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Principles of Biology

The Studio Classroom

  • Our studio model involves two separate 2-hour sessions per week, with a maximum of 78 students in each section.
  • Although it is an introductory course, it is taught by many of our regular faculty members (usually two faculty members, two Graduate Teaching Assistants and one or more undergraduate students per 78 students in each section).
  • This is neither a traditional lab, traditional lecture, nor a “computer lab”. Elements of all of these are combined so that students experience the material in a variety of ways, increasing the chances of success in learning introductory biology.
  • We have good evidence that this studio format is very effective in teaching introductory biology when compared to traditional lecture/lab courses at LSU, Ohio State University, and Cornell University. These data were published in 2008, in a journal called CBE: Life Sciences Education.
  • The Division of Biology thus commits a lot of resources (two full-time faculty members and two graduate students) for each of the 8 -10 sections every semester (as well as one section in the summer semester).

Why do we teach the course in this format? 

  • Because we have data to show that the studio method is a more effective way to teach science than the traditional lecture/lab combination!
  • There are many pieces of evidence that bolster this conclusion, and one of them is shown in the figure below from M. Sundberg, "Assessing the effectiveness of an investigative laboratory to confront common misconceptions in life sciences", chapter 9 in Student-Active Science: Models of Innovation in College Science Teaching, edited by A.P. McNeal and C. D'Avanzo, Saunders College Publishing, 1997.
  • Sundberg compared learning of 11 key concepts by LSU students in a traditional lecture/lab situation to students who learned those same concepts in an "investigative" or "active-learning" environment similar to our studio format. In ALL cases, students in the investigative class learned more and retained it longer. So if the goal is to learn Biology, the active-learning format is superior.

Sundberg data