Research Executive Summary

Ord7_triakis_triang_tilThe Geometry of Learning

What is it?  The Geometry of Learning is a research framework designed to construct a large set of broad and deep knowledge about classroom learning spaces at Oregon State University (OSU).

What is the purpose?  We are investigating whether and how physical characteristics of classrooms correlate to learning outcomes and teaching practices.

Why does it matter?  Prior research shows that characteristics and conditions in classrooms do correlate to learning outcomes.  If we identify these factors in OSU classrooms, we may plan to optimize the conditions for student success.  Evidence-based findings about classroom values and learning will inform OSU’s ongoing investment in classroom redesign.


What is being measured?  Factors potentially related to student success.
– Student daily seat locations.
– Student learning outcomes (e.g. clicker responses, course grade percentile, GPA).
– Student attitudes and self-reported conditions (e.g. qualitative survey).
– Classroom values (e.g. light, sound, angle of vision, proximity to instructor, mobility).
– Validation of clicker method of seat location.

How is it being accomplished?  Nearly than 10,000 students in 50 participating class sections taught by 15 instructors from across the curriculum have consented to enter their seat locations at the start of each class session using clickers.  A program of structured interviews with instructors, Tales from the Learning Circle, will constellate methods and experiences about innovative classrooms such as the LINC round rooms.

Who is involved?  An interdisciplinary research team of 16 academics and professionals from several OSU departments as well as Boora Architects and Turning Technologies.  The entire NMC498 Capstone class is produced projects within this study.  Jon Dorbolo is the Principle Investigator and reports results to the Provost, Vice Provost of Academic Affairs, Vice Provost of Information Services, and the Director of Academic Technology.

When will there be results?  The six terms of data collection concludes in S16 and analysis will be underway in U16 with anticipated findings for publication in F16.

How is it funded?  OSU Academic Affairs provided $120,000 over two years to support the research project.  The funds are managed by the Center for Teaching and Learning.  Academic Technology provides in-kind support via .15fte of the PI salary, time for the Data Manager, .50 Data Analyst, time from a DBA to construct the data base, support from Classroom Technology, and incidental costs.

What comes next?  General purpose analyses will be completed to support hypothesis-driven analysis strategies lead by research team individuals.  Key findings will be reported to OSU leadership and the community, especially students.  Academic publications and conference presentations will follow.  Findings will guide new research questions which will be developed as proposals to external funding sources.  Inter-institutional collaborations will be explored as well as options to establish an Institute for Learning Space Innovation to carry on this research.


2015, Jon Dorbolo


One thought on “Research Executive Summary

  1. I predict that, to get useful answers to your questions, you’ll either need to specify some things about the faculty, students, and course, or look across a very large variety and number of cases, hoping that the other variables even out. I’m guessing that the influences of space design are, generally, much weaker than other variables influencing student behavior. Here’s a reference about the impact of teaching strategy on student behavior:

    Trigwell, K., Prosser, M., & Waterhouse, F. (1999). Relations between teachers’ approaches to teaching and students’ approaches to learning. Higher Education, 37(1), 57-70. doi:


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