The Project

ClassroomsA-BA problem with Active Learning (AL) Pedagogies and Classrooms is understanding how teacher implementation (orchestration) depends on resources [defined broadly] in the classroom. These extra resources can be difficult for AL teachers to manage. This includes where and how teachers move i.e. …

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ClassroomsA-BA problem with Active Learning (AL) Pedagogies and Classrooms is understanding how teacher implementation (orchestration) depends on resources [defined broadly] in the classroom. These extra resources can be difficult for AL teachers to manage. This includes where and how teachers move i.e. how AL classroom physical design improves/impedes teacher feedback, and why they move i.e. what cues do teachers pay attention to. These cues can be aural, but also visual: what attracts a teacher’s attention?

A logical extension of active learning pedagogies (e.g., Chickering & Gamson, 1987) are active learning classrooms (e.g., the SCALE-UP & TEAL models). Just as the learning locus has shifted from teacher as sage on the stage to teacher facilitator supporting students’ activity (King, 1993), the architecture of classrooms must also change. One can define Active Learning Classrooms (ALCs) as technology-rich collaborative learning environments, which support students’ learning experiences. These innovative spaces are intended to create a student-centered environment that encourages collaboration and communication among learners.

Learning becomes distributed across the physical space because there is no definite “front” to the classroom: the teacher desk is often re-positioned to the center of the room, if it exists at all, and rows of desks are replaced with group tables. As adapting to supporting students’ needs drives the learning agenda, teachers no longer fully control what will happen in the classroom. Teachers must now manage feedback from multiple streams (visual, aural, oral, technological) and adaptively react adaptively. Such work can be characterized as orchestration, the real-time management of activity, along with the management of classroom resources (e.g., Dillenbourg & Jermann, 2010).

As a research topic, orchestration has been gaining much interest in the CSCL community (Dillenbourg, 2013). This moment-to-moment management of the constraints of the classroom ecosystem, coupled with the management of the learning, places greater demands on the teacher than traditional classrooms and traditional instruction. Physical space and layout are important orchestrational considerations (Dillenbourg & Jermann, 2010). Where the teacher is located, what the teacher can access does make a difference to the possible interactions and feedback to learners and forms the focus of this project.

To date, eye trackers have provided a method to document and assess teacher orchestration (Prieto, Sharma & Dillenbourg, 2015). In this method, teachers wear a complicated headpiece which tracks eye movement. It costs a lot both in the financial sense, and, in the natural flow of the teachers involved.

This project aims to build on previous work, to examine of one part of the orchestration puzzle:  how the teacher moves in the learning space, as a function of time, and what attracts their attention.

We have already been looking at a method of tracking teacher position in the classroom using the physics Tracker application and video of the classroom- a very simple method This has given very interesting data but has been difficult to automate which limits its scalability. This project aims to take the basic idea and automate it with an easy to wear scalable technology.

This automated teacher tracker will simply track position in the classroom as a function of time using a tag in the teacher’s pocket. The tag reports to a base unit in the classroom. Secondly, another gadget [behind the ear] will track head orientation in 3D. Together with the position information, the gaze direction of the teacher can be computed. Assumptions are that teachers look at what they are noticing, and that head orientation is a proxy for gaze direction.

The end-goal would be to match this data with video of classrooms and observe how classroom resources e.g. smart boards, whiteboards, and activity design itself can give feedback to teachers. An extension of the project could be to examine where students are looking, potentially as a measure of student engagement.

Some comments from

Project Coordinator: Kevin Lenton, Physics Teacher (Vanier College)

I have been teaching at Vanier College for just over 12 years, and I have previous experience teaching at the University level. I have taught the entire physics college curriculum, including bridging and technology courses. I have been involved in several research projects with Liz Charles and SALTISE: myDALITE, Epistemic Artifacts, Feedback Loops, S4 project, SSHRC College Social Innovation Grant.

Clearly, our whole profession is geared towards helping students to learn. In the physics context, Students have trouble relating motion around them to the physics they learn. All of us have ingrained concepts about how the world works, and often this “common sense” is wrong. One of the goals of physics education is getting students to move beyond their preconceptions to a Newtonian model, where they are constantly aware of the forces operating in the environment. Getting students to notice and to think differently is difficult in any discipline, even when coupled with active learning pedagogies. Active learning pedagogies demand that teachers act and react differently in their new role as coach rather than sage on the stage. This is particularly true for active learning classrooms: designed spaces which promote student interaction in groups.

These rooms can be challenging for teachers to teach/coach in, and sometimes the room design can counter how teachers want to use the room. I have become increasingly interested in how teachers interact with active learning classrooms.

A final note – Although Kevin Lenton is the primary driver of the project, particularly getting the hardware, it is intended to be implemented with other CEGEP teachers in classrooms notably the teachers with whom I interact the most for other projects including Liz CharlesMichael DugdaleNathaniel LasryChris WhittakerYann BrouilletteRhys Adams. In addition, I’ve made contact with Ryan Cooke of IEEE Concordia to help with the electronics.

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Chickering, A. W., & Gamson, Z. F. (1987). Seven principles for good practice in undergraduate education. AAHE bulletin, 3, 7.

Dillenbourg, P. (2013). Design for classroom orchestration. Computers & Education, 69, 485-492.

Dillenbourg, P., & Jermann, P. (2010). Technology for classroom orchestration. In New science of learning (pp. 525-552). Springer New York.

King, A. (1993). From sage on the stage to guide on the side. College teaching, 41(1), 30-35.

Prieto, L. P., Sharma, K., & Dillenbourg, P. (2015). Studying teacher orchestration load in technology-enhanced classrooms. In Design for Teaching and Learning in a Networked World (pp. 268-281). Springer, Cham.