The Academic Services Group provides support to the portfolio’s academic and teaching staff in a variety of ways to improve learning and teaching practice in the classroom as well as extend the scholarship of teaching. In this instance, two members of the group were invited, as a neutral party, to investigate the learning experience of students in a design studio. We approached the study with the key objective of determining what the students believed had occurred in their learning experience of the course that had brought them to thinking their lives were changed. We contextualised the information we acquired from the students and teacher with our knowledge and expertise in the scholarship of teaching and the nature of good learning. This analysis then brought us to a scholarly understanding of what the students said they had experienced.
Six students were invited to participate in a focus group. They were provided in advance with an outline of the issues that would be discussed. The preparatory questions were:
• what happened that was different to other studios you may have studied in,
• what you learnt (particularly now that you’ve had some time to reflect since you completed the studio),
• what you highly valued from the experience, and
• any suggestions for improvement?
Four students attended the focus group which was two hours in length. One student who was unable to attend provided some thoughtful responses around the issues in an email. The focus group discussions were semi-structured but generally followed the issues outlined above.
The teacher was informally interviewed twice, for one hour at a time. Each interview was structured around his narrative of his past and present experiences as a teacher and was interwoven with the influences and the beliefs he recognised underpinned his approach. We often asked him questions to clarify terminology, particularly as his language was grounded in ‘design’ speak, and ours in ‘teaching and learning’, to ensure we had the same understanding of meaning throughout the dialogue of the interview.