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Jan 26, 2015 02:47 PM EST

'Walking Seminars' Improves Classroom Engagement

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Walking classrooms are not just better students' physical health, but for classroom engagement, according to a recent study from the KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden.

What began in a response to a physical activity challenge for the computer science faculty at KTH has become a study in how education and fitness can be combined to improve both physical well-being, and classroom discussions.

Lecturer Olle Bälter improvised his "walking seminar" in media technology at KTH during the spring of 2014, in response to a competition in which staff were recording the number of hours they and their students spent sitting, as opposed to being active.

Bälter said he immediately began to see results after he took his group of 10 students for a stroll through a wooded park near the Stockholm campus.

"Students feel freer to talk when they are outdoors than when they are in the classroom," Bälter said.

His experience seemed consistent with a paper that he cites as an inspiration -- a Stanford University study linking creativity with physical activity.

Now Bälter and his colleagues are adding their experience to the body of knowledge supporting more activity in education. In an article presented at the Lund Institute of Technology eighth pedagogical inspiration conference in December, Bälter and coauthors Björn Hedin and Helena Tobiasson reported that a significant majority of the students surveyed preferred the walk seminars over traditional seminars.

Notably, 21 of 23 students surveyed said that after the workshops they felt better than after typical, sedentary seminars; and no one thought they felt worse. Furthermore, 17 of the 23 students believed that communication was better.

"It is noticeable how much easier it is for individual students to express their views on these walking seminars, particularly when the class is split into smaller groups," Bälter added.

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