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SCALE up your instruction

Applications to use Student Centered Active Learning Environment classrooms are due Feb. 1; here’s how two professors are making the most of them.

By Lindsey Coulter

January 15, 2019

Exterior of Jordan Student Success BuildingLast semester, Metropolitan State University of Denver’s Center for Teaching, Learning and Design offered faculty a chance to host classes in spaces dedicated to high-impact instructional practices. These Student Centered Active Learning Environment classrooms are adjacent to student-success resources and include a dedicated peer support individual.

The SCALE classroom model completed its pilot program in the fall, and Rebecca Brice of Earth and Atmospheric Science and Matthew Maher, senior lecturer, history, were faculty members who used the spaces to deliver high-impact, evidence-based teaching techniques.

What specific innovative or high-impact teaching practices have you employed in the SCALE classroom?

Brice: I use inquiry-based-learning approaches. Students are introduced to the way learning works, and I establish specific expectations about their role/responsibility in their own learning. I structure a (mostly) in-class group project that includes guidance for a scientific inquiry-based project where students collectively drive the workflow from research question to results dissemination. This is done in class so that I can offer frameworks, or nudge their decisions, as appropriate. Because they are not generating new scientific data, it is a hybrid project where they learn effective techniques that can be applied to research endeavors in many other liberal-arts and scientific disciplines.

Maher: The innovative and high-impact practice I use in the SCALE classroom is interactive role-playing called Reacting to the Past. RTTP is a set of elaborate games set in the past where students confront core texts through interactive game play. Students practice persuasive writing, public speaking, critical thinking, teamwork, negotiation, problem-solving and collaboration.

The best way to learn about the pedagogy is to play a game yourself either through a workshop offered by CTLD or by attending a conference offered by the Reacting to the Past Consortium.

Why would you recommend that your colleagues explore new high-impact teaching practices?

Brice: It is rewarding, and students respond in a way that is simply not accessible in traditional lecture-based teaching. From the assessment side, daily interaction with students allows a deeper level of understanding their needs, challenges and learning styles. Furthermore, students learn this about their in-class peers, learn more about themselves and engage other students in a new way.

Maher: I recommend high-impact teaching practices to anyone who is frustrated by the passive affect many of our students seemed to be mired in. Students are indeed responsible for their own education, and high-impact tools like RTTP help to make them aware of that reality and encourage them to take advantage of the opportunities that responsibility affords.

The Call for Applications to host your course in the JSSB SCALE in the fall is available. The deadline to complete the online application form is Feb. 1. Questions about the SCALE and applications can be directed to Jeff Loats, director, Center for Teaching, Learning and Design.

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