Blog Post

TILE classrooms

The University of Iowa is one of a handful of universities, including MIT, NC State, and the U of Minnesota, to pioneer innovative classroom spaces that use interactive technology to facilitate team-based learning.  The University of Iowa TILE Classrooms (which stand for Transform, Interact, Learn, Engage) are the first classroom spaces of this kind geared specifically toward disciplines in the humanities. 


According to the TILE homepage at the University of Iowa, “TILE spaces increase the interactions among students and help build relationships between instructors and students. Studies have shown that these interactions are crucial to effective teaching and engaged learning.”  The classrooms facilitate communication, collaboration, and community in powerful ways.  One UI instructor commented, “The design of the space sends a message -- this is not business as usual.”


During the recent Imagining Collaboration visit from our colleagues at Vanderbilt, Peter Likarish and I met with several faculty members at the University of Iowa who are developing groundbreaking strategies for using the TILE classrooms in their courses.  Mary E. Campbell (Sociology), Alison Bianchi (Sociology), and Andrew Forbes (Biology), along with Aprille Clark (ITS Services) and Kem Saichaie (Policy in Higher Education), talked with us about strategies for team-based digital learning in the TILE spaces. 


File 1 ( begins with introductions of discussants, and addresses the question of “What is a TILE classroom?”  After describing the physical space (which includes round tables, computers at tables, white boards around the room, and projectors or plasma screens at each table), several instructors agreed that "The most important thing about a tile classroom is you have roundtables with technology at the table,” and that it facilitates peer-to-peer learning. 

File 2 ( addresses ways to plan courses in this unique environment, including daily assignments, group projects, lesson plans, and assessment, along with strategies for team-teaching and including TAs.

File 3 ( delves into group dynamics within collaborative learning, teasing out ways to assemble groups, ideas for handling problematic group dynamics, and team-designed contracts.  One instructor described a two-step quiz, in which students take a quiz alone, and then retake it with their group: "individual grades were a lot lower than the group scores," the professor noted, but the process of retaking the quiz and talking about it together helped students to learn challenging content from each other. 

File 4 ( continues the conversation about group roles and evaluation, transitioning into an exploration of integrating service learning coursework within the TILE classroom.  We see specific examples of group-generated contracts and talk about student reflections on the TILE classroom.


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