Leveraging Learning Spaces Seminar

Learning spaces and the bodies that inhabit them exert powerful influences on learning. How can instructors make intentional interventions to their pedagogical practices, classrooms, and syllabi to better address the physical context of learning? This novel seminar from CTL will help participants explore embodied cognition, sensory learning, and relationships between physical health, pedagogical context, and learning outcomes. Due to space constraints, participation in this seminar is by application only.

Teaching Development Program logoThis seminar counts towards completion of the Advanced Track of CTL’s Teaching Development Program (TDP) for graduate students.


Current Columbia University graduate students and postdocs who are interested in…

  • Exploring the interplay of space and learning
  • Interested in understanding relationships between sensory input, physical activity, and learning
  • Expanding definitions of learning spaces


The Leveraging Learning Spaces Seminar will meet in-person in 212 Butler Library from 10:10 am – 12:00 pm on the following Mondays:  March 25, April 1, April 8, April 15, and April 22. 

Seminar description

The Leveraging Learning Spaces Seminar explores how instructors can make intentional interventions to their pedagogical practices, classrooms, and syllabi to foster student learning and engagement (Hrach, 2021). Over the course of four sessions, participants will:

  • Explore how the body affects learning by discussing concepts such as embodied cognition, sensory learning, and the relationship between physical health, context, and learning outcomes.
  • Observe and critically reflect on the ways in which the design and use of learning spaces can support–or hinder–pedagogical goals and interventions and identify strategies to engage or interrupt what Monahan (2005) terms the “built pedagogy” of a learning environment.
  • Consider possibilities and resources for learning beyond the classroom; and articulate a range of strategies to employ and advocate change-oriented practices in their future teaching assignments.

Seminar activities will help participants to experience as well as reflect on the physical context of learning; these activities including individual exercises, group discussions, and focused observations. As they work through these activities, participants will articulate dimensions of a pedagogical practice that is both emplaced (i.e., one that recognizes, leverages, and intervenes in the physical setting of learning) and embodied (i.e., one that is responsive and sensitive to the physical and sensorial contexts of cognition). Each participant will develop an original ‘reconfiguration’ plan that can be incorporated into future teaching.


  • Hrach, S. (2021). Minding Bodies: How Physical Space, Senaation, and Movement Affect Learning. Morgantown: West Virginia University Press.
  • Monahan, T. (2002). Flexible space & built pedagogy: Emerging IT embodiments. Inventio, 4(1), 1-19.
Session 1: Introduction to the Seminar + Engaging the Body, Mind, and Near Environment
Session 2 : Object Lessons: Teaching (and Learning) With Objects
Session 3: Pedagogical, Social, and Spatial 'Hacks' for Classrooms and Other Learning Spaces
Session 4: Thinking Beyond the Classroom: The Campus and Beyond
Session 5: Leveraging Learning Spaces + Bringing it All Together


This seminar is designed and run by Caitlin DeClercq, Senior Assistant Director of Graduate Student Programs and Services at the CTL. Email CTLgrads@columbia.edu with any questions about this seminar.