Active University Teaching and Engaged Student Learning: A Mixed Methods Approach

Main Article Content

Celeste A. Wheat
Yan Sun
Jessica C. Wedgworth
Martha M. Hocutt


The purpose of this research was to examine how learning space design and implementation of an active learning pedagogy based on the 5E Instructional Model influence university faculty’s teaching practices and students’ engagement. Faculty Fellows were recruited from a public, medium-sized university in the United States to teach courses, typically taught in a traditional classroom setting, in a new Active Learning Center (ALC) classroom.  The classroom was funded by a Steelcase® Education Active Learning Center Grant that provided innovative and dynamic classroom furnishings and technology that allowed mobility and flexibility for both instructors and students.  Quantitative and qualitative data were collected concurrently in this study.  The quantitative analysis results indicated that the ALC learning experience significantly improved students’ class participation and cognitive attentiveness, but had no effect on improving their meaningful processing of new information.  The qualitative analysis results, while providing new insights into the quantitative findings, revealed the faculty fellows’ changes and weaknesses in teaching practices and the mechanism of the ALC in supporting active learning. Implications of these findings and directions for future research are discussed. 


Download data is not yet available.

Article Details

How to Cite
Wheat, C. A., Sun, Y., Wedgworth, J. C., & Hocutt, M. M. (2018). Active University Teaching and Engaged Student Learning: A Mixed Methods Approach. Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 18(4).
Author Biographies

Celeste A. Wheat, The University of West Alabama

Dr. Celeste A. Wheat is an Assistant Professor of Student Affairs at the University of West Alabama. She also serves as the Director of the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning.

Yan Sun, Mississippi State University

Dr. Yan Sun is an Assistant Professor of Instructional Technology at Mississippi State University.

Jessica C. Wedgworth, University of West Alabama

Dr. Jessica C. Wedgworth is the Director of Research Integrity at the University of West Alabama.

Martha M. Hocutt, University of West Alabama

Dr. Martha M. Hocutt is a Professor of Instructional Technology at the University of West Alabama.


Adedokun, O., Parker, L., Henke, J., & Burgess, W. (2017). Student Perceptions of a 21st Century Learning Space. Journal of Learning Spaces, 6(1). Retrieved from

Baepler, P., & Walker, J.D. (2014). Active learning classrooms and educational alliances: Changing relationships to improve learning. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, 2014 (137), 27-1640. doi: 10.1002/tl.20083

Basye, D., Grant, P., Hausman, S., & Johnston, T. (2015). Get active: Reimagining learning spaces for student success. Eugene, OR and Arlington, VA: International Society for Technology in Education.

Beichner, R. J. (2014). History and evolution of active learning spaces. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, 2014 (137), 9-16. doi: 10.1002/tl.20081

Braxton, J. M., Milem, J. F., & Sullivan, A. S. (2000). The influence of active learning on the college student departure process: Toward a revision of Tinto’s theory. The Journal of Higher Education, 71(5), 569-590. doi. 10.2307/2649260

Brooks, D. C. (2011). Space matters: The impact of formal learning environments on student learning. British Journal of Educational Technology, 42(5). 719-726. doi:10.1111/j.14678535.2010.01098.x

Brooks, D. C. (2012). Space and consequences: The impact of different formal learning spaces on instructor and student behavior. Journal of Learning Spaces, 1(2). Retrieved from

Brooks, D. C., & Solheim, C.A. (2014). Pedagogy matters, too: The impact of adapting teaching approaches to formal learning environments on student learning. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, 2014 (137), 53-61. doi: 10.1002/tl.20085

Brooks, D. C., Walker, J.D., & Baepler, P. (2014). Editors’ notes. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, 2014 (137), 1-7. doi: 10.1002/tl.20080

Bruner, J. (1966). The process of education. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.

Bybee, R. W. (2014). The BSCS 5E instructional model: Personal reflections and contemporary implications. Science and Children, 51(8), 10-13. doi:10.2505/4/sc14_051_08_10

Chickering, A. W., & Gamson, Z. F. (1987). Seven principles for good practice in undergraduate education. AAHE Bulletin, 39(7), 2–7. doi:10.1016/0307-4412(89)90094-0

Creswell, J. W. (2009). Research design: Qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods approaches (3rd ed.). Los Angeles, CA: SAGE Publications Inc.

Daly, C. J. (2011). Faculty learning communities: Addressing the professional development needs of faculty and the learning needs of students. Currents in Teaching and Learning, 4(1), 3-16.

Downe-Wamboldt, B. (1992). Content analysis: method, applications and issues. Health Care for Women International, 13, 313–321.

Elo, S., & Kyngas, H. (2008). The qualitative content analysis process. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 62(1), 107-115.

Falance, T. (2001). Constructivism. In K. L. Medsker & K. M. Holdsworth (Eds.), Models and strategies for training design (pp. 213-233). Silver Spring, MD: International Society for Performance.

Falk, B. (2009). Teaching the way children learn. New York, NY: Teachers College, Columbia University.

Folkins, J. W., Friberg, J. C., & Cesarini, P. A. (2015). University classroom design principles to facilitate learning: The instructor as advocate. Planning for Higher Education Journal, 3(2), 45-62.

Harris, M., & Cullen, R. (2008). Learner-centered leadership: An agenda for action. Innovative Higher Education, 33, 21-28. doi: 10.1007/s10755-007-9059-3

Hodder, I. (1994) The Interpretation of Documents and Material Culture. In: N. K. Denzin and Y. S. Lincoln (eds.), Handbook of Qualitative Research (pp. 393-402). London: Sage.

Hsieh, H. F., & Shannon, S. E. (2005). Three approaches to qualitative content analysis. Qualitative Health Research, 15(9), 77-88. 10.1177/1049732305276687

Jessop, T., Gubby, L., & Smith, A. (2012). Space frontiers for new pedagogies: A tale of constraints and possibilities. Studies in Higher Education, 37(2), 189-202. doi:10.1080/03075079.2010.503270

Keengwe, J. (2015). Handbook of research on educational technology and active learning. Hershey PA: IGI Global.

Kolis, M., Krusack, E., Stombaugh, A., Stow, R., & Brenner, G.H. (2011). Designing learning lessons for the university classroom. Currents in Teaching and Learning, 4(1), 34-42.

Krippendorff, K. (2004). Content Analysis: An introduction to its methodology (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Lumpkin, A., Achen, R. M., & Dodd, R. K., (2015). Student perceptions of active learning. College Student Journal, 49(1), 121-133.

McArthur, J. (2015). Matching Instructors and Spaces of Learning: The impact of classroom space on behavioral, affective and cognitive learning. Journal of Learning Spaces, 4(1). Retrieved from

Michael, J. (2007). Faculty perceptions about barriers to active learning. College Teaching, 55 (2), 42-47. doi:10.3200/ctch.55.2.42-47

Miller, C. J., & Metz, M. J. (2014). A comparison of professional-level faculty and student perceptions of active learning: Its current use, effectiveness, and barriers. Advanced Physical Education, 38, 246-252. doi:10.1152/advan.00014.2014

Montgomery, T. (2008). Space matters: Experiences of managing static formal learning spaces. Active Learning in Higher Education, 9(2), 122–38. doi: 10.1177/1469787408090839

National Aeronautics and Space Administration (n.d). 5Es overview: The 5E instructional model. Retrieved from

O’Leary, M. (2014). Classroom observations: A guide to the effective observation of teaching and learning. London: Routledge.

Park, E. L., & Choi, B. K. (2014). Transformation of classroom spaces: Traditional versus active learning classroom in college. Higher Education, 68, 749-771. doi: 10.1007/s10734-0149742-0

Parsons, C. (2016). Space and consequences: The influence of the roundtable classroom design on student dialogue. Journal of Learning Spaces, 5(2). Retrieved from

Pavlechko, G. M., & Jacobi, K. L. (2014). Faculty development: Precursor to effective student engagement in the higher education learning space. In L. Scott-Webber, J. Branch, P. Bartholomew, & C. Nygaard (Eds), Learning space design in higher education (pp. 169190). Faringdon, Oxfordshire; Libri Publishing.

Peterson, C. I., & Gorman, K. S. (2014). Strategies to address common challenges when teaching in an active learning classroom. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, 2014 (137), 63-70. doi: 10.1002/tl.20086

Piaget, J. (1973). To understand is to invent. New York: Grossman.

Rands, M., & Gansemer-Topf, A. (2017). “The room itself is active:” How classroom design impacts student engagement. Journal of Learning Spaces, 6(1). Retrieved from

Sandelowski, M. (1995) Qualitative analysis: what it is and how to begin? Research in Nursing & Health, 18, 371–375.

Sawers, K., Wicks, D., Mvududu, N., Seeley, L., & Copeland, R. (2016). What Drives Student Engagement: Is it Learning Space, Instructor Behavior or Teaching Philosophy?. Journal of Learning Spaces, 5(2). Retrieved from

Schreiner, L., & Louis, M. (2006, November). Measuring engaged learning in college students: Beyond the borders of NSSE. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Association for the Study of Higher Education, Anaheim, CA.

Sickel, A. J., Witzig, S. B., Vanmali, B. H., & Abell, S. K. (2013). The nature of discourse throughout 5E lessons in a large enrollment college biology course. Research in Science Education, 43(2), 637-665. doi:10.1007/s11165-012-9281-6

Steelcase. (2016). Our innovation legacy began when we received our first patent in 1914. Retrieved from

Strauss, A., & Corbin, J. (1998). Basics of qualitative research (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications.

Sullivan, M. (2015). Maker, tinker, hacker? Active learning spaces in K/12 libraries. Library Media Connection, 33(5).

Umbach, P. D., & Wawrzynski, M. R. (2005). Faculty do matter: The role of college faculty in student learning and engagement. Research in Higher Education, 46(2), 153-184. doi: 10.1007/s11162-004-1598-1

Tanner, K. D. (2010). Order matters: Using the 5E Instructional Model to align teaching with how people learn. CBE—Life Sciences Education, 9, 159-164. doi:10.1187/cbe.10-060082

Williams, N. (2010). Embracing student potential: Creating space for intrinsic motivation in community college developmental reading classes. Language Arts Journal of Michigan, 25(2), 35-43. doi:10.9707/2168-149X.1075