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Research Area: Pedagogy
Status: In progress  


    Over the past decades, pedagogical research shows that actively learning students obtain higher levels of achievement than students learning passively [Johnson, 1991; Felder, 1998; Springer].  Modern STEM classrooms have been responding to the observation that traditional passive lectures are often the least educational aspect of university.  The growing volume and accessibility of digital content including reading material, free on-line lecture content, youtube videos, TED talks, and so forth from world-class thinkers and educators is making the traditional passive lecture increasingly obsolete.  Universities must respond to these changes in order to serve their mission.  One solution to these problems are Active/Cooperative (ACL) strategies such as the Student-Centered Active Learning Environment for Undergraduate Programs (SCALE-UP) Project [Beichner et al. 1999; Beichner et al. 2007;].  In the SCALE-UP classroom, “lecture” time is spent primarily on hands-on activities, questions and discussion of work completed/viewed prior to the lecture period.

   Intellectual Merit:  Active/Cooperative Learning strategies imply sometimes dramatic changes to course delivery.  Thus, these proven strategies are adopted instructor-by-instructor, course-by-course.  This proposal argues that instead ACL should be an essential substrate of education in STEM fields, from the very first course in the major and throughout the core.  The proposed work will:

  1. Implement new instructional strategy.  First, we will introduce new SCALE-UP classroom and develop SCALE-UP alternatives to our entire current introductory core in computing.
  2. Create learning materials.  Second, we will design, develop, or adopt the tools, abstractions, materials, and learning experiences to enable computing students to thrive in the SCALE-UP approach. Prior SCALE-UP research deals principally with barriers in the physical sciences.  This project will extend this to work to identify and overcome barriers in computing education. Over the course of the proposed work, courses will be developed for initial effectiveness, improved based upon assessed effectiveness, and then packaged into modules for dissemination.
  3. Develop faculty expertise.  This approach requires a broad set of our faculty to adopt and utilize ACL techniques in the SCALE-UP classroom.  The PIs will develop materials to aid the faculty transition to the SCALE-UP classroom.   These materials will be deployed, improved based upon assessed effectiveness, and then disseminated to provide models for other faculty to more effectively integrate ACL-based strategies.
  4. Assess and evaluate student achievement.  Fourth, we will evaluate the effectiveness of the revised delivery of the core content using techniques such as observational rubrics, surveys, peer assessment, and formative assessment forms.  This evaluation will give us the information that we need to improve our courses, materials, and faculty as well as the information necessary to publish our results and help others adopt similar successful techniques.