Studio Structure Improves Student Performance in an Undergraduate Introductory Soil Science Course


There has recently been an increase in the number of courses implementing active learning strategies in lectures. The studio structure takes this further by integrating these strategies into an environment where lectures and labs have been combined. Prior research on science course modifications (primarily physics, chemistry, and biology) often fails to consider factors such as gender or prior achievement. Here we describe the modification of an introductory soil science course from a traditional lecture-lab format to a studio structure. The primary objective of this study was to determine if this restructuring influenced student performance. We were also interested in whether the modification differentially influenced performance of lower vs. higher-performing students or male vs. female students. We found that students taking the studio course obtained higher final grades than those taking the traditional course and that the fail rate was significantly lower in the studio course. Lower performing students made greater gains in the studio relative to the traditional course. Female students outperformed male students in both the studio and traditional courses, but there was some evidence for the gap closing in the studio course (on exam performance only). These findings demonstrate that the studio structure can improve student performance in an introductory soil science course and that this format can be especially helpful for lower-performing students.


Soil Biogeochemistry and Microbial Ecology

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Natural Sciences Education



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© 2015 by the American Society of Agronomy