Oregon Tech’s Commission on College Teaching has been awarded an Active Learning Center grant by Steelcase Education. This grant will allow the university to advance its mission of hands-on education by partnering with Steelcase to design and study a space that supports innovations in pedagogy and student engagement. Steelcase Education is focused on helping schools create effective, rewarding and inspiring active learning environments to meet the evolving needs of students and educators. Steelcase has developed this grant to partner with schools and universities to learn, document and disseminate how spaces can support learning.

Oregon Tech’s Commission on College Teaching (CCT) is a committee of faculty and staff that support excellence in teaching. Over the past several years, this group has developed an annual teaching conference, a weeklong Excellence in Teaching workshop, new faculty training and more. CCT has also supported the modification of classroom spaces to support student learning and to meet faculty preferences. This grant will support CCT’s current work and advance Oregon Tech’s mission which focuses on hands-on education and excellence in teaching.

ALC 2018
The new Active Learning Center (ALC) at Oregon Tech will include a complete redesign of a classroom to promote student collaboration and engagement. Starting in the fall of 2018, CCT will select instructors who will be utilizing team-based pedagogy to teach in the ALC. Over the next two years, CCT will study the effects of the environment on teamwork, as well as faculty and student engagement.

CCT member, professor Sharon Beaudry, describes how this will advance the hands-on learning mission of Oregon Tech from the faculty perspective. “The Active Learning Center will allow Oregon Tech faculty to push the boundaries of teaching, giving faculty the opportunity to teach in a full-scale nontraditional classroom. This means that faculty using this space will move away from the conventional “sage of the stage” model that focuses on lecture-based teaching, to a “guide on the side” model where learning occurs through designed activities and team interactions. This space will support many faculty at Oregon Tech who have been trained and are already using innovative teaching methods.”

Oregon Tech Provost, Dr. Gary Kuleck, explains the effect of this grant on students. “The ALC will have a profound impact on students’ experience of active learning, curricular development utilizing the ALC, and faculty professional development in acquiring skills and experience in implementing active and project-based learning into their curricula. The development of this new pedagogically-focused space aligns with our student learning centered mission and will serve as both an incubator for the development of best practices, as well as an incredible student-centered resource that will foster the collaborative, team-oriented interdisciplinary skill building that will enhance our graduates’ capacity to succeed and lead in the workforce of the future, regardless of discipline. Oregon Tech is poised to take our student educational experience to the next level with the development of the Essential Studies Synthesis Experience (ESSE) and other innovative pedagogies, with the ALC serving as the catalyst to accelerate that growth.”

During the last four years, Steelcase Education has awarded 56 Active Learning Center Grants to schools, colleges and universities in North America. This grant has grown in popularity and become highly competitive. During the 2018 grant cycle, 1037 applicants yielded only 16 awards. Oregon Tech finds itself in good company as Steelcase recipients include Virginia Tech, Cal Poly Pomona and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.