WHAT IS THE LEARNING LAB?
The Bok Center’s Learning Lab is a space designed to house and incubate faculty-driven projects related to teaching and learning. This involves designing and building courses, materials, assignments, and activities for faculty, and providing support and space for the students who are encountering these new "learning objects" for the very first time.
Since these new teaching and learning activities often involve unconventional modes of communicating, making, and creating – including data visualization, film-making, public speaking, 3D modeling, virtual reality, sculpture, dance and performance, public service, among many others – the Learning Lab offers a space in which faculty and students can develop their skills in these multiple media with the help of expert staff.
TEACHING AND LEARNING INTERTWINED
Central to the Learning Lab is the sense that teaching and learning are deeply intertwined – that, as Dewey put it,
Teaching and learning are correlative or corresponding processes, as much so as selling and buying. One might as well say he [or she] has sold when no one has bought, as to say that he [or she] has taught when no one has learned. And in the educational transaction, the initiative lies with the learner even more than in commerce it lies with the buyer.
This idea plays itself out in the Learning Lab's work in three key ways:
1. We do not engage in the instructional design process in isolation from learners. Of course, in practice, we engage in one-on-one consultations with faculty as we design learning objects, working with the faculty member's classroom experience as a good source of intuitions on ways students might respond the new idea we're pursuing, but our goal is to as quickly as possible deliver a working prototype to actual learners for feedback.
2. Incubating innovations in teaching and learning involves supporting not only the teachers during the design phase, but supporting both teachers and learners during the first year of the implementation phase as well.
3. If we only know that teaching has happened once we know that students have learned, then the process of assessing students' acquisition of knowledge, skills, and attitudes takes on special – even central – importance. For this reason, the Bok Center's Research and Evaluation Team is central to each Learning Lab project, pursuing the goal not of "judging" or "grading" the professor, but, rather, of assessing the Learning Lab's work in supporting the teachers and learners' activities.
Put simply, experiments in teaching can't happen in a vacuum – they are, simultaneously, experiments in learning, and learners need to be involved and central in the beginning, the middle, and the end.