Learning on a grander 'SCALE'

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Learning on a grander 'SCALE'

The University of North Dakota Office of Instructional Development is tipping the "scales" when it comes to creative teaching and learning practices for its students.

The University recently added a new teched-up student-centered classroom that already is showing results in getting students more engaged in their learning.

The classroom and all of its associated technology is referred to as "SCALE-UP," and stands for Student-Centered Active Learning Environment for Undergraduate Programs. A public ribbon-cutting is set to take place Friday, Nov. 16, in room 61, of O'Kelly Hall.

It's an innovative, state-of-the-art teaching space, or "learning environment," outfitted with computers, multiple video screens, etc. It's intended to help change the way UND instructors teach large lecture-style classes, such as entry level biology courses.

"Lectures are a passive way of teaching and have been shown to be very ineffective at promoting student learning – particularly learning around higher-level thinking such as synthesis or analysis," said UND biology professor Brett Goodwin, who teaches in the new classroom.

"SCALE-UP promotes active and cooperative learning so that students work with the concepts that they are learning about with each other – allowing them to practice and get feedback," he said.

The SCALE-UP classroom is being used by several biology faculty members this semester. They are the pathfinders for this new system. They will help faculty in other departments, from history to physics and astrophysics, adapt to the SCALE-UP instructional model.

Instead of sitting in rows of seats, students sit at round tables – nine to a table. The tables each have microphones and three computers with three students to a computer. The classroom also is equipped with several large flat-screen displays.

"The technology enables cooperation and sharing," said Goodwin. "For example, one laptop for each group of three students will facilitate working together, displaying information at one table and broadcasting so all can see it."

With SCALE-UP, faculty have switched from lecturing to planning activities, facilitating classes and providing feedback. It's a far cry from the standard academic classroom, but a decade of research, starting at North Carolina State University, where SCALE-UP was developed, indicates significant improvements in learning. Today, more than 150 colleges across the United States and around the world have adopted the SCALE-UP model.

"Those faculty teaching in the new room are very enthusiastic about it," said Goodwin. "We have all noticed how much more engaged the students are with the material, how they are able to engage in much more demanding thinking about the material and how much the group dynamics are amenable to active, cooperative learning.

"As a department, we are very excited to have our intro and core courses in the SCALE UP room."

Brian Johnson

University Relations Writer

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