The Mobile Studio Project in Physics


Studio Physics


The concept of Studio Physics was pioneered by Rensselaer and incorporated into the curriculum in 1994. The defining characteristics of studio physics classes are an integrated lecture-laboratory format, a reduced amount of time allotted to lecture; a technology-enhanced learning environment, collaborative group work and a high level of faculty-student interaction. The studio physics environment employs activities, computer tools and multimedia materials that allow students to actively participate in their own learning and to construct scientific knowledge for themselves. A high priority is placed on allowing students to learn directly from their interactions with the physical world through hands-on activities.


At the time of its introduction, this approach had several advantages over the traditional lecture-recitation-laboratory method:

  • Learn, and then Apply: One advantage eliminated the time separation between the students’ hearing the information and applying it in laboratory. The Studio concept allowed for approximately one hour of lecture and homework discussion, which was immediately followed by an activity where students solved paper-and-pencil problems, investigated computer simulations, or conducted hands-on experiments.
  • Access to Professors: A key advantage of Studio Physics was that the entire class was taught and supervised by a Ph.D. faculty member. Previously, the professor-in-charge had contact with the students only through the lecture portion in which the entire enrollment met in a large lecture hall. Recitation (discussion) and laboratory classes, where student-instructor interaction was more easily fostered, were taught by teaching assistants (TA’s); some of whom had a poor grasp of English, thus making them less approachable. Studio Physics offered students a far greater opportunity to interact with the professor.
  • Instrumentation Potential: User-friendly, computer-controlled instrumentation and data analysis techniques revolutionized the way measurements were made, allowing nearly instantaneous comparison between theoretical predictions, simulations, and actual experimental results.


Cummings, K. and T. French. 2001. Development of a Problem Solving Assessment Tool for Introductory Physics Students , Proceedings of the National Physics Education Research Conference, (2001).