The Ethel Walker School will partner with Steelcase Education to implement personalized learning strategies through Steelcase's Active Learning Center Grant program. Through this grant, Walker's will create an environment for its new engineering curriculum that encourages engagement, collaboration and creativity using Steelcase furniture. The grant is valued at $67,000 and covers the furniture, design, installation and on-site training needed to effectively use the new space.
Along with Walker's, 15 other educational institutions from across the nation, including traditional four-year colleges and universities, a technical and community college, middle and high schools, and even a self-proclaimed "UnSchool," were chosen from among more than 1,000 applicants to receive the 2018 Active Learning Center Grant.
"Outfitting our classroom with Steelcase furniture that is custom-selected to our students' specific needs in engineering will enable them to truly dive into the process of hands-on problem-solving and collaboration," says Dr. Emma Mitchell, co-teacher in Walker's engineering course and a physics faculty member. "The flexibility this new furniture offers will allow us to quickly adapt our classroom layout to facilitate students' brainstorming sessions with their teams and allow their prototype designs to come to life."
Walker's will receive the Active Learning Center Classroom 3 which is designed to create a makerspace that encourages exploration and problem solving. This new classroom design has clear zones to support different activities that may happen concurrently, from collaboration, to independent reading, to more formal instructor lectures. The versatile space engages students where they are – not where traditional classroom structures force them to be.
"The furniture is different from anything else on our campus," adds Leslie Goff, co-teacher in the engineering course and a computer science faculty member. "With our ability to change the setup of our classroom, the learning path is not forced into what can be done in a fixed learning space but rather the furniture will support a path we want to take. It will be empowering for our girls to change their space to meet their learning style."
With research pointing to the benefits of active learning pedagogies, Walker's is poised to improve measurable outcomes for its students, including levels of attention and engagement and potentially even test scores. As part of this partnership with Steelcase Education, Walker's will conduct research on engaged learning experiences by studying how the new furniture will impact student engagement versus a traditional classroom environment in addition to employing research on workplace organizational methods that focus on maintaining one's work area in a state where work can be done most efficiently.
"We are excited to learn from Walker's innovative and enthusiastic instructors," said Marisa Sergnese, training and professional development leader at Steelcase Education. "As we share with these faculty members best practices for incorporating the active learning environment into their curriculum, their insights will also inform our research, future products and strategic development to better the educational experience."
Grant recipients will have the opportunity to participate in an annual symposium with all awarded schools to share insights and best practices. Over the two-year program, Steelcase Education and the schools will partner together to conduct assessments and research on the impact of the newly designed space. The Steelcase Education learning environment will be installed beginning summer 2018 by Red Thread, a local Steelcase dealer.
As lifelong learners, Steelcase Education aims to make a difference in education. For students, educators and designers, the organization creates the most effective, rewarding and inspiring learning spaces. As a dedicated group within Steelcase exclusively focused on education, it brings evidence-based design, technology and innovative solutions to education environments, wherever learning happens.