Student-Centred Active Learning Environment with Upside-down Pedagogies – is an active, collaborative mode of learning which offers an alternative to didactic and discursive pedagogies like lectures and seminars.
What is Scale-Up?
In SCALE-UP, lectures are replaced by problem-solving and enquiry-based activities carried out in strategically-assigned groups. To foster collaborative learning, the re-designed classroom environment incorporates circular tables and technologies to enable students to share their work in small groups and in ‘Public Thinking Spaces’. These elements are supported by ‘upside-down pedagogies’ such as flipped learning, peer teaching, and rotating group roles. The shift away from lectures frees up class time for students to focus on difficult aspects of the material, to work at their own pace, and to receive on-the-spot feedback on their work from peers and the tutor.
Benefits of Scale-Up
SCALE-UP has many benefits for student learning, as demonstrated through evaluation by Beichner – the originator of SCALE-UP – and other adopters. Beichner’s research documents improvements in both student engagement and achievement, in particular an increase in conceptual understanding; improvements in problem-solving skills, engagement and attendance; reduction in failure rates; and a tendency for “at-risk” students to perform better in later modules. More significantly, for our purposes, Beichner et al demonstrated that not only did SCALE-UP significantly reduce overall failure, this was particularly the case for gender and ethnicity, when compared with performance on lecture-based physics courses. While evaluations of SCALE-UP teaching thus far have shown positive signs for student engagement and attainment, these studies have been carried out at a relatively small scale and largely in STEM subjects.
At NTU, it has been observed that the ethnicity and socio-economic attainment gaps for courses that include SCALE-UP modules are considerably lower than other courses.
However, we are cautious about drawing conclusions about this for two reasons:
- We need to develop improved reporting so we can observe effects at module level
- It is possible that positive outcomes from SCALE-UP teaching may be associated with good teaching in general in the areas where it has been adopted (as early adopters tend to be innovative teachers anyway).
This project provides an opportunity to collect evidence as to whether active learning approaches such as SCALE-UP can reduce attainment gaps when adopted strategically across whole course teams and at large scale across an institution
Track record of using this approach
NTU is the first UK university to introduce SCALE-UP across an extensive range of subjects. In an evaluation of the 33 NTU SCALE-UP pilot modules in 2013-14, teaching staff reported greater student engagement with materials and more interaction between peers and the tutor, leading to increased conceptual understanding.
Building on this initial success, NTU invested in new bespoke SCALE-UP rooms – of which there are now 17 across two campuses, and recruited further academic staff to the approach. SCALE-UP is now used on over 249 modules, in subjects as diverse as Law, History, Physics, Business, and Architecture and is within 50% of our Undergraduate courses, meaning that 47% of full-time undergraduates experience at least one SCALE-UP module in an academic year. NTU has hosted an international SCALE-UP conference and shared pilot findings widely. SCALE-UP sits within our wider Success for All programme, led by the Vice-Chancellor.