The SCALE-UP Learning Environment

Recently I attended a presentation by Bob Beichner a Physics Professor from North Carolina State University, where he discussed how he transformed his class into the SCALE-UP (Student-Centered Active Learning Environment with Upside-down Pedagogies) learning environment. Dr. Beichner  is one of the main pioneers in developing this type of learning environment. The SCALE-UP model is designed to facilitate active, collaborative learning in a studio-like setting. The spaces are extremely important for this type of learning environment and are designed to facilitate multiple interactions between teams of students who work on short tasks.

The concept is that student groups are given something interesting to investigate. The teams work on “tangibles” (hands-on measurements or observations) and “ponderables” (interesting, complex problems), while the instructor is free to walk around the classroom asking questions, sending one team to help another, or asking comparative questions of the groups. No separate lab space is required for these SCALE-UP courses and the lectures actually become class-wide discussions. Beichner  discussed how the groups are carefully structured and how they give students many opportunities to interact. Three teams (labelled a, b, and c) sit at each 7′ round table and have white boards nearby if needed. Additionally each team has a laptop in case they need web access.