Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Education/Higher Education PhD

First Advisor

John Saltmarsh

Second Advisor

Dwight E. Giles, Jr.

Third Advisor

Mary Deane Sorcinelli


In their seminal 1995 article, Barr and Tagg encouraged higher education to think differently about undergraduate education and suggested that a new paradigm be adopted that focused less on what is taught and more on what is learned. Dubbed the learner-centered paradigm, this reframing of education challenges long standing practices and removes the instructor as the literal and figurative center of the classroom, requiring that students take a more active role in their education and in the creation of knowledge.

Despite the fact that empirical research consistently finds that practices congruent with the learner-centered paradigm greatly benefits students, full-scale adoption of the paradigm has been slow across the higher education landscape. The SCALE-UP program that emerged out of North Carolina State University, however, has provided institutions with a model for how learner-centered teaching techniques can be leveraged in large enrollment courses and hundreds of institutions across the globe have successfully adopted this program.

In this multiple case study of two large, public institutions that have adopted SCALE-UP, this study provides insight into how faculty implementation of learner-centered teaching and learning practices is influenced by organizational structures and policies and how they can encourage and support faculty transition to a learner-centered practice. Findings suggest that these included policies and structures that involve: 1) institutional leadership; 2) finance and academic departmental influence and configurations; 3) faculty training and development programs; 4) physical facilities; and 5) incentives to learn, develop, and maintain new practices.

Extrapolated from the findings that emerged through this research are a number of implications and recommendations: Support and advocacy from institutional leadership is critical for the initiation and sustainment of paradigm change, academic departments can create learner-centered cultures that encourage and support learner-centered teaching practices, provide meaningful opportunities for faculty to become exposed to the learner-centered paradigm and create ongoing training and professional development to support related teaching and learning practices, invest in the creation of physical active-learning structures, create policies and structures that provide meaningful incentives for faculty to adopt learner-centered teaching practices, and strategically connect learner-centered practices and initiatives taking place across campus.