4M Lab introduces new type of learning at Ryerson

This September, Ryerson’s faculty of science unveiled a new physics laboratory in Kerr Hall East, encouraging their students to achieve higher goals in a more modern environment. Named 4M, the acronym stands for modular, multipurpose, modern, and mobile.

The room looks nothing like the other physics labs in Kerr Hall. The combination of the white walls and lighting creates a brightness that makes you squint when entering the room. The lab has two pillars, each circled by four stations with iMac computers. There’s an orange wall to break up the room and make it a more comfortable, unifying space.

“The idea is basically to do two things: to increase the utilization of a very outdated and large space, and secondly, to bring it therefore up-to-date from a pedagogical point of view,” said Ana Pejović-Milić, chair of the department of physics at Ryerson, who envisioned the project.

Before the 4M Lab, KHE 229 was seen as an underutilized space because of its dated infrastructure. Pejović-Milić said that the redesigned room allows different ways for students to engage and is intended for experiential learning because it’s not stationary.

“There is substantial body of evidence showing that if students are engaged into a process of learning rather than just listening to a lecture or to a person … the objectives are more achieved and there is more deep learning,” she said. “So less lecturing, more group work, more interactive, more hands-on.”

The non-stationary bench and furniture can be moved around the room freely. The original plan shows five layout possibilities for the room, but students have been creating even more options since it opened. It can be converted into a space for labs, tutorials, lectures, and meetings.

Since opening in September, the feedback has been positive. Graham Pearson, a 4M lab technologist, said that some students have passed by the lab and commented on how much they liked it.

But for Pejović-Milić, it’s too early to assess its overall success.

The 4M lab serves as a test ground to see if the same model could be applied again and has an impact on the functional planning of the future science building. It’s a way for the department to test different teaching styles in physics.

So far, the new science building is set to have five new labs and has already committed to include two 4M labs.

Featured image courtesy of Michael Kolios