Seminars & Colloquia

Robert Beichner

Alumni Distinguished Professor of Physics, North Carolina State University

"The Student-Centered Active Learning Environment for Undergraduate Programs (SCALE-UP) Project"

Friday March 26, 2010 11:00 AM
Location: 3211, EB 2 NCSU Centennial Campus
(Visitor parking instructions)



How do you keep a classroom of 100 undergraduates actively learning? Can students practice communication and teamwork skills in a large class? How do you boost the performance of underrepresented groups? The Student-Centered Active Learning Environment for Undergraduate Programs (SCALE-UP) Project has addressed these concerns. Because of their inclusion in a leading introductory physics textbook, project materials are used by more than 1/3 of all science, math, and engineering majors nationwide. The room design and pedagogy have been adopted at more than 100 leading institutions across the country. Physics, chemistry, math, astronomy, biology, engineering, earth sciences, and even literature classes are currently being taught this way.

Hundreds of hours of classroom video and audio recordings, transcripts of numerous interviews and focus groups, data from conceptual learning assessments (using widely-recognized instruments in a pretest/posttest protocol), and collected portfolios of student work are part of our rigorous assessment effort. Our findings (based on data from over 16,000 students collected over five years as well as replications at adopting sites) can be summarized as the following:

-- Female failure rate is 1/5 of previous levels, even though more is demanded of students

-- Minority failure rate is 1/4 that seen in traditionally taught courses

-- At-risk students are more successful in later engineering courses.

-- Top students gain the most, although students at all levels benefit.

-- Conceptual learning and problem solving are significantly improved, with same content coverage

In this talk I will briefly discuss the classroom environment, describe some of the activities, and review the findings of studies of learning in various SCALE-UP settings.

 This project has been generously supported by the U.S. Department of Education's FIPSE program and the National Science Foundation's CCLI program.


Short Bio:

As a member of the Physics Education R & D Group, Dr. Beichner's research focuses on increasing our understanding of student learning and the improvement of physics education. A spinoff from his award-winning VideoGraph project was a study of how the visual perception of motion can best be utilized in instructional computer animations and how that information can be used by teachers of large lecture classes. In a separate project, Dr. Beichner and his students are writing a series of tests aimed at diagnosing students' misconceptions about a variety of introductory physics topics. The kinematics graphing test developed by Dr. Beichner is now being used in high schools and colleges around the world. His biggest current project is the creation and study of a learning environment supporting a new way to teach called SCALE-UP: Student-Centered Activities for Large Enrollment Undergraduate Programs. The project is part of Dr. Beichner's efforts to reform physics instruction at a national level. Probably his most visible work along those lines has been the textbook that he co-authored with Raymond Serway. The 5th edition of Physics for Scientists and Engineers was the top-selling introductory calculus-based physics book in the nation, and was used by more than a third of all science, math, and engineering majors. He is the founding editor of the APS journal Physical Review Special Topics: Physics Education Research. He was recently named North Carolina Professor of the Year and National Undergraduate Science Teacher of the Year.

Host: George Rouskas, Computer Science

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