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An Active, Flexible Ecosystem

To fully capitalize on the benefits of active learning, physical space must support and enhance the pedagogies employed in the classroom. Institutions should consider how flexibility and variety work with pedagogy,technology and space to support how learning happens in active learning classrooms.

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Application Ideas

Rethink the Box
Node Classroom
Verb Classroom
media:scape Classroom

Rethink the Box

Rethink the Box

Put Control in the Hands of Students + Instructors

These classrooms  rethink “the box” and move away from the traditional setting of rows of fixed tablet chairs and a lectern. These classrooms engage and inspire by putting control of the learning space in the hands of students and instructors.

  • Here you will find learning spaces that can easily morph from lecture mode to teamwork to group presentation, discussion and back again.
  • Every seat is the best seat, with access to content, other students and instructors who are available to everyone.
  • Technology is integrated, providing democratic access for all.


Node Classroom

Node Classroom

Node Classroom

This classroom features Node on casters with personal worksurfaces, portable Huddleboards and a height-adjustable instructor table for maximum flexibility and comfort.

  • Lightweight Huddleboards are ideal for small group content creation and review. Hang on a workrail or easel for presentation to the class.
  • Instructors can position their adjustable table and stool at any point in the room that’s best for their teaching style or activity at hand.
  • Personal worksurfaces adjust for large and small users and move independently of the seat shell and base.
  • With built-in storage in the base, personal worksurface, swivel seat and casters, Node makes maximum use of every square foot of classroom space.

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Verb Classroom

Verb Classroom

Verb Classroom

Verb is an integrated system of classroom furniture designed to support a variety of learning and teaching styles on demand. Verb classrooms give students and instructors limitless possibilities for learning modes with individual, mobile desks to support focused and collaborative work. Learning is extended to vertical surfaces with the interactive and static whiteboard.

  • The freedom to move and engage means wall protection is required in all active learning settings.
  • Information persistence is supported with wall track at multiple heights for whiteboards
  • Seating that swivels and offers height adjustability supports all user types.
  • The table’s chevron shape supports the individual’s intimate zone, separating “my” space from “your” space.

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media:scape Classroom

media:scape Classroom

media:scape Open image tooltip

media:scape LearnLab

Combining innovative LearnLab design with unique media:scape technology creates the opportunity for three distinct modes of sharing digital content: small team co-creation, group sharing and lecture.

  • LearnLab provides multiple stages where instructors can engage with students.
  • media:scape integrates furniture and technology to let instructors and students share digital information instantly.
  • Small team breakouts occur at the table in the classroom, eliminating the need to move to another location.
  • Face-to-face seating encourages student engagement and team collaboration.
  • A triangular view plane offers students equal visual access to content, no matter where they’re located in the classroom.
media:scape Open image tooltip

media:scape Team Studio

The Team Studio enhances connections between local and remote instructors and students. The sense of connectivity experienced by participants allows for an engaged atmosphere that encourages discovery.

  • HDVC access allows teams in remote locations to connect with host classroom.
  • The whiteboard supports analog co-creation for the local team.
  • Angled tables at stool height give the host classroom easy view of each student.
  • The split table gives students space to collaborate in small groups and quickly rejoin as a larger group.
  • The unique table shapes enhance communication among remote and in-person participants.
media:scape + Cobi in active learning setting Open image tooltip

More ABout Media:Scape

As teaching methods evolve, learning has become more interactive requiring spaces where everyone can see and interact with content at a moment’s notice. Media:scape allows democratic sharing of information in a wide-range of learning spaces.

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Research + Insights

A Multi-Sensory Approach
Physical Space
Collaborative Work
Case Studies



What We Observed

The majority of classrooms in use today were built for traditional, “stand-and-deliver, sit-and-listen” pedagogies in a passive learning setting.

Inflexible layouts and furniture with limited mobility hamper interaction among students, instructors and content; in fact, the environment is the barrier.

Technology access is highly variable from classroom to classroom and often poorly integrated.

Instructors and students cannot easily leverage technology—either built-in or portable – to support problem-based pedagogies and hands-on learning.

Many schools are reconsidering how pedagogy, technology and space can be better integrated for a greater impact on teaching and learning.

What We Heard

“We replaced typical cookbook experiments with guided inquiry exercises that encourage students to think and work as a group rather than follow recipes with predetermined results. These exercises develop skills that better prepare them for future work and give them the tools to help them retain knowledge long after the semester ends.”


“I bring a lot of stuff to class. And I use a lot of it—it’s not the old days, when we would just take notes in a notebook; it’s a multimedia and social experience. There aren’t a lot of classrooms that work for me.”


A Multi-Sensory Approach

A Multi-Sensory Approach

  • Research suggests a multi-sensory approach to teaching and learning increases engagement, promotes deeper participation, maximizes student achievement and elevates the idea that learning is fun.
  • Steelcase research and other investigations suggest that the engagement and interaction of active learning provide a more effective way to learn than passive learning.
  • However, as institutions adopt constructivist learning approaches, they often find themselves limited by density challenges and classroom environments designed for lecture-based instruction.

Physical Space

Physical Space

To fully capitalize on the benefits of active learning, physical space must support and enhance the pedagogies employed in the classroom. Static furniture designed for one-way transmission of information simply cannot support active learning.

Collaborative Work

Collaborative Work

Collaborative work is essential to active learning, suggesting that classroom spaces must be varied and flexible. One-size-fits-all classrooms neglect the modern day needs of educators and students. Different subjects and teaching methods require different mixes of furniture, technology and space. Just as there is a variety of ways in which we learn, there must also be a variety of spaces in which learning occurs.

When focused on active learning, institutions should consider how flexibility and variety work with pedagogy, technology and space to support how learning happens in active learning classrooms.



Movement is key to active learning. When students can move about easily, they are more interactive, collaborative, comfortable and engaged in class. The Verb classroom collection reinvents the table-based classroom, allowing easy movement between lecture-based and team-based modes and providing the tools needed for collaboration and group engagement.

Case Studies

Case Studies

360 magazine clintondale hs rethinking the classroom Open image tooltip
November 5, 2015

Clintondale HS: Rethinking the Classroom

Flipping a school causes teachers to rethink classroom procedures and pedagogies. Since lectures are on video, more class time involves collaborative work between students and teachers, students and peers.
360 magazine making way for making in education Open image tooltip
February 5, 2015

Making Way for Making in Education

The fast-growing maker movement is adding a new twist to concepts about active, hands-on learning.

Design Tips for New Classrooms


  • Design to support fluid transitions among multiple teaching modes: lecture, team project, discussion, etc.
  • Design for peer-to-peer learning.
  • Allow freedom of movement for the instructor, enabling frequent interactions and ongoing assessment.
  • Support the implementation of professional development to increase adoption of new teaching strategies.
  • Set expectations for what an active learning environment looks like— learning is messy, things move.
  • Expose students to how these environments enable, support and allow them to take ownership of their learning.
  • Support individual learning


  • Design for sharing, leveraging both vertical and horizontal surfaces for display; use projection and interactive surfaces.
  • Integrate, use and allow access to BYOD and instructional technology tools and devices.
  • Allow for displayed information to be persistent over time.
  • Ensure thoughtful planning occurs when selecting technology so the tools are used as intended to enhance outcomes.
  • Be intentional about what technologies should be used and how to support pedagogical strategies.
  • Incorporate tools that support synchronous and asynchronous learning and collaboration.
  • Support learning styles with both analog and digital means to co-creat


  • Design for visual and physical access, giving every student the best seat in the house and allowing the instructor and student access to each other.
  • Facilitate social learning by designing spaces where students can easily connect and collaborate.
  • Design to support quick reconfiguration among multiple modes: from lecture to project work, discussion, test taking and back again.
  • Include wall protection for table and chair movement.
  • Support a range of postures to enhance wellbeing.
  • Integrate the design to support and reflect the educational goals and mission of the institution.

Related Products

Node Open image tooltip


The Node school chair is mobile and flexible. It's designed for quick, easy transitions from one teaching mode to the next. With Node, a classroom can transition from lecture mode to team mode and back again, without interruption.
Verb and Node Open image tooltip
Steelcase Learning


Verb™ is an integrated collection of classroom furniture including tables, whiteboards, and instructor lectern and desk stations designed to support a full range of teaching and learning styles.
media:scape Open image tooltip


media:scape integrates technology and furniture to bring people, space and information together for greater collaboration and productivity than ever before.

Additional Resources

Insights + Applications Guide

Students prepare for a future no one can predict and jobs that, in many cases, haven’t been invented yet. Educators are responding to these diverse forces with a refreshing openness, adopting active learning and embracing new technology. Our Insights and Applications Guide provides the latest thinking on classroom design and learning spaces.

View Insights + Applications Guide

360 Magazine: Education Edition

This Education Edition is a compilation of 360 stories that explore design principles, product ideas and applications with the goal of improving student success. The stories demonstrate how new active learning environments improve student engagement and outcomes and help prepare them for success in the creative economy.

Download now

Steelcase Learning

Steelcase Learning is focused on helping schools, colleges and universities create the most effective, rewarding and inspiring active learning environments to meet the evolving needs of students and educators. We have a passion for understanding how learning best takes place and how smarter, active learning spaces can help.

Learn more about Steelcase Learning