Retention

About the coarsest measure of learning is done by comparing failure rates. This can be problematic for several reasons, especially when comparing different types of instruction. SCALE-UP students are graded on a wider assortment of performance measures (including problem solving techniques, hypothesis generation, etc.) that typically are not part of traditional instruction. Exam and homework problems are also quite different...SCALE-UP problems are generally much more difficult. (One traditional student mistakenly wandered into a SCALE-UP exam, looked at the test for half an hour, and then asked, "Are we supposed to be able to do these problems?") Even though it is difficult to use failure rates to compare instructional approaches, they do provide some insight--particularly when looking at members of underrepresented groups.

We have calculated the failure rate ratio (percentage failing in traditional class/percentage failing in SCALE-UP) for various groups. It is particularly striking that females fail at approximately 1/5 the rate of their counterparts in a tradtional setting. Rates for racial minorities show similar patterns. We believe this is because of the social nature of the classroom. In a traditional setting, if a student does not understand something, their tendency is to blame themselves. They are the only person in the class who isn't "getting it." (This is especially true for females.) In the SCALE-UP class, if a student doesn't understand something, they just ask their friend sitting next to them. If their colleague knows the answer, they explain it and the problem is solved. If they don't know the answer, the questioning student realizes they aren't the only one who doesn't understand. Outside observers comparing NC State's traditional classes with SCALE-UP sections note that the depth and number of questions is much greater in the interactive environment.

 

Group
# Students (Traditional)
# Students (SCALE-UP)
Failure Rate Ratio
Overall
14804
1150
2.8
Male
11473
888
2.5
Female
3331
262
4.7
White
12009
922
2.8
Native American
109
23
3.8
African American
1361
114
3.5
Asian American
1026
65
2.1
Hispanic
299
25
No S-UP failures