Physics professor Beichner to receive McGraw Prize tonight

September 27, 2011
By Chris Saunders
Photo courtesy of the NC State Dpeartment of Physics website

Photo courtesy of NC State Department of Physics

Alumni Distinguished Undergraduate Professor in Physics Robert Beichner is in New York to receive the McGraw Prize in Education, an annual award that recognizes individuals who exhibit commitment to innovating education.

Beichner and Mitchel Resnick of MIT Media Lab and Julie Young of Florida Virtual School are being honored for pioneering digital education approaches. The three recipients collaborated on a paper that articulates their pedagogical philosophies in elementary, secondary and post-secondary education.

Beichner’s section of the paper focuses on his belief in technology “freeing up teachers’ time to allow them to establish relationships with and motivate learners,” according to the McGraw-Hill Research Foundation.

At NC State, Beichner’s research has focused on studying how students learn and improving physics education. He created a “video-based lab” approach for introductory physics labs.

NC State magazine featured some of Beichner’s work in the spring issue earlier this year. He developed SCALE-UP (Student-Centered Active Learning Environment for Undergraduate Programs), a customized classroom model based on group learning and collaboration. SCALE-UP has been adopted by more than 50 schools nationwide.

Extolling the virtues of social learning over the traditional model, Beichner said in the article that the numbers suggest the new collaborative models work.

“There is data from a lot of schools, but especially MIT, showing that the best students learn more than anyone else when put into a situation with their peers,” he said. “As you explain things to somebody, you have to rethink it, and as you rethink it, you’re improving your own understanding.”

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