Picture this:

It is your first day of microeconomics. You walk into your class in Woodward Hall. The room is full of seats, all neatly aligned in rows, which have started to fill with students. You take a seat near the middle of the classroom and glance around. Looking forward you see the back of the head of 30 students, a single white board, and a podium awaiting the instructor.

Looking behind you, you see 30 more students. You get an awkward feeling when looking back so you quickly turn and face the front of the room once more. The professor enters the room and takes his spot front and center. He gives a brief introduction of himself, dims the light and fires up his PowerPoint presentation addressing, “What is microeconomics?”

Deborah Rifenbary, UNM College of Education associate dean and  coordinator of the STARS program, looks over the shoulder of  Austrian schoolchildren as they create posters depicting New Mexico.

 Ph.D. student Audriana Stark

You quickly and quietly locate your pencil and begin to jot down notes in your journal. You look to your left and see a colleague dutifully copying notes on his notebook. You look to your right and see another colleague hastily typing notes on her laptop while concurrently holding a chat on Facebook. And to the far right, you see a student who looks as though he has already fallen asleep.

Now picture this:

It’s your first day of microeconomics. You walk into the learning studio in the Collaborative Teaching and Learning Building. The room is full of round tables which have started to fill with students. You cannot really make out where the front of the room is located because there are white boards on all of the walls and the teacher’s podium is in a somewhat obscure location in the room.  You take a seat at a table nearby and glance around.

You see people talking with one another creating a buzz in the room. The students sitting at your table have already begun to introduce themselves so you join in the conversation. You learn that the lady next to you with her laptop out is named Roxanne and wants to be a Foreign Service officer. The man seated to your right, Saheb, is from India and is majoring in finance. One by one, you take turns introducing yourselves. You discover that you all share a micro economic phobia but assure one another you will make it through the course together.

The professor enters the room. He walks around the class as he introduces himself and assures the students that it is going to be a fun-filled semester where you will be working with and learning from one another all about microeconomics.

“Don’t get too comfortable,” he says, “your first assignment is to go to a white board near you with your table mate and draw two columns. In one column write everything you already know about microeconomics and in the other column write everything you want to learn about microeconomics. When you are done, walk around the room, read, and discuss insights your colleagues wrote on their boards.”

You approach the board with your tablemates somewhat hesitantly. One student breaks the ice by saying, “as supply goes down, price goes up.” Before you know it, the room is buzzing once more as students talk and write about microeconomics with their colleagues.

All the while the professor is smiling as he observes his class. He is smiling because he knows he has just got his students to reveal their background knowledge, including some of their misconceptions. He has also got his students to tell him not only that they want to learn about microeconomics but what they are interested in learning as well.

The first day of class sets the stage for what the remainder of the semester is likely to hold-

A semester of teacher-centered lectures or learner-centered interaction.

A semester of passive note-taking or engaging activity.

A semester of individual assignments or collaborative problem solving.

Today’s learners are more social, more tech-savvy, and more diverse than ever before. Thus, we desire innovative teaching practices in innovative learning environments. Learning studios foster innovative teaching practices in an innovative learning environment.

Research conducted around the nation is revealing that the learning studios yield higher student and faculty satisfaction and higher student performance. I can vogue for that from the student perspective. I learned a lot of content related to microeconomics and other important lifelong skills such as leadership, communication, and teamwork. I also build strong relationships with my colleagues that I still value to this day. The learning studio enhanced my learning experience.

Students are investing our time, energy, and money in the University of New Mexico. It is apparent that the University of New Mexico is reinvesting in its students by investing in learning studios to enhance educational experiences.

On behalf of the students of UNM, I would like to thank everyone has played a role in bringing the learning studios to UNM. I especially want to extend our gratitude to the brave and inspiring faculty who are taking on the challenge to teach in innovative ways in the learning studios. You are paving the path for a bright future.