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Media Contact:
Dr. Bob Beichner, 919/515-7226
Tracey Peake, News Services, 919/515-3470

Feb. 17, 2005

NC State Physicist Beichner to Speak at AAAS Conference


Dr. Robert Beichner
Dr. Robert Beichner

Dr. Robert Beichner, professor of physics at North Carolina State University, has been invited to speak at a symposium on teaching and learning in science at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), Feb. 17-21 in Washington, D.C.

On Saturday, Feb. 19 at 2 p.m., Beichner will present results from SCALE-UP (Student-Centered Activities for Large Enrollment Undergraduate Programs) in a panel on building excellence in undergraduate science education. SCALE-UP utilizes a collaborative, hands-on, computer-rich environment for teaching in large enrollment classroom environments.

Beichner collected data on more than 16,000 students in his comparison of traditional university classrooms to those that adopted SCALE-UP. He discovered that SCALE-UP’s minority students fail only one-fourth as often as minority students taught in a traditional environment. For women, the failure rate is just one-fifth that seen for women in traditional classes. Student attitudes and performance in subsequent science courses are also enhanced.

The AAAS annual meeting is the year’s largest and most important science conference, attracting the world’s top researchers, educators and policy makers in dozens of fields. This year’s conference, “The Nexus: Where Science Meets Society,” will focus on nanotechnology; high-throughput biology and the “-omics” explosion; and the Forum for School Science, which aims to strengthen educational accomplishment from pre-school through college and beyond.

Beichner will also lead a workshop for teachers interested in trying some of the SCALE-UP methods in their own classrooms.

- peake -

Note to editors: An abstract of Beichner’s AAAS presentation follows.

“SCALE-UP: Student-Centered Activities for Large Enrollment Undergraduate Programs”
Author: Dr. Robert Beichner, North Carolina State University
Presented: Feb. 19, 2005, at the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting

Abstract: Educational research indicates that students should collaborate on interesting tasks and be deeply involved with the material they are studying. We promote active learning in a redesigned classroom for 100 students or more. (Of course, smaller classes can also benefit.) Classtime is spent primarily on “tangibles” and “ponderables” – hands-on activities, simulations and interesting questions. There are also hypothesis-driven labs. Nine students sit in three teams at round tables. Instructors circulate and engage in Socratic dialogues. The setting looks like a banquet hall, with lively interactions nearly all the time.

Hundreds of hours of classroom video and audio recordings, transcripts of numerous interviews and focus groups, data from conceptual learning assessments (using widely-recognized instruments in a pretest/posttest protocol), and collected portfolios of student work are part of our rigorous assessment effort. We have data comparing 16,000+ students.

Our findings can be summarized as the following:

  • Ability to solve problems is improved
  • Conceptual understanding is increased
  • Attitudes are improved
  • Failure rates are drastically reduced, especially for women and minorities
  • Performance in later courses is enhanced


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