Tech awarded grant for new active learning classroom

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The new classroom will be in Prescott Hall 204. It will be fully operational before classes start this fall and support up to 24 students. A chemical engineering course will be the pilot class for the space. The experience with this course will be beneficial for the renovation of other larger capacity rooms.

The renovated classroom will be a collaborative space unlike any other we have on campus, said Laura Cruz, director of the Center for Teaching & Learning Excellence.

Cruz is part of a multi-office team working on the grant. The team includes faculty from the chemical engineering department chairman Pedro Arce and assistant professors Jennifer Pascal and Robby Sanders and Hunter Kaller from Information Technology Services.

The classroom s concept was developed using the Renaissance Foundry teaching framework developed by university students, faculty and staff. The framework is designed to foster student-led, team-based solutions and emphasizes creative and collaborative problem solving.

The Renaissance Foundry has received several important distinctions, Arce said, including two major awards from the American Society of Engineering Education and an invitation to deliver a keynote lecture at the Engineering Research Centers annual meeting in Washington, D.C., which was sponsored by the National Science Foundation.

The framework is already used in several STEM classrooms at Tennessee Tech, but this will be the first space designed to showcase this teaching method.

Unlike other spaces at Tennessee Tech, the new classroom is specifically designed to facilitate problem-based lateral thinking for project teams, Arce said. This is a critical aspect of fostering both creativity and entrepreneurial innovation, two learning outcomes identified by the National Academy of Engineering.

The university is one of 13 grant recipients. The company received more than 800 applications for the competitive grant, valued at more than $60,000. The active learning classroom grant includes furniture, integrated technology, design review and installation. IDS/Dekalb Office, a Steelcase dealer, will handle installation of the classroom.

Tennessee Tech was chosen for its commitment to utilizing progressive pedagogies and active learning strategies that truly impact student engagement, said Craig Wilson, director of market development at Steelcase Education. Educators and students at Tennessee Tech will now be able to utilize a flexible learning space and explore the capabilities of an environment built specifically for improved engagement and collaboration.

In addition to receiving new classroom equipment, the university will receive training from Steelcase on the uses of the technology and furniture in the new space and will have the opportunity to participate with all awarded schools to share insights and best practices. Over the two-year program, the university will partner with Steelcase Education to assess and research the classroom s impact.

Tennessee Tech will handle typical renovation procedures for multimedia classrooms (such as new carpeting and paint, lighting fixtures, window coverings and network connectivity) needed to support the new room s functionality.

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