Transforming My Classroom & (Hopefully) Engagement

Since we last spoke a few weeks ago, I have continued to make progress in the “launch” phase of my SET Lab research. If you’re just joining along now, you can check out my previous posts on classroom design and engagement in my middle school classroom.

Continuing in the “launch” phase of my research, we have proceeded to collect data through a variety of sources. My students fill out brief student surveys asking them to rate their engagement and interest and write what was on their mind before the timer went off (for some of the offbeat responses I’ve received, see my previous post). Allison, my SET Lab Consultant, continues to push into my class to take field notes and collect behavior data through retrieval maps. And finally, I have been taking checklists of on-task and off-task behavior weekly.

While the means of data collection has stayed the same, one thing has changed since we last spoke- my classroom design! And yes, I am still getting comments from students such as “Ms. Hogan, I didn’t think we were actually doing this!” My students picked their favorite design from the top 3 blueprints and we changed the floor plan based on the results. With student input, we added yoga balls, bean bags, a sports chair, some pillows and comfy mats, and bed raisers to turn one of our desks into standing desk. We even reorganized my materials and repurposed my bulky desk into a comfortable nook. My “cozy” sized classroom now looks SO open and my students are enjoying the seating options and design so much.

My classroom went from looking like this:

To this:

Since changing the design, a few things have stood out to me:

  • My students were so excited for our new set up that they were volunteering their free time after school to help me move the furniture, blow up the yoga balls, bring in the pillows and mats, etc. I even had students volunteer to bring in old furniture for the classroom for us to use! It is clear that giving them more autonomy in the classroom has led to a higher interest and enthusiasm.
  • My students, who have ADHD and/or other learning differences, can take a “lap” during class when they need to refocus or reset- whether it be mentally, physically, or emotionally. Since changing the design, the number of laps my students have asked to take during class has dramatically decreased. In the past two weeks, I have only had 3 students ask for a lap during class.
  • One fear of mine going into this was the longevity of the furniture in a middle school classroom and the students following the expectations set for each type of furniture. In my head, I envisioned popped yoga balls two days in, a messy classroom, and students misusing the new furniture. While it has only been about two weeks, my students have exceeded my expectations. Outside of the occasional reminder to take small bounces on the yoga balls, I am thrilled with the responsibility and care my students have brought into class daily.
  • I have not taken an extensive look at the data recently, but I have noticed that the student surveys, upon a brief look at them, seem to have slightly higher rated scores on concentration. However, it seems much more dependent on the type of activity we are working on (classwork, a hands on lab, project, etc).
  • It should be noted, though, that there seems to be a more noticable change in the results of the students moods are in class while completing the student surveys. When given the options “comfortable,” “apathy,” “anxious,” “excitement,” or “lethargic, ” more students have either chosen comfortable or excited (depending on the activity) more often since the change in design.

I am looking forward to entering the last bit of data collection and to start analyzing data in the coming weeks. To follow my progress as well as the other SET Lab delegates in their action research, check out SetLab by Strategic EdTech or follow the hashtags #educationscientist and #SETlab.