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Studios in software engineering education: Towards an evaluable model

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Studio-based teaching is a method commonly used in arts and design that emphasizes a physical "home" for students, problem-based and peer-based learning, and mentoring by academic staff rather than formal lectures. There have been some attempts to transfer studio-based teaching to software engineering education. In many ways, this is natural as software engineering has significant practical elements. However, attempts at software studios have usually ignored experiences and theory from arts and design studio teaching. There is therefore a lack of understanding of what "studio" really means, how well the concepts transfer to software engineering, and how effective studios are in practice. Without a clear definition of "studio", software studios cannot be properly evaluated for their impact on student learning nor can best and worst practices be shared between those who run studios. In this paper, we address this problem head-on by conducting a qualitative analysis of what "studio" really means in both arts and design. We carried out 15 interviews with a range of people with studio experiences and present an analysis and model for evaluation here. Our results suggest that there are many intertwined aspects that define studio education, but it is primarily the people and the culture that make a studio. Digital technology on the other hand can have an adverse effect on studios, unless properly recognised.