College of Science

Michigan receives a lesson from Clemson on innovative teaching and learning


CLEMSON, South Carolina ­– Teaching staff and administrators from Rockford Public Schools in Rockford, Michigan were on campus Friday, Dec. 7 to tour the University’s innovative SCALE-UP classroom, located in Cooper Library, Room 200-B.

Aung speaks with Chris Cox and Maggie Thelen
Pye Aung (left) speaks with Chris Cox and Maggie Thelen about Clemson’s new SCALE-UP classroom.

The team traveled more than 800 miles to see firsthand how Clemson is reshaping instruction for its students in hopes of applying the active learning model to their own SCALE-UP classroom currently being constructed at Rockford High School. SCALE-UP stands for Student-Centered Activities for Large Enrollment Undergraduate Programs.

“We selected teachers that are going to be teaching in our space to come today, and this is very valuable for them to be able to actually sit in the seats and see students in action so they understand the methodologies and how the SCALE-UP model could impact teaching and learning at the high school level,” said Maggie Thelen, director of instructional technology at Rockford Public Schools.

Clemson’s SCALE-UP classroom was completed earlier this semester after a year-long endeavor, transforming a large, underutilized room in Cooper Library into a cutting-edge classroom that has accommodated more than 900 fall-semester students in multivariable and differential equations courses.

During their visit, the team from Rockford observed assistant professor Pye Aung’s MATH 2080 course: introduction to ordinary differential equations. They talked with students and watched how an active learning lesson unfolded across 16 tables, each equipped with three interactive monitors and seating nine students. The setup is designed so that students can learn in a collaborative format, watching a live-stream of the professor’s lecture without straining to see a faraway board.

Teacher speaking with group of kids.
Teachers from Rockford Public Schools got the chance to speak with students on Dec. 7.

Tom VanDeGriend, architect of Rockford’s SCALE-UP project, said their classroom will look similar to Clemson’s room, except with taller ceilings and windows for walls. Monitors in the classroom will not be positioned at each table, but rather will line the perimeter of the room so that students can see the teacher’s presentation from all angles. Each student will also have his or her own laptop that can plug into power outlets supplied at each table.

Communications by Design (CBD), an education technology consulting company based in Ada, Michigan, worked with administrators from Rockford Public Schools to integrate the technological design into their model. Sara Easter, president of CBD, was part of the visiting team on Dec. 7.

“This visit is kind of a culmination of the things we’ve been talking about for the last four to five years that are becoming part of the building that they’re constructing at Rockford now,” Easter said.

Easter said she has dreamed about the technological innovation seen in the SCALE-UP model since she began her company 28 years ago, and that watching that dream turn into reality gives her “goosebumps.”

“We knew that we would eventually get to a point when we’d challenge how teachers use their space and how they use their time, and this is it. This classroom is exactly how you do that,” she said.

Rockford High School Principal Dan Zang said he hopes the school’s new classroom will benefit students who aren’t being reached by the traditional lecture-style classroom.

easter uses phone to take picture of classroom
Sara Easter from Communications by Design photographs the classroom.

“As you see here at Clemson and universities across the U.S., they are going toward this type of active learning model for their students. Many of our business environments have this type of set up, as well,” Zang said. “This is what our students are going to see in the future, and we want to give them a taste of it now while they’re students at Rockford High School.”

After touring the University’s Cooper Library classroom, the team met other instructors from the College of Science’s School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences. They also took part in a tour of the Watt Family Innovation Center and Dillard Hall’s SCALE-UP classroom, led by faculty members Beth Stephan and Marisa Orr of the College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Sciences.

Chris Cox, Director of the School of Math and Stat, said he was happy to host the Michigan visitors.

“The team from Rockford came with great questions. I learned a lot myself from interacting with them,” Cox said. “I wish them luck as they continue to build their program.”

For photos from Clemson’s Cooper Library classroom, visit the College of Science’s Facebook album, linked here.


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