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studio learning

Have you ever wondered how your environment is affecting your ability to grow, to learn, to thrive? I have given this more thought these days since I purchased the property create lives on. How can I make our environment even more connected as a community? What learning environment best suits children and teachers? These questions influenced my search when asked to find a dissertation to read for a class I am presently taking.

I came upon a paper that seemed to check all the boxes for this research. Let’s be real though, 401 pages is a book, not a paper - dissertations now scare me! The work by Christine Morano Magee entitled A Phenomenological, Hermeneutic Case Study of Two Studio Learning Environments: Reggio Emilia Pre-school Atelier and MIT TEAL Freshmen Studio Physics peaked my interest since we designed create to be a studio learning environment influenced by the Reggio Emilia style. It covered early childhood learning, and compared classrooms that were innovative, flexible, and opposed to uniform, factory style models (Magee, 2009). Magee wanted to explore what role the classroom environment had on teaching and learning, and so did I.

I won’t lie, I had no idea what phenomenological or hermeneutic meant - Google to the rescue! Hermeneutic is an investigation, and phenomenological is the way we experience things and the meanings they have to our experiences (Smith, 2018). The methodology was a qualitative comparison of two environments through direct observation, interviews, and research. One environment was a Reggio Emilia preschool the other was the freshmen studio of physics at MIT. I was excited to read the data comparing early childhood learning to higher education environments. Comparing opposite ends of the spectrum in educational content highlighted the positive impact a studio-learning environment had for any age learner.

Magee concluded studio learning was beneficial to both groups of learners by fostering collaboration, a culture of care, and understanding of tools and systems, which let learners develop unique ideas (Magee, 2009). Student engagement increased along with constructive interactions and academic success was seen for both preschoolers and college students alike (Magee, 2009).

These results confirm our choice of creating a studio-learning environment and shows us the way we construct the environment plays a critical role in the learning success for both children and adults. The dissertation research was influenced by a few philosophies of learning. These are some of the resources cited that I believe will help build a stronger studio-learning environment as we look at developing a more connected community.

o Vygotsky’s theory of the Zone of Proximal Development

o Nodding’s Ethic of Caring

o Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences

o Studio Habits of the Mind presented by Hetland, Winner, Veenema and Sheridan


Magee, C. M. (2009). A phenomenological, hermeneutic case study of two studio learning environments: Reggio Emilia pre -school Atelier and MIT TEAL Freshmen Studio Physics (Ed.D., The George Washington University). Retrieved from

Smith, D. W. (2018). Phenomenology. In E. N. Zalta (Ed.), The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2018). Retrieved from

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