Industry Grant Funds New Active Learning Classroom

UConn was among 16 educational institutions chosen to receive the 2018 Steelcase Active Learning Center Grant from a pool of well over 1,000 applicants.

An example of an active classroom at Harrisburg Community College (Steelcase photo)

An example of an active classroom at Harrisburg Community College (Steelcase photo)

UConn will partner with Steelcase Education to implement flexible learning strategies through the Active Learning Center Grant program, in its fourth annual year. Through this grant, the UConn First-Year Writing Program (FYW) will further support both teachers and students by creating a learning and composing environment that encourages engagement, collaboration, and creativity.

“We are so excited to be given the opportunity to collaborate with Steelcase Education,” says Brenda Brueggemann, Aetna Chair of Writing and director of First-Year Writing, and grant applicant. “The First-Year Writing Program at UConn is dedicated to challenging students to become adroit thinkers and writers, engaging them in active learning curriculum, fostering critical thinking and teamwork skills, and thus, improving student success in writing and composition overall. We look forward to further development of, and research about, these goals with the help of Steelcase Education and the Active Learning Center.”

“The Steelcase Active Learning Center will offer us such a great opportunity to introduce flexible learning and Writing Across Technology (WAT) as part of our FYW course design,” adds Lisa Blansett, associate director of First-Year Writing and fellow grant applicant.

The UConn First-Year Writing Program will receive the Active Learning Center Classroom Model 4, which delivers a range of learning and collaborative options to suit different learning activities and teaching methods:  discussion mode, project mode, and group mode. With a flexible room arrangement and smart tech support, first-year writing students at UConn will develop new literacies, learn adaptable skills, and adopt agile processes. The new active learning center will also give FYW instructors the ability to teach with a wide variety of strategies.

The grant is valued at approximately $67,000 per classroom and covers the furniture, design, installation, and on-site training from Steelcase about effective use of the new space. The Steelcase Active Learning Classroom will be ready for Fall 2018 classes and the First-Year Writing Program expects to pilot approximately 10 writing classes in that space.  The Steelcase Education learning environment will be installed beginning summer 2018 at UConn by Red Thread.

Engaged classroom research over the impact and outcomes of writing instruction related to the new classroom will also take place. With research pointing to the benefits of active learning pedagogies, the UConn First-Year Writing Program is poised to improve measurable outcomes for its students, including levels of creative and critical engagement.  As part of this partnership with Steelcase Education, UConn First-Year Writing will conduct research on the impact a flexible learning space will have on all students’ access to learning as well as on the projects they produce, which will range from written essays, to curated collections of sound and image from community spaces, to investigative podcasts, to documentary video.

“We are excited to learn from the UConn First-Year Writing Program’s innovative and enthusiastic instructors,” says Marisa Sergnese, training and professional development leader at Steelcase Education. “As we share with these instructors best practices for incorporating the active learning environment into their curriculum, their insights will also inform our research, future products, and strategic development to better the educational experience.”

In addition to installing new classrooms, Steelcase will provide training on the uses of the technology and furniture in the new spaces. The recipients will have the opportunity to participate in an annual symposium with all awarded schools to share insights and best practices. Over the two-year program, Steelcase Education and the schools will partner together to conduct assessments and research on the impact of the newly designed space. Research from schools included in the first cycle of grant recipients has shown the active learning classroom’s impact on student and instructor metrics, including:

  • Enhanced collaboration and team-based learning;
  • Drove student engagement and participation; and
  • Supported instructor-led changes in pedagogy.

Along with UConn’s FYW Program, 15 other educational institutions were chosen to receive the 2018 Steelcase Active Learning Center Grant from a pool of well over 1,000 applicants. This year’s grant recipients represent a variety of institution types and learning models, all showing a commitment to innovation and improving student outcomes.  The UConn First-Year Writing Program is the first higher education institution to win the grant in Connecticut.


For more information on the Active Learning Center Grant program, visit the Steelcase Education website.