A Radically Flexible Classroom for Project NEXT at Texas Wesleyan University

Giving student ownership of classroom planning is one of the intriguing threads woven through the "Radically Flexible" Classroom story at Texas Wesleyan University. The other thread, equally intriguing, is that the desire for spaces that enable inquiry-based learning emerged from students in a Methods of Teaching History course. Their professor, Elizabeth Alexander, introduces their story as follows:

At Texas Wesleyan University (Fort Worth, TX), Methods of Teaching History (HIS 4330) is a course designed to prepare college history majors for the special challenges they will face as history teachers in secondary school. As part of this course, the students observed in secondary schools (middle and high schools) for 25 hours during the semester. One of the topics that arose in class discussions of their observations was the arrangement of classroom space to facilitate learning. I challenged my class to design an ideal space for history instruction and enter the TWU Project Next competition.

She further grounds her rationale for rethinking what an ideal space in the context of contemporary research on learning, describing how active, social, and experiential learning are all facets of a new direction in history instruction known as inquiry-based learning (sometimes called project-based learning). Inquiry-based learning facilitates student acquisition of domain-specific skills such as evaluating, corroborating, and synthesizing multiple and conflicting historical evidence. Inquiry-based instruction is a student-centered and teacher-guided instructional approach that engages students in investigating problems of the past. Students acquire and analyze information, develop and support propositions, provide solutions, and design products that demonstrate their thinking and make their learning visible.

For more information on the "Radically Flexible" Classroom and Project NEXT at Texas Wesleyan University, please visit their website.