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UIC TA Handbook - Studio Instruction

By Julia Fish

Professor Emerita and UIC Distinguished Professor Emerita of Art
School of Art and Design
UIC College of Architecture, Design, and the Arts


The Studio Environment

Studio instruction is used in the visual and performing arts and architecture, but the methods of learning in this set­ ting may also be applicable to other disciplines. Studio work is developed in response to verbal, visual, or conceptual problems and assignments; and while there are fundamentals to each discipline that can be taught, learning frequently occurs by observation, example, demonstration, speculation, trial and error, and experimentation.

The studio-classroom is a hybrid and public learning environment with combined attributes from discussion, laboratory, lecture and seminar sessions. Similar to the laboratory environment, proper use of materials or tools, and safety issues for all equipment must be presented to all participants enrolled in a studio course. Check with the course coordinator or other faculty about these issues.

Students are frequently asked to provide their own materials and tools in the studio environment. As a TA, consider the cost of materials students are asked to purchase and gauge their 'investment" in relation to texts required, for example, for other courses.

Grading Studio Work

In general, there are not objectively correct or incorrect "answers" in the studio classroom. Rather, work is visually and I or experientially evaluated, based on the degree of skill, the understanding of the discipline, and the level of experimentation, innovation, and conceptual challenge demonstrated by the work produced.

Generally, discussion and critical evaluation by the entire class group is guided by the instructor. Individual observations are encouraged, and alternative opinions and evaluations are to be anticipated.

Collaborative Learning / Team Projects

Collaborative learning is frequently associated with the studio model. Students and TAs gain much through the collective discussion of work developed jointly and evaluated collectively and, oftentimes, in-progress. Where appropriate, collaborative projects can emphasize or expand certain aspects of the course you are teaching. Be clear as to how such projects are to be weighed as a part of an individual's graded evaluation for the course.

Off-campus / Site-specific Instruction

The city offers many resources which complement the studio as a place for speculation and education. Conferences, symposia, and public programs offered by other institutions in the city may be useful alternative resources to supplement the course you have been assigned to teach. Field trips to research facilities, business and industry, exhibitions, performances, studios and laboratories may assist students in visualizing the potential or practical applications of their field of study. Consider whether the course you have been asked to teach would benefit by a tangible link to a site where your discipline is "at work".

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