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College of Sciences | News and Features

Scaling Up to Interactive Learning

There are no tedious lectures in 110 Cox Hall. Instead, students are working out problems on laptops and whiteboards, answering real-time quiz questions and helping each other learn.

NC State physicist Bob Beichner created this teaching model, known as SCALE-UP, to help students learn through activities. Research shows that such a model boosts student engagement. The idea has been adopted at more than 250 schools and universities around the world, including MIT, Clemson and Virginia Tech.

Two new SCALE-UP rooms opened in Cox Hall this year to replace the ones in the recently demolished Harrelson Hall. Scroll down to take a tour.

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Each workstation is equipped with a computer or a laptop connector. Students can connect and share their screens to the monitors at each table or to the screens on the classroom walls. Workstations also have microphones so students can talk about their work and be heard throughout the classroom.

Each table has at least one small whiteboard for working out equations or problems. There are also whiteboards on the walls all around the room that students can use when they want their peers at other tables to see their work.

The computers are important, but the tables are “the most important technology in the room,” Beichner said. They are 7 feet in diameter, which Beichner and his colleagues have found to be the ideal size for providing each student enough working space while encouraging discussion.

Bob Beichner, Alumni Distinguished Undergraduate Professor in the Department of Physics, created the SCALE-UP instructional model in the mid-1990s. In 2015, he became only the second individual teacher to receive the American Physical Society’s Award for Excellence in Physics Education.

The instructor controls screen sharing and chooses from several projection sources, including the instructor’s laptop, a student laptop, the web camera and the document camera.

Around the room, large wall-mounted screens can display content from the instructor’s station or any student station. The instructor can display equations, lecture notes, images or problems for students to answer, and students can project their laptop screens to the wall screens to share their work with their classmates.

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