When most of us hear about an “active learning classroom”, we envision students engaged in physical activity as a means of recharging their brains or as a novel strategy for teaching an academic concept. But what about at the post-secondary level? Ever thought of that? At this level some equate “active learning” as a “technology-rich classroom” (Center for Educational Innovation, 2019). The setup of this type of classroom tends to be organized differently than the typical sedentary classroom with desks in rows. Active learning classrooms infuse technology into the space with a twist on how the desks and chairs are arranged.
More consistent with what is generally thought of as an active classroom are “Dynamic classrooms”. Classrooms such as this at the post-secondary level strive to increase movement in the classroom while decreasing traditional sedentary means of learning.
Research Proves Dynamic Classrooms Are Effective
Dynamic classrooms are relatively new to the post-secondary world. In other words, they have little to no research conducted with college-aged students. Given that physical activity improves brain function (Ratey & Hagerman, 2008), one would think dynamic classrooms in higher education would be a mainstay, but that is not currently the case. One study with children indicated that moving away from the traditional model of sitting desks to a dynamic classroom (e.g., standing desks, wobbly chairs) decreased sedentary behavior (Aminian, Hinckson, & Stewart, 2015). Another study examining the difference in calories burned from the use of a traditional chair to a standing desk in adults showed a significant increase in caloric expenditure for participants who stood instead of sat (Reiff, Marlatt, & Dengal, 2012). Thus, we know that standing tends to produce better outputs with regard to physical activity than sitting does.
A Challenge to Post-Secondary Classrooms
What if higher education classrooms were arranged like the dynamic classroom set up shown in the second image? What if college-aged students had options of sitting on stability balls or wobbly chairs, standing at a desk, walking at a treadmill desk, or kneeling on a mat during class? Would there be an increase in caloric expenditure, capacity for learning, or student focus improve? Intuitively, one would think yes to all the above, given that previous evidence has shown multiple benefits of these types of environmental changes on children and adolescents. But, as of yet, we don’t know.
Post-Secondary Dynamic Classroom Product:
– SmartStudy Adjustable Teaming Table: Promote group work and better posture while adding a sleek look to your classroom with our new teaming table!
– ShiftED Active Seat: Rock out the fidgets on the floor with ergonomic, stackable seats!
– AnyMove Active Seats: Active seat offers three ways to move—plus a modular design—to keep students engaged!
Aminian, S., Hinckson, E. A., & Stewart, T. (2015). Modifying the classroom environment to increase standing and reduce sitting. Building Research and Information, 43, 631-645.
Center for Educational Innovation, University of Minnesota. (2019). Teaching in an active learning classroom (ALC). Retrieved February 11, 2019, from https://cei.umn.edu/teaching-active-learning-classroom-alc
Ratey, J. J., & Hagerman, E. (2008). Spark: The revolutionary new science of exercise and the brain. New York, NY: Little, Brown, and Co.
Reiff, C., Marlatt, K., & Dengal, D. R. (2012). Different in caloric expenditure in sitting versus standing desks. Journal of School Health, 9(7), 1009-1011.
Heather is a Professor in the Department of Kinesiology and Health Promotion at the University of Kentucky. She is a former physical education teacher, and co-author of Dynamic Physical Education for Secondary School Children, 8ed. Heather was also the recipient of the NASPE Curriculum and Instruction Young Scholar Award and a AAHPERD Research Consortium Fellow.