A new type of classroom learning environment, based on a proposal by College of Arts and Sciences Physics Professors Angela Kelly and Matt Dawber, was introduced this fall to 144 students, thanks to a $200,000 gift from the Stony Brook University Parents Fund for Excellence. The funding enabled the classroom to be outfitted with white boards, an AV system, round tables and mobile chairs, lab equipment and electrical work.
Modeled after MIT’s Technology-Enabled Active Learning (TEAL), this new classroom environment is designed to promote an integrated approach to learning by merging lecture, recitation and hands-on laboratory work into a single common experience. Data have shown that student success, retention in STEM majors, and attendance have increased significantly in this learning environment when compared with traditional lecture-based physics classes.
“The energy and excitement about learning were palpable when I entered this classroom. This is the kind of approach we need to be implementing and evaluating as we work to improve our teaching at Stony Brook University,” said President Samuel L. Stanley Jr., MD.
The pilot program at Stony Brook includes two sections of Physics 131: Classical Physics I. The newly outfitted Studio Physics classroom has eight tables that seat nine students each. The instructor’s station allows for the instructors to move freely among students while leading discussions, a departure from the traditional lecture format. PowerPoint slides and demonstrations are projected onto six video screens. Students gather at white boards mounted along the perimeter of the room to work out solutions in small groups. There are state-of-the-art sensors and interfaces at each table for laboratory exercises to collect data and perform calculations. Six teaching assistants rotate among the classes to facilitate problem solving and laboratory work.
“This teaching model represents a shift in undergraduate STEM education towards a more student-centered approach,” said Kelly. “We hope to expand the model to provide more students the opportunity to engage in active physics learning in a collaborative space. We are grateful for the support from the Stony Brook Foundation and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute to initiate the project.”