If someone asked you to describe what a college classroom looked like, what would you say? My mind pictures an older classroom with tile flooring and desks with one armrest lined up in rows. There’s probably a large table at the front of the room with a computer, and a screen that can be pulled down if needed with a chalkboard behind it. Pretty typical, right? Well, let’s think creatively about how classroom spaces in higher education settings can be converted to foster more active learning.
In a previous blog, I talked about dynamic classrooms, which aim to increase movement in the classroom and decrease sedentariness. We know sedentary behavior declines when dynamic classrooms are adopted (e.g., standing desks, stability balls, spring seat active stools), thus, leading to more energy expenditure.
So how can we accomplish this as instructors in post-secondary institutions?
3 Tips to Decrease Sedentary Behavior
1. Change the environment with active furniture
One obvious answer is to purchase equipment to change the environment. There are tons of options here, if you have the funds. For instance, there are seat cushions, pedal desks, standing desks, and wobble chairs, among others. I suggest starting small. Purchase one or two of each item first to see what students are drawn to. Challenge them to sit somewhere different each day so everyone can try out all the different pieces.
2. Change up your teaching style
Another option is to change up your teaching style and/or schedule each day. Instead of utilizing a teacher-centered approach, try a more student-centered approach, which requires more input and communication or discussion among the students during class.
As you incorporate this style, consider different seating arrangements within the space you have. Have students sit in pods for some activities. Or move them from their “home” seat to their group seat and then back again, forcing them to move within your 50-minute lesson.
Additionally, incorporate activities within your lecture that require them to move. Perhaps present some statistics and have them move to different corners of the room based on which one they believe is correct. Or have them stand up or face a certain direction if they know an answer. They can move to one side of the room or the other if they agree/disagree with an opinion statement.
The possibilities here are endless. It’s just getting the students to move a bit. Note that they don’t have to do vigorous activity like jumping jacks or push-ups, as this probably won’t work with adults.
3. Incorporate fidget busters
Finally, something else to consider, which won’t necessarily increase heart rate is fidgets. Most people tend to gravitate towards their phones if they are bored and/or need a distraction. Providing “fidgets,” objects that help individuals self-regulate their attention and are intended to allow them to actively listen, might be a way for students to avoid the desire to get off task with phones and focus on your message.
Fidgets range from stress balls to rubber band balls to silly putty to stretchy objects to smooth stones. Many presenters will provide fidgets during their professional development days to help maintain participant attention. The same can be done for college students.
Share your higher education active classroom ideas with us today!
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.
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.