Active Learning Classrooms

Piloting Active Learning

From 2012 - 2014 ETS partnered with the Office of the Registrar and faculty across campus to pilot an Active Learning Classroom (ALC). The "Test Kitchen", as it was called, was a space for instructors to test the principles of active learning including course pedagogy, teaching techniques, and space requirements with the assistance of instructional support staff. The goal of the project was to better understand how ALCs could be integrated at UC Berkeley.

By Fall 2015, the Office of the Registrar committed to supporting ALCs across campus, and four new General Assignment classrooms became available to campus instructors.

About Active Learning Classrooms

Also referred to as "smart classrooms" or "flexible classrooms," ALC spaces offer a new way to think about the classroom experience.

In many traditional classrooms, the layouts of the room reflect an assumption that lecture is the primary mode of instruction. Other, more interactive modes of teaching can be difficult to attempt.  Barriers include fixed seating and line-of-sight issues posed by installed blackboards, screens, and lecterns. While the installation of A/V-IT in classrooms during the previous decade has enhanced the ability for faculty to integrate computer-based presentations into their teaching, the classroom layout and modes of teaching remain essentially the same.

ALCs are teaching and learning spaces that allow faculty to move their course design beyond the lecture. The room design, flexible furniture, writing surfaces, and technology all combine to support faculty in engaging with their students through collaborative learning activities and more participatory use of media. Active learning classrooms facilitate diverse sizes and groupings of students, creating a flexible and supportive environment for a class to transition seamlessly between a professor's presentation and facilitated student group work. Such rooms enable options for supporting a myriad of teaching and learning arrangements.

Available Classrooms

In Fall 2015, four active learning classrooms were added to the General Assignment classroom pool: Room 110 Barrows (capacity 54), Room 118 Barrows (capacity 30), Room 122 Barrows (capacity 36), and Room 230 Mulford (capacity 30). Each physical space is designed with furniture and technology that are inviting and flexible, providing more substantive opportunities for instructors and students to engage actively in the teaching and learning process.

Requesting Active Learning Classrooms

Scheduling of Active Learning Classrooms (ALC) is a two-step process. Instructors  are asked to submit a brief application and an optional course syllabus for review and approval of priority registration into an ALC, based on pedagogical alignment. After approval, instructors names are sent to the Office of the Registrar for scheduling. For more information and additional resources, visit Active Learning at Berkeley.

Test Kitchen First Year Review

Room 127 Dwinelle Hall was the original "Test Kitchen" or experimental classroom space operated by Educational Technology Services (ETS). Designed as a space for exploring active learning classroom arrangements, the Test Kitchen was retired in 2014 and a comprehensive report on the room's first year experiences is now available. This report covers the initial set-up as well as various teaching and operational aspects of the Test Kitchen. The report also offers detailed observations on various ways in which the Test Kitchen allowed a dozen UC Berkeley instructors to explore innovative teaching practices in either short term or semester-long engagements. This report and subsequent feedback from instructors shaped the campus approach to expanding ALCs to the campus General Assignment Classroom pool.

Active Learning Classrooms at UC Berkeley

Active Learning Video Series