Conceptual Learning

SCALE-UP students have a better understanding of a variety of physics concepts, as measured by many different nationally-normed assessment instruments.

Abbreviations:

Assessment Instruments
Normalized Gain, h = (pretest to posttest gain)/(possible gain) = (posttest score - pretest score)/(1 - pretest score)
Nat'l Avg = Hake's comparison of 6000 students in passive and active learning settings
FCI = Force Concept Inventory
FMCE = Force and Motion Conceptual Evaluation
CSEM = Conceptual Survey of Electricity and Magnetism
DIRECT = Determining and Interpreting Resistive Electrical Circuits Test

Institutions
CCU = Coastal Carolina University
NCSU = North Carolina State University
UCF = University of Central Florida
UNH = University of New Hampshire
RIT = Rochester Institute of Technology
MIT = Massachusetts Institute of Technology

 

We placed the same teachers in lecture-hall settings (without using special techniques like Interactive Lecture Demos, etc.) and SCALE-UP classrooms in order to compare student learning. The first graph below is for Bob Beichner at NC State. The second is for Jeff Saul at Univ. of Central Florida.

 

Concerns have been raised that a lot of effort has been expended to help the low-achievers while ignoring the better students. This could not be farther from the truth. We divided classes into bottom, middle, and top thirds (labeled B, M, and T in the graph below) and compared conceptual gains for each part. The best students always gained more than the poorer students (who still outperformed students in traditional classes). The most striking comparison is when looking at the students in the top third of their classes at MIT--arguably among the best students in the country. They greatly outgained nearly everyone else on conceptual tests. But notice how small the gain was for the top MIT students who were in a traditional setting. We attribute this pattern to several reasons. MIT's top students have probably learned nearly all that can be gleaned from lectures, but still have more to learn. The better SCALE-UP students are probably heavily involved in peer-teaching--the stronger students help the weaker. Any teacher knows that you learn the material even better when you have to explain it to someone else.