Does size matter?
And then there's Science 1, the cavernous lecture hall they assigned me this semester for the senior seminar. It's not exactly the kind of space you would imagine for a seminar purposefully limited in size and usually taking place around a large conference table. Nevertheless, that's where I am this semester.
The rhetoric of Science 1 is completely wrong: the students sit on a series of rising tiers, the professor is down in a pit., and all of the techno-pedagogi-gadgetry is splayed across the large front wall. The room screams that the most important thing is what's on stage; the least is the learner sitting in the audience. It's the perfect setting for a production of Euripides, but the worst imaginable for promoting active student engagement. The room asks students to sit back in the dimly lit auditorium, yawn and mutter, "Okay, teacher boy, start dancing."
I could request a change of classroom, but for some reason I've taken Science 1 as a kind of challenge . If I can make the seminar work in this room, I can make it work anywhere. So I'm going to put to the test the theory that classrooms matter. I secretly suspect that they don't matter as much as we think, or that they have only a limited effect. After all, people around the world learn in all kinds of inhospitable settings. One thinks of schools in poor tropical countries: open to the elements on all sides, un-air-conditioned and--horror of horrors--with no LCD projector or Internet access. Let's face it: people were learning long before there were classrooms.