SCALE-UP and Active Learning Classrooms

Overview: Active Learning and SCALE-UP

Both Active Learning and SCALE-UP have had recent success in improving student engagement, attitudes, and grades. These activities share some core common attributes, but also differ in important ways. Both approaches are based on a social constructivist view of learning, which holds that knowledge is constructed in the mind of the learner. Social knowledge can be taught, but mathematical/logical/physical knowledge cannot be transferred intact from the mind of the teacher to the mind of the learner (Bodner, 1986). Learners construct understanding and meaning, and learning happens in a group, as knowledge is not the property of an individual (Dori & Belcher, 2005).

Active Learning


  1. Student Engagement. Students are engaged in active learning activities during class time. These can involve group-work, pair-share, problem solving, and interaction among students, oftentimes with the intermingling of groups throughout, or followed by each group presenting results towards the end.
  2. Dynamic and Flexible Teaching. Instructors have the freedom to design each class in a way that suits their content. They may choose to engage students through activities, presentations, and some direct instructions.
  3. Active Learning Classroom. Active learning is characterized by flexibility, and so is the classroom in which it happens. The furniture is easily moveable and reconfigurable to suit the day's curriculum. There is ample whiteboard space for groups to jot down ideas or outcomes.

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SCALE-UP = Student-Centered Active Learning Environment with Upside-down Pedagogies


  1. Flipped Classroom (= upside-down pedagogy). Materials are delivered to students prior to class (e.g., textbook readings, PowerPoint presentations, video). Instructors have to carefully think about how to design and utilize these.
  2. Collaboration. Students collaborate in teams of 3, or groups of several teams based on table size (6 or 9). Roles and responsibilities within the groups are clearly defined to maximize participation and contribution to the process.
  3. Active Learning. Students are engaged in active learning during class time. The instructor facilitates this as a guide on the side rather than the sage on the stage. There are carefully designed tangible and ponderable activities for students during class to engage in problem solving. This can be followed by whole-class discussion or group presentations.
  4. SCALE-UP Classroom. The SCALE-UP pedagogy is facilitated in a designated SCALE-UP classroom. This classroom has fixed tables designed for students to sit in teams and groups, an instructor station in the centre of the room, and no front of the room.
  5. Technology as an Organizer. Each team of 3 students has access to 1 laptop computer (if needed) to access in-class activities and record group work product. Each group table has access to one large screen and ample whiteboard space to work through problems visually. The instructor has the ability to project to all of the screens.

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