity can be estimated by accounting for 1 student per each 1m2 whilst a seminar room capacity it typically 1 student per 2.25m2. Unfortunately (from a space management perspective) group style teaching often requires an even greater m2 per student than seminar rooms. For example the TEAL classrooms above in fact accommodate 1 student per 7.81m2, almost 8 times the space of that required by a lecture theatre.
Space norms are there for guidance purposes, as more or less can certainly be achieved depending on the layout, design, furniture and objective. However, they are a useful indicator of what can be achieved and certainly help to show the difference between space type requirements.
If institutions therefore want to address the changing student learning behaviour and focus on group/interactive/discussion/gamified learning teaching, they are going to need to replace these space efficient lecture theatres (1 student per 1m2) with the space hungry seminar/group/interactive/discussion/gamified teaching spaces (2.25>m2). For example, a 1oom2 (100 capacity) lecture theatre space would need to be replaced by at least 225m2 of space or even much more, in order to accommodate the same number of students.
To demonstrate the effect this change in teaching pedagogy and space design/provision may have, I am going to go through an example scenario for a small institution.
For this scenario example University has discussed future teaching space design and teaching methods with the example students and the lecturers. There is an agreed consensus that teaching is moving away from lecture theatre style teaching and there is now a demand for interactive group teaching. All have agreed that they would like the new style teaching rooms to accommodate a maximum of 42 students, each in groups of 6 with the lecturer positioned in the centre of the room – similar to that as shown in the TEAL teaching space.
As a result of these discussions, the following basic room layout has been designed and agreed upon by all stakeholders.
This change in teaching space demand, results in there no longer being a requirement for the lecture theatres currently available within the University. Therefore all activities that had been accommodated in the lecture theatres will now be accommodated within the new interactive group teaching rooms.
The University currently has 4 lecture theatres, each of which accommodates 40 hours of lectures per week throughout all semesters during the academic year and represents the peak annual demand. Therefore the new interactive group teaching rooms must accommodate all of the 160 weekly teaching activities.
The current group sizes that occupy the lecture theatres are currently considerably greater than the capacity of the planned innovative group teaching rooms, therefore classes will be split into groups according to the room capacity. For example a lecture with 100 students, will now be taught in 3 groups (1×36 students, 1×34 students and 1 x 30 students), with each group taught separately.
Therefore the following calculations determine how many groups/hours and therefore innovative group teaching rooms the University will have to provide in order to accomodate the demand.
As you can see in reducing the maximum teaching space capacity the larger activities have had to be split into multiple groups, significantly increasing the total number of activities that require timetabling each week.
The most extreme of these being the largest lecture theatre – Lecture Theatre 4. Originally per week there were 40 hours of teaching timetabled into this teaching space and each activity timetabled into this room had a class size of 240. Each activity has now had to be split into 7 groups in order to accommodate all of the students and fit within the capacity of the new innovative group teaching space. Therefore there are now 280 hours worth of teaching activities that need to be timetabled as a result of the 40 hours of teaching no longer being accommodated in Lecture Theatre 4.
Although the rise in the number of classes is expected, it is not yet clear what effect this has on the demand for space.
In total the previous table indicated that there is a demand for 720 hours of teaching activities that need to be accommodated within the planned new innovative group teaching spaces, this equates to a requirement of 18 rooms as shown in the table below.
Using the AUDE estimates referred to earlier in this document, we can estimate that the lecture theatre space makes up a total NIA of 720m2 (Total capacity X space norm/720×1). In comparison the New Interactive Group Teaching Rooms will require a NIA 1800m2, this is a 1080m2 difference and more than 2.5 times the current teaching requirement.
Not only is there a greater space requirement there is also a greater teaching demand, with 560 extra teaching hours per week that will need to be taught by suitable staff.
Although this scenario is a simple example, it does demonstrate the extreme pressure a move away from lecture theatre teaching could have upon a University. Not only would there be an extreme increase in the amount of teaching space required in order to accommodate the timetable activities, there would also be a similar increase in demand for staff hours to cover this increase in activities. An increase in space requirements and staffing hours, would consequentially have huge impacts upon a University’s budgetary requirements.
I believe it will become more and more important for Universities and Colleges to face this growing issue as it seems doubtful that the majority or any University could accommodate such a large increase in space and staffing requirements, whilst receiving the same amount of student income. The issue of changing learning behaviour must however be recognised and plans put in place to address it during the upcoming years, otherwise University’s run the risk of becoming ineffective in the way they teach their students.
I hope you have found this article helpful and interesting, I would be very interested in hearing your thoughts on learning behaviour and how it will effect University’s plus any thoughts on what Universities should be doing to accommodate these changes. Please feel free to leave you comments at the bottom of this article.
All the best