SCALE Institute Advances Student Success in the Classroom and Beyond

The second annual Active Learning Institute May 16-17 will bring together community college educators from across the country who are interested in advancing cooperative learning and critical thinking techniques for greater student success in the classroom and beyond.

The Southern Center for Active Learning Excellence (SCALE), is administered by Patrick Henry Community College (PHCC), an Achieving the Dream Leader College that won national recognition for innovative strategies leading to increased retention and graduation.

Since launching its college-wide Progress Initiative in 2010, PHCC has actively engaged a robust online advising tool, cooperative learning and accelerated developmental education to support the success of low-income students and students of color.

While the effect on overall student outcomes is uncertain, trends are positive:
• Two-year completion rates increased from 10 percent for the 2005 first-time-in-college (FTIC) cohort to 13 percent for the 2008 cohort.
• Fall-to-fall persistence rates increased from 54 percent for the 2005 cohort to 68 percent for the 2008 cohort.

Data like this informs PHCC’s continued pursuit of cooperative learning. Today, nearly all PHCC full-time and adjunct faculty have been trained in innovative cooperative learning strategies through SCALE.

Jacque Leduc, a student in the PHCC registered nursing program, credits cooperative learning with helping her pass Principles of Sociology, one of her least favorite subjects. They also are used in her nursing classes. “Just today in my ob (obstetrics) and peds (pediatric) class, we broke into four different groups to learn about one type of contraceptive and then teach it to the rest of the class.”

“With PHCC’s cooperative learning pedagogy, faculty and staff have not only transformed our own institution, but also are working with community colleges across the country to make dramatic changes in classroom pedagogy,” says Greg Hodges, dean of instructional support services and developmental education at Patrick Henry Community College.

In all, SCALE has hosted 18 colleges and 141 individuals onsite. Its credentialed trainers have traveled to 29 institutions to train more than 470 individuals. In fact, 20 percent of the 2011 group of AtD Leader Colleges participated in SCALE cooperative learning training.

SCALE will present its second annual Active Learning Institute May 16-17 at Chatmoss Country Club in Martinsville, Va. The cost is $225 per person. For registration information, call (276) 638-8777 or visit

“Critical thinking, positive interdependence and individual accountability are cooperative learning characteristics and constant reminders to teachers and students that this pedagogy has the potential to dramatically improve both the employability and social interaction of PHCC’s students,” says Hodges.

“On a team, everyone has a role and their input matters,” says Leduc. “The group exercises in my classes help strengthen skills I feel I will carry with me throughout my education and work experience.”

PHOTOS – (also available as jpgs)
Jacque Leduc (left) meets with Ginger Gardner between classes at Patrick Henry Committee College. The two are in their second semester of the PHCC registered nursing program. In addition to helping them master subject material, the cooperative learning exercises in an accelerated algebra class fostered their friendship.

Bronté Miller, PHCC instructor and SCALE trainer, guides the discussion of a cooperative learning exercise in her accelerated algebra class.