Why change to studio teaching?

Initial Publication Date: February 9, 2007

Studio classrooms provide a dynamic learning environment where students and instructors work as partners to promote learning

A properly managed studio classroom can provide a quintessential active and cooperative learning environment. The value of such an environment has been well described by many. (See references in the reference list.) Studio classrooms, however, take these pedagogical approaches much further by providing a holistic learning environment that emphasizes individual learning and responsibility as a consequence of interactive engagement. Studio classes are designed to provide a rich learning environment in which all activities and interactions move toward the same goals: meaningful content learning and individual intellectual development.

Studio teaching moves a classroom toward recognized learning goals

Studio teaching is consistent with goals summarized in National Research Council reports including National Science Education Standards (NRC, 1996) and From Analysis to Action: Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology (NRC, 1996). It also matches recommendations in the AAAS Publication Science for All Americans by Rutherford and Ahlgren (1991), and in the NSF report Shaping the Future: New Expectations for Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering , and Technology (NSF, 1996). In these reports, and others, emphasis is placed on getting students actively involved in doing science and thinking like scientists. In its executive summary, the NSF report recommends that ". . . all students learn [science] by direct experience with the methods and processes of inquiry." While doing, thinking, and inquiring, students learn science and also develop key skills including collaboration, teamwork, communication, and responsibility.

Studio teaching is a particularly effective method of instruction for upper level classes that cover new and difficult-to-understand ideas

Studio teaching is particularly appropriate for classes that cover complex information and ideas. In such classes, students need to "do" the science and really think about what they are doing, not listen to someone talk about. Additionally, the interaction with their peers can be very important during the learning process. The best learning occurs when students solve problems or discuss things together. The superiority of studio teaching for such classes is obvious from both and instructor's and the students' perspectives.

Studio teaching can bring new life to an introductory class

Studio teaching also works well for entry-level classes. Many introductory science classes are simply surveys. Classes typically include lots of topics, lots of vocabulary, and little context. In a studio classroom information is presented in context, and it is used to solve problems or complete projects. So, students remember key ideas and concepts much better than if their main learning activities are studying for exams. While doing so, they learn to think and develop other holistic skills.

Studio teaching engages students

With almost no exceptions, students report that studio classrooms are fun and exciting. Students get involved, work hard, come to class every day, and do it all without losing their smile. They all report great learning success and often say that all classes should be taught this way.