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Faculty Members Guide AIC Classroom Design
Larry Gilbert
Winter 2004

Faculty members at Western spend much of their work day either in the classroom or preparing to teach in the classroom. As new classrooms are designed to meet our growing enrollment, it’s therefore critical that faculty input on the design of those classrooms be carefully considered. In order to ensure this input, the Faculty Senate and ATUS cooperated to provide specific faculty input on the design of classrooms for the Academic Instruction Center (currently in the design stage).

A group of faculty representatives appointed by Faculty Senate President James Loucky met with academic planners as the Quality Classroom Committee to provide recommendations to the AIC Steering Committee. Dr. Loucky commented that “The quality of classrooms and instructional areas is critical for optimal learning. Given the vital role faculty play as instructors having a variety of physical and pedagogical needs, faculty need to have a primary voice in such matters. Continuing attention to ensuring quality classrooms is vital, as is giving more priority to shared learning spaces across campus.”

 

 

The Quality Classroom Committee made the following recommendations regarding classroom design for the AIC:

  • Lecture halls should be designed with seating that is curved enough to allow for students to both easily see one another and to form small groups for discussion. The seating area should be wider than it is deep, so that no students are far in the rear of the lecture hall. If possible, seating should be able to be turned to allow for discussion with students behind a given row. Particular attention should be paid to making lecture halls less ‘cavernous’ and more aesthetically and ergonomically pleasing.
  • Flexibility should be the by-word for the design of smaller classrooms. Classrooms should be designed to accommodate the wide variety of teaching styles used by Western’s faculty. In particular, square footage assigned to classrooms needs to be adequate for the re-configuration of seating into varied group configurations (e.g., six dispersed discussion groups of five tablet-arm chairs or five groups of six students at tables and chairs).
  • Seminar size rooms (30 seats or less) should be configured in both tablet-arm and table-chair configurations to allow for faculty choice. Both configurations should allow enough space for the formation of student groups, as mentioned above. Tables should be usable in either a single table configuration or as group tables.
  • Larger classrooms (31 seats up to lecture hall size) should be designed for flexible use of tablet-arm chairs. Although use of tables and chairs is preferred by some faculty, flexible configuration of tables into groups requires too much square footage and therefore detracts from the space available for other classrooms.
  • All classrooms should receive mediation. Lecture halls and classrooms of 40 or more seats should typically receive Level 4 mediation. Seminar rooms and smaller classrooms should typically receive Level 2 or 3 mediation (see the ATUS website at http://west.wwu.edu/atus/classrooms/ for details on classroom mediation levels).
  • The general physical characteristics of all classrooms should conform to current campus standards (i.e., those recently used in the Communications Building). In particular:
    • Classroom acoustics should be carefully attended to, providing for acoustic treatment on walls, quiet doors, carpeting, and windows in doors to prevent constant opening and closing to check occupancy.
    • Lighting controls adequate for media display and for variation of lighting should be provided. Natural light from windows is preferred to interior classrooms with no windows.
    • Marker boards should not be blocked by the two projection screens. The front of each room should be wide enough that at least one and preferably two marker board sections should be available when the main projection screen is being used.
    • Notices should be posted to inform students about the availability of assistive learning devices (e.g., assistive listening). assistive learning devices (e.g., assistive listening).

The Faculty Senate and ATUS plan to continue meetings of the Quality Classroom Committee so that faculty input can be assured for all future classroom construction and renovation. Upcoming projects that will benefit from such faculty input include Bond Hall Renovation, Miller Hall Renovation, and existing classroom renovations planned for the coming biennium.

Please feel free to contact Larry Gilbert, 650-6083 or email larry.gilbert@wwu.edu with your comments about the classroom design process.

 

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