Student-centered spaces: TILE classrooms support team-based learning, interaction
On a late September day in Pilar Marcé’s Spanish for Business course, small groups of students cluster around laptop computers, scanning websites for information about products being marketed to Spanish-speaking customers.
They scroll and click and talk and point as they uncover information about each product, to whom it’s being sold, how it’s being marketed, and more. They discuss and record their answers to the assignment as Marcé, a lecturer in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese, walks around the room, checking in on groups and answering questions.
When everyone is done, each group presents its findings by projecting images from its laptop onto a large screen at the front of the room.
The students are part of a class being taught in one of the University of Iowa’s new TILE (Transform, Interact, Learn, Engage) classrooms. These rooms, outfitted with round tables, rolling chairs, and laptop computers; projectors or plasma screens; and large dry erase boards, are designed to facilitate active learning as students engage with technology, their instructors, and each other.
“When I taught this lesson in a traditional course, I would pass out sheets of paper with information copied and pasted from a website, and students often worked alone, just writing their answers down on paper,” Marcé says. “Here, we are able to make contact with real life. Students are surfing the web in Spanish. They are reading, writing, looking up vocabulary that they don’t understand, and talking to each other. That is active involvement. It is more lively.”
Iowa currently has four TILE rooms, which are used by instructors teaching courses in subjects ranging from foreign language to engineering to business. Regardless of the subject, the rooms are more “learning studio” than traditional classroom, as they lend themselves to a teaching style that requires active participation by students.
Students say they like the team-based learning format of such classes and appreciate the use of technology.
Preliminary assessments suggest that, on average, students who take a course in this type of environment earn higher grades than if they had taken the same course in a traditional classroom.
Chris Wyman, an associate professor of computer science who teaches in a TILE room, says the unique design makes a big difference in his students’ engagement in class and grasp of the material being taught.
“One of the key features of the TILE room is the ability to get students to talk together and think through problems on their own,” he says. “I am surprised by how often topics that used to provoke complaints about their difficulty end up being developed and discussed independently, on their own, by each group.”
Learn more about TILE and view a video about the rooms online at http://its.uiowa.edu/instruction/tile/.