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Robert J. Beichner

Alumni Distinguished Undergraduate Professor


Professor Beichner received his PhD in 1989 from the State University of New York at Buffalo. After working at Buffalo as a visiting faculty member for three years, he joined the NC State Physics Department in 1992 as an Assistant Professor. He advanced through the professorial ranks and was named an Alumni Distinguished Undergraduate Professor in 2003. He is a member of our Physics Education Research and Development Group, one of the largest in the world.

He invented the now-popular Video-Based Lab pedagogy, where students examine video clips of motion and watch synchronized kinematics graphs. As part of that effort he created the Test of Understanding Graphs in Kinematics that is used worldwide. That work led Dr. Beichner and his students to write and evaluate a series of conceptual assessment instruments that are used by teachers and researchers from around the globe.

For much of his career he has focused his attention on redesigning introductory physics education and created the SCALE-UP (Student Centered Activities for Large Enrollment University Physics) project. This approach has led to changes in classrooms around the world, at institutions ranging from Wake Technical Community College to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. By the second decade of the 21st Century, SCALE-UP had been adopted at more than 150 universities and had spread to other content areas and into middle and high schools, necessitating a name change to Student Centered Active Learning Environment with Upside-down Pedagogies. By that time, the University of Minnesota had 22 SCALE-UP classrooms in use and nearly all MIT students took a class in one of their SCALE-UP based classrooms. Other universities have also adopted this approach for classes ranging from archeology to zoology.

Select Publications

Kustusch, M. B., Gaffney, J. D. H., and Beichner, R., Physics Teacher 47 (7), 450-453 (2009)
   "The real prize inside: Learning about science and spectra from cereal boxes."

Gaffney, J. D. H., Richards, E., Kustusch, M. B., Ding, L., and Beichner, R.,Journal of College Science Teaching 37 (5), 48-53 (2008)
   "Scaling Up Educational Reform."

R Beichner, J M Saul, D S Abbott, J. Morse, Duane Deardorff, Rhett J. Allain, S W Bonham, Melissa Dancy, and J. Risley,
   "Student-Centered Activities for Large Enrollment Undergraduate Programs (SCALE-UP) project,"   in "Research-Based Reform of University Physics," edited by E F Redish and P. J. Cooney (American Association of Physics Teachers, College Park, MD, In Press)

M. Oliver-Hoyo and R Beichner, "The SCALE-UP Project," in Teaching and Learning through Inquiry: A Guidebook for Institutions and Instructors, edited by V. S. Lee (Stylus Publishing, Sterling, VA, 2004).

Honors & Awards

He has received numerous teaching awards and is a member of NC State's Academy of Outstanding Teachers. He received the Ohaus Award for Innovation from the National Science Teachers Association. He was named the 2009 North Carolina Professor of the Year by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and received the 2010 UNC Board of Governors Award. Beichner was named the 2010 National Undergraduate Science Teacher of the Year by the Society of College Science Teachers and the National Science Teachers Association. In 2011 he was awarded the McGraw Prize, the premier honor in the field of education. He was also honored by Congress as noted in the US Congressional Record of September 29, 2011.