Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Student Centered Activities for Large Enrollment Undergraduate Programs

NCSU SCALE-UP classroomWhat I previously described as "MIT TEAL style" classrooms are apparently more generally known by the acronym SCALE-UP Classrooms (Student Centered Activities for Large Enrollment Undergraduate Programs). The idea is to replace a week's lectures and laboratories with a 4 to 6 hours of studio/workshop (perhaps in 2 hour blocks). Normally studio style work would be prohibitively expensive, as each small group of students would require an instructor. The SCALE-UP room is designed to allow 50 to 120 students with 2 to 4 instructors.

The SCALE-UP classrooms use 6 to 7 foot round tables with students working in three groups of three, with white boards and electronic screens around all the walls, the "teacher station" in the middle of the room and networked computers.
A paper detailing the rationale behind the program is available, along with photos of rooms around the world, including MIT's TEAL. The same limitations of the TEAL design apply more generally to SCALE-UP: the large round tables waste a lot of floor space and also result in half the students having their back to the instructor. The freestanding tables are required to be fixed in place with expensive cabling having to be run under the floor. The rooms cannot be used for individual computer work as there is only one computer per three students.

University of Minnesota Active Learning Classroom plan with traditional classroom addedUniversity of Minnesota Active Learning Classroom planUniversity of Minnesota Biological Sciences Active Learning ClassroomThe University of Minnesota get around some of the limitations in their implementation by using "reconfigurable low-profile flooring with internal power and cable management", that is a raised floor with cables under it and tiles which can be lifted to move the cables. However, this is an expensive option. While these rooms can be reconfigured to add a small lecture room or other seating, this is not something you could do every day. Apart from the problem of moving cables, there is the issue of shifting the large tables. UoM talk about it as an annual exercise. The UoM floor plans provided are useful as they include measurements.
The SCALE-UP Project has established a highly collaborative, hands-on, computer-rich, interactive learning environment for large-enrollment courses. Class time is spent primarily on hands-on activities, simulations, and interesting questions as well as hypothesis-driven labs. Students sit in three groups of three students at round tables. Instructors circulate and work with teams and individuals, engaging them in Socratic-like dialogues. Rigorous evaluations of learning have been conducted in parallel with the curriculum development effort. Our findings can be summarized as follows: Ability to solve problems is improved, conceptual understanding is increased, attitudes are improved, failure rates are drastically reduced (especially for women and minorities), and performance in follow up physics and engineering classes is positively impacted. ...

From: Introduction to the SCALE-UP (Student-Centered Activities for Large Enrollment Undergraduate Programs) Project, Robert J. Beichner, Jeffery M. Saul

No comments: