First Studio Learning Symposium Held at Georgetown July 28-30

Georgetown’s first Studio Learning Symposium assembled a group of faculty, students and administrators to explore the challenges and opportunities of incorporating studio-based pedagogies in departments across the university. Co-sponsored by CNDLS and the Writing Program, the symposium ran from July 28 to 30, 2015, and welcomed participants from Georgetown and elsewhere.

Broadly speaking, a studio learning environment emphasizes project-based collaborative learning with an emphasis on feedback and iteration. Facilitated by Georgetown Professors Sherry Linkon and Maggie Debelius, the symposium challenged participants to refine conceptions of studio learning processes and brainstorm possibilities for implementing them in the classroom. The symposium attendees were guided by four primary goals:

  • Discuss how we define studio learning, how to approach it and how it works for students
  • Determine how our work fits into — and, we hope, adds to — the existing body of research on student learning in studio-based courses
  • Frame some research questions and begin to map strategies for data gathering and analysis
  • Decide whether and how we might work together to pursue research on students’ learning in studio settings

In addition to general discussion about the current situation and future potential of studio learning on the Hilltop, symposium participants also began clarifying disciplinary conceptions of studio learning, and discussing similarities and differences across departments. Among those present were Catherine Armour –  licensed architect and Director for Education and Academic Affairs in the Office of the Provost at Georgetown – and Kathleen Perkins – Associate Professor in the Theater Department at Columbia College Chicago; both provided a valuable perspective on what “studio” means in design and performance disciplines, challenging symposium participants to find ways to adapt the heart of studio learning processes into various classroom settings.

One common strand across all the disciplines represented at the symposium was an emphasis on social pedagogies and on having an audience beyond the professor. Vice Provost for Education Randy Bass emphasized that this authentic audience provides a sense of meaning and purpose to studio projects. In addition to providing intrinsic motivation to students, a stakeholder or client beyond the professor forces students engaged in studio learning to grapple with complex issues and systems – something they would not deal with in a traditional classroom setting.

Laurie King, Associate Teaching Professor in the Department of Anthropology, expresses her excitement at this potential for high-impact learning as she reflects on her participation at the symposium: “The studio learning approach will be relevant to many of our students embarking on careers that require new ways of thinking about multiple, intersecting needs and that demand innovative solutions to emerging problems in policy-making, education, urban planning, medicine, and law.”

At the conclusion of the gathering, participants committed to continuing the week’s work by creating a toolkit of resources to support studio learning at Georgetown and establishing a network of partners willing to participate in critiques of studio projects. Congratulations to this group for moving the work of studio learning forward at Georgetown, and beyond!