Learning Studio Kicks Off at GHS

Math teacher Alison Strzepek and special education teacher Sue Kornguth reorganized Guilford High School room 203 last week to accommodate a math exam. The room is the school's Learning Studio Research Project test room, intended to help the school find a more ideal classroom setup.
Math teacher Alison Strzepek and special education teacher Sue Kornguth reorganized Guilford High School room 203 last week to accommodate a math exam. The room is the school's Learning Studio Research Project test room, intended to help the school find a more ideal classroom setup. Photo by Kelly Smith/The Guilford Courier Buy Photo

Guilford High School students in room 203 are experiencing a more collaborative, flexible workspace. The classroom underwent a complete facelift in order to create a more efficient area for students to get the best educational experience-and serve as a test lab for what might work in future classrooms.

"We're hoping to find out what supports learning and what might not support learning, so that we can be informed decision makers as a result," said Assistant Superintendent of Schools Anne Keene. "We want to see if it really does work and what do we like about it. We've already started to make some adjustments to the room."

Working in collaboration with Herman Miller, Inc., the school is studying the impact of teaching and learning by giving the math classroom a complete transformation. The project started out under the banner the Learning Studio Research Project. Keene said administrators studied for a whole semester a variety of topics, including the effects of lighting on learning and the benefits of providing shared learning spaces among students.

From painting the walls, changing the lighting, and providing new, movable furniture, administrators are looking forward to learning what kind of impact this room has.

One of the biggest benefits of the revamped room is the movable furniture, making it easy for teachers to reorganize the room in a manner that best benefits the teaching style and lesson of the day.

"A lot more collaborative work and a lot more flexibility-that's one of the key things of the space. It can be reconstructed by the kinds of learning tasks that the students are working on, so if they're doing a discussion it may look very different than if they're doing a project or if they're doing some individual problem solving or pair work," Keene said. "Depending on the task it could be rearranged in just a matter of seconds."

Math teacher Alison Strzepek and special education teacher Sue Kornguth, who assists Strzepek in her math classroom, enjoy the new room's renovations.

"I really like it. It's nice to have comfortable furniture and more space in the classroom for both the students and teachers. The space is clean and not so cluttered," Kornguth said.

About 90 students, from freshmen to seniors, are participating in the study; six periods are scheduled in that classroom each day. Keene said they're hoping to learn if other teachers in the building would like to use the room for a particular lesson so they can have that same experience.

The Learning Studio Research Project will extend across two semesters, wrapping up in the fall of the new school year. Keene said that although they are taking surveys periodically throughout the semesters, the report won't be compiled until January 2013.

Keene also is hoping they can use this study as a basis for the new high school, so the school is providing the Guilford High School Building Committee and Tai Soo Kim Partners with a new, positive approach on designing the new classrooms.

As far as feed back from the students, Kornguth said, "It has been nothing but overwhelmingly positive."

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