Piloting Collaborative and Active Learning

“WHERE INNOVATION IS BRUIN,” the catchphrase of the UCLA Center for Education Innovation and Learning in the Sciences (CEILS), also exemplifies the Science and Engineering Library’s approach to reconfiguring its facility in Boelter Hall to better support student and faculty teaching and learning needs. Case in point: Two current pilot projects in which the library is working with CEILS and the Undergraduate Research Center—Sciences.
“We’re using our spaces to foster undergraduate students’ learning skills, while also introducing them to the library’s facilities and research resources,” explained Rikke Ogawa, director of the Louise M. Darling Biomedical Library and the Science and Engineering Library. “These pilot projects support student achievement and also help inform the development of learning environments across campus.”
For one project the library’s research commons houses a collaborative learning center for undergraduates in science, technology, engineering, and math courses. In part of this flexible open space, peer learning assistants trained by CEILS lead workshops and staff drop-in office hours for individuals and small groups. Students not enrolled in the courses targeted by the pilot can still find collaborative workspaces elsewhere in the commons.
“We have 150 learning assistants serving some 5,000 enrolled students in more than fifteen courses,” said Shanna Shaked, CEILS’ senior associate director. “The library is the ideal partner as we together work to enhance student learning experiences in the life and physical sciences.”
While this pilot utilizes the research commons at the library’s north end, another CEILS-sponsored project exploring active learning pedagogy in science instruction employs the learning commons at the library’s south end. This project is led by faculty of the Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, who want to propose redesigns for their own classrooms based on what they learn from the pilot.
Once a week instructors for an upper-division course in atmospheric dynamics and thermodynamics use the commons, which features configurable tables and chairs, a high-tech whiteboard, and other equipment, for the course’s discussion sections. The two discussion sections alternate using the commons with using the traditional classroom, then at the end of the quarter, students will offer feedback about how the two quite different spaces and approaches worked. Popular “homework parties” for the course also take place each Friday afternoon, where students can work with peer learning assistants and each other on assignments.
Through projects like these and many others, the UCLA Library has positioned itself as an essential partner in instruction and undergraduate achievement, while it also reenvisions the library of the future. Donor support plays a key role in renovating Library spaces to accommodate these changing pedagogical needs, and opportunities at many giving levels are available. For more information, contact Stephanie Barlow Kimura, executive director of UCLA Library Development, at 310.206.8551 or sbkimura@library.ucla.edu.