Why has Mason invested in these spaces for students?
A core value at Mason is that our students come first – our top priority is to provide students with a transformational learning experience that helps students grow as individuals, scholars, and professionals (George Mason University Strategic Plan).
Our new classroom spaces are informed by principles for good practice in undergraduate education (Chickering & Gamson, 1987). That is, these classrooms encourage active learning, faculty and student interaction, and opportunities for students to learn from each other.
We also know that a great deal of student learning happens outside the classroom. For this reason, we are investing in informal learning spaces, those spaces where students can meet up with their peers to collaborate on projects, engage in creative and scholarly exploration, and connect with faculty outside the classroom.
How is learning in these spaces different? What does my professor expect me to do in these rooms?
In these classrooms, students are asked to take responsibility for their learning in dynamic and creative ways, working with peers to identify and articulate key questions, engage in scholarly and creative inquiry, and solve complex problems. As learners in one of Mason’s signature learning spaces, students should expect to
- Take initiative in class, whether participating in individual or group activities;
- Be prepared to explain and teach core concepts and ideas to their peers;
- Share their thinking and learning processes with the class;
- Take risks as they think about complex issues and work to solve problems;
- Be held accountable for coming to class having viewed/read all assigned activities for a given day;
- Develop a strong network and community to support their learning; and
- Ask questions – of themselves, of their peers, and of their instructors – that deepen collective understanding about a given topic.
How do these spaces prepare me for professional success?
Engaging in team-based, active learning is an important part of cultivating the knowledge, skills, and abilities that prepare students for professional success. Research consistently shows that potential employers prioritize proficiency in 1) written and oral communication, 2) teamwork skills, 3) ethical decision making, 4) critical thinking, and 5) the ability to apply knowledge in real-world settings. Moreover, employers continue to strongly endorse an emphasis on applied learning projects as a critical strategy for developing, practicing, and strengthening these abilities (Hart Research Associates. 2015. Falling Short? College Learning and Career Success. Washington, DC: Association of American Colleges and Universities).
Want to know more?
Check out our video that captures faculty and student experiences teaching and learning in our Large Active Learning Classroom. While this room offers enhanced technology features, many of the faculty and student experiences captured here are relevant for all of our signature learning spaces. You can also find out more about Mason’s signature learning spaces that have been designed to support student learning and success.