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In a traditional general chemistry recitation the professor stands in front of the room solving problems on the white board while students watch and take notes.

But new active learning classrooms designed to allow students to work together in groups and equipped with the latest technology are turning that teaching model on its head.

“We have students work together to solve the problems themselves,’’ said Darrin York, a professor who is working to adapt the chemistry course to a different way of teaching  made possible by the new spaces at Rutgers.

“In a traditional classroom students can watch you solve a problem on the board, and even if you think you have the most elegant way of explaining something and the students can follow what you are doing, if they don’t do it themselves, they can get to the same problem and not know how to start,’’ York said.

Rutgers–New Brunswick introduced three new active learning classrooms this fall – two in the new academic building on the College Avenue Campus and one in Tillett Hall on the Livingston Campus – as part of a five-year technology master plan to upgrade instructional spaces, said Paul Hammond, assistant vice chancellor for technology and instruction.

The active learning classrooms are state-of-the-art versions of similar spaces that were pioneered at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and replicated at major universities across the country. They are designed based on research that shows students learn better by solving problems in collaboration with their peers, facilitated by their professors, Hammond said.

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