Students Bring Curriculum Lab into 21st Century Education Space

By Caitlin Burns | February 19, 2019

Student writes suggestion on window of Curriculum Lab

At the back of Landman Library’s first floor, in a room with windows covered in multicolored writing, lies an Arcadia “best-kept secret”— the Curriculum Lab, a space providing Education students with teaching resources.

Students in the Education 411 class, “Designing Learning Environments,” welcomed nearly 70 people to the open house event on Dec. 8, which they organized as their final presentation for the course. The students had spent the semester furthering the redevelopment of the Curriculum Lab, which had previously started with Education 411 classes in 2014 and 2016.

“Each class has taken on an iteration of the [Curriculum Lab],” said Dr. Jodi Bornstein, associate professor of Education, about how students in Education 411 focus on theories about how space impacts learning and serves as the “third teacher” in the classroom.  The focus of the Fall 2018 Ed 411 coursework was to use project-based learning to apply these theories and focus on the assigned guiding question: “How to design the space to increase engagement and promote a collaborative environment.”

Dr. Bornstein and Melissa Correll, librarian for Education, collaborated with students to reimagine and redesign the lab in order to develop an integrated project-based learning experience, which asks students to devote sustained attention to a real-world challenge.

“Students have been redeveloping this space since 2014, when it was an unwelcoming space with ripped chairs, broken toys, and out-of date resources,” said Dr. Bornstein. As such, class inquiries in the past centered on improving the lab’s physical space and collection. Students created blueprints of what they wanted to achieve, removed excess furniture, reorganized the structure, and then presented their work to the deans of the School of Education and Landman Library. They secured funding from the deans for classroom technology that enables students to practice on equipment they’ll find when they begin teaching, such as a Smart Board.

While the Fall 2018 class continued to focus on improving the physical space, they extended their inquiry into focusing on engagement in, and with, the lab. Four guiding questions led their work: How do we design a curriculum lab that makes people want to use it and matches the curriculum lab mission statement? What are some ways we can increase and support engagement with the materials in the curriculum lab? How do we leverage the Curriculum Lab space to encourage professional learning communities? How do we sustain this work beyond this semester?

To start, students designed a questionnaire and interest survey that they sent to all School of Education students, staff, and faculty. They received over 100 responses, and considered the feedback as they worked on engagement strategies. Some of their work included replacing signs to be more directive, creating “shelf talkers” that help point out favorite books, designing a “Starbooks” display focusing on themed book concepts, and making the windows a work space by purchasing specialty markers for glass. Additionally, they added a moveable whiteboard.

“It was cool to see the space transform,” said Jarred Zelenski ’19, a History major with a minor in Secondary Education who was one of the students in the Fall 2018 class. “After this course, I’ve been thinking about how I can make a space more inviting to my future students. I’d like to do non-traditional seating, and have a space that’s bright and open. Make it a space where students want to come.”

Work will continue when the class is next offered. Until then, the Curriculum Lab Advisory Group, which is made up of students from the previous class, as well as School of Education students and faculty, will continue to develop ideas for work that needs to be done. Some ideas include offering teaching workshops, professional development opportunities, and creating more digital tools.

Correll and Dr. Bornstein have published one article on the project in Pennsylvania Libraries: Research & Practice and will present on this work at the Partners for Connections in Education Conference, on April 25 in Cape May, N.J.

For more information on the lab or the advisory group, contact Correll or Dr. Bornstein.