Innovative classroom prepares education majors to be better teachers
Published: September 21, 2023
Author: Dave Bell
In recent weeks, Greenville University education students have watched as one of their former classrooms in the LaDue Education Center underwent a transformation.
No longer does Room 302 look like a traditional classroom with neutral colors, rows of standard desks, and an instructor’s desk in the front. Instead, it offers a variety of seating options, a more inviting color scheme, and a “sensory corner” that provides a space where visiting students who are feeling anxious can calm themselves but still be present in the classroom.
Called the “Experiential Classroom,” Room 302 presents future elementary and special education teachers with two ways to learn. First, the room provides a place where they can practice teaching lessons in front of their peers and their professors. Second, it is a place where area special education students are brought in for an hour each week so the GU students can present lessons to a live audience – again, with their peers and professors looking on.
'It provides realistic experience before they go into the field'
“The purpose of the Experiential Classroom is to provide a place where students in our 300- and 400-level classes can get some realistic experience before they go into the field,” said Crystal Effler-Foles, GU Director of Teacher Education. “By practicing in this classroom, they can be better prepared when they go out to teach in a real classroom.”
Transforming and furnishing the room was made possible by a grant the University received from the Illinois Early Childhood Access Consortium for Equity.
“That grant was created to provide an immersive experience for university students,” Foles said. “We want it to give the impression of walking into a real classroom. That, we feel, will produce better teachers because it gives them realistic experiences while they’re still in college. Plus, it fits perfectly with GU’s focus on immersive learning.”
GU education students gain additional field experience when they volunteer at the Greenville Kindergarten Readiness Program facility during the school year. Foles said that the students will practice their skills in the Experiential Classroom on Mondays and then deliver the lessons to KRP students on Wednesdays.
The realistic classroom experience confirms career choice
Another benefit of exposing education students to realistic classroom experiences throughout their college years, Foles said, is that they can determine if teaching is the right career for them.
“It gives them an accurate view of what teaching will be like,” she said. “It can confirm that they’re on the right track, or it may show them that they’re better suited for something else. Others may decide that they’d be more successful teaching a different age level or subject. We want them to have accurate expectations when they get out in the field, and this new Experiential Classroom does just that.”
The Experiential Classroom also provides an educational model that helps many GU education students learn better.
“The typical educational model calls for students to sit, listen, learn, and then do,” Foles said. “This gives them experience in a realistic classroom setting, which keeps them engaged during the learning process as a student and prepares them to be effective right away when they get into the classroom as a teacher.”