Beichner is the creator of the scale up project. He describes the main goal of the project it to "Establish a highly collaborative, hands-on, computer-rich, interactive learning environment for large, introductory college courses." He aimed the project for students studying science however I have now read that many subject areas have used this way of teaching.
His aim is to get groups of students to work in groups and become engaged with the material they are been taught. Scales up lessons are another type of lesson for teachers/ lecturers to use other that lectures or in his case lab work. In a scale up class all the students are taught in the same room with the same students and lecturers in every class so that each lesson can build on the last. An effective scale up classroom is where a lecturer is able to move around and interact with each group. This means that the lecturer is able to help any group with problems and make sure they interact with every group.
Part of the scale up approach is setting students reading / research to do before the lesson. When in lesson the work on group activities based on their reading, the lecturer can also set follow up homework for students to further practice/ understand what they have been doing in the lesson.
Technology is used in Beichner's scale up lessons to allow data collection, analysis, mathematical modelling etc.
He advises that any staff who wants to use the scale up approach first think about what they want the students to learn from their lesson. He suggests that some teachers just use textbook topics to base a lesson upon however there are other goals that can be applied.
Beichner explains that there is also a large body of evidence that suggest that students learn best when they work together. In a book by Alexander Astin (what Matters In College) explains that "peer involvement and student/teacher interaction are by far the most significant influences on retention and achievement." He creates the groups in lessons based on things such as previous scores and grades in previous course work and attempts to make each group heterogeneous. He splits the students with the top grades up into separate groups and the same with the lower grades so that students are recourses to the rest of the groups. The groups are also switched 3 or 4 times each term because if not the groups become too comfortable with one another and discussion topics are not always what they should be. He also noted that there is a 'two week lull' somewhere around the 10th week where the class performance drops. If the groups were only to be switched once a term then there is often a lot of disruption because the students have formed friendships however regularly changing the groups prevents this. in addition to this each group creates a contract so that if a team member is not pulling their weight the group can "fire" them, and because some group work is too much to do alone they avoid been fired.
They also make sure that grades are not 'curved' as curving discourages student collaboration. (A student has so done badly for a student to do well.) Instead the student earns point through activities. Homework set counts towards 20-25% of the overall grade rather than 10-15%. This encourages the students to put in more effort for their homework.
Student can access an outline of the day’s lesson plan which helps them to have an advanced organiser of the day’s work. All the activities in the lesson are based on one particular topic. 'Tangibles' are short, hand on acuities and 'ponderable' are interesting questions too consider. These types of activities are to help with student difficulties. Tangibles present a physical situation that requires observation or data collection. They ask questions like 'why are we doing this?' and 'what am I supposed to learn from this?'
Beichner uses 'webassign' for homework. They are given straight forward questions to do before class to encourage students to read. During class the teacher focuses on difficulties rather than the basics. Evaluation studies found that students read a book ahead of lesson when reading quizzes are assigned (UCF Studies.) Webassign is used for follow homework which makes sure that every one completes the homework.
Finally Beichner talks about the educational impact the project had on the students. The scale up findings:
- · "Conceptual understanding is increased
- · The top third of the class show the greatest improvement in conceptual understanding
- · Ability to solve problems is as good or better
- · Attitudes are improved
- · Class attendance is higher, typically >90%
- · Failure rates are drastically reduced (typically 50%), especially for women and minorities
- · Performance in the second semester physics is improves, whether taught traditionally or in SCALE-UP
- · Failure of at risk students in a later engineering statics class is cut in half." Page 37