TEAL classrooms helps students pass classes, but still needs improvement.

Technology-enhanced-active-learning (TEAL) classes are the future of education, according to Ritchie Boyd, from the Center for Faculty Excellence which has paved the way for TEAL classes at Montana State. This semester 25 undergraduate TEAL courses are being taught in algebra, statistics, education, geography and business.

Often called a “flipped class,” students read the lecture material beforehand and do group homework during class. Because most of the classrooms at MSU do not facilitate group work,  over the previous year MSU remodeled two classrooms into specific TEAL classrooms, Gaines 143 and Wilson 1-119.

The classrooms have been designed from very specific research from the University of Minnesota with 5 round tables, 7 ft in diameter. At each table are 9 chairs, and a TV screen is mounted on the wall for each table to display information to the rest of the class. Additionally, two huge screens are at each end of the classroom for teachers, and the walls are flanked with dry erase boards.

Originally based off models from other schools like North Carolina State and University of Minnesota, TEAL classes intrigued MSU as a method of using classroom space more efficiently because TEAL classes have been shown to lower DFW rates (percentage of students who need to retake a class). Last semester 86 percent of students in TEAL sections of STAT 216 passed, compared to the 65 percent who passed in non-TEAL sections.

Yet, some students are less than enthusiastic about these new courses. Katie Messimer, a sophomore in nursing, complains of doing in-class work and not going over it. “It’s hard to know where we’re at; I hate it,” said Messimer.

Keeley Coate, an exercise science sophomore, also echoed these sentiments, “I don’t feel like I’m really taught.” However, Coate said she liked it better than a regular STAT 216 class. “I like the hands-on approach,” she said.

Professors enjoy the fresh approach to teaching.  Diane Cooksey, who teaches spatial science courses, said, “I got tired of lecturing and looking out and seeing blank faces and people falling asleep; students are really engaged with the material … it’s really invigorated my teaching.”

Cooksey did recognize some of the problems with active learning. Some of her students would prefer more lecturing, and it’s harder to get through as much material without lecturing. However, while the breadth may be a struggle, the students “are learning the material more thoroughly.”

While most faculty agree the active-learning part of TEAL is by far the most important, the technology-enhanced portion also plays a role. Having computers and screen access allows students to do immediate research during class.

Cooksey said that having technology available, especially as a spatial sciences teacher is paramount. However, Cooksey also said it takes her students twice as long to do a group activity online as it previously did on paper.

Dr. Lynn Kelting-Gibson, a professor in the education department, who taught a classroom assessment class in a TEAL classroom spring semester, said, “Sometimes I think progress was slower because I was getting used to the technology along with students.” Kelting-Gibson, however, did say she would teach a class in the TEAL classroom again if given the opportunity.

Ultimately, for Associate Provost David Singel, it comes down to success. Education is evolving from tiered excellence to excellence for the masses, and TEAL classes have proven to increase the percentage of students who pass the class. The effect of TEAL classes on other class factions, like A or B students, has yet to be determined.