Studios in Software Engineering Education

My PhD research explored the education of software engineers using a studio-based approach [6]. This research was grounded in transferring knowledge of design education into a software engineering context [6, 3]. One of the main outputs of this work was the creation of the “Studio Framework” [1, 6], which provides nine properties that reflect categories from a Grounded Theory analysis of interviews with educators from architecture, art, and design studios—prior to this, there were no shared and agreed definitions of Studio-based learning. A simple example of this tension is that some people believe it is the physical space that is important for a Studio, whilst others believe it is the activities or people that make a Studio space. At this point, you may be asking “so what”?

The framework describes many categories of how to achieve a Studio, including for Software Engineering, such as ‘physical environment’, ‘awareness’ and ‘critique’ of each others work, and the ‘culture’ of staff and students. Spaces and places that adhere to several of the studio categories will have a better chance at fostering and training students through reflective practice [3], and help create future Software Engineering leaders. This research also provides examples of how to support specific categories of the framework, supported through observations [4]. For example, peer-testing supports explicit peer-critique and awareness of other students’ code.

Ultimately, this work gave me experience of teaching and implementing a studio-based Software Engineering course at Lancaster University [1, 2, 4, 5]. I have been teaching, facilitating, and coaching students in SE Studios since its inception. I have also been advising fellow teaching staff about Studio education best practices.

My research into Studios has also been used internationally to inform, refine, and understand the design and implementation of other Studio-based courses at several other Universities (e.g., University of Glasgow, Oulu University of Applied Sciences (Oamk), Monmouth University, University of Technology Sydney, Pennsylvania State University). My Studio research has also been used in industry to inform software critique practices.


  1. Christopher Neil Bull. Studios in software engineering education. PhD thesis. Lancaster University, 2016.
  2. Jaejoon Lee et al. Software Design Studio: A Practical Example. In: Proceedings of the 37th International Conference on Software Engineering (ICSE ‘15). Florence, Italy: IEEE, May 2015, pp. 389–397. | DOI
  3. Christopher N. Bull and Jon Whittle. Supporting Reflective Practice in Software Engineering Education through a Studio-Based Approach. In: IEEE Software 31.4 (2014), pp. 44–50. | DOI
  4. Christopher N. Bull and Jon Whittle. Observations of a Software Engineering Studio: Reflecting with the Studio Framework. In: Proceedings of the 27th Conference on Software Engineering Education and Training (CSEE&T ‘14). Klagenfurt, Austria: IEEE, 2014, pp. 74–83. | DOI | [Best Paper Award]
  5. Jon Whittle et al. Teaching in a software design studio: Implications for modeling education. In: CEUR Workshop Proceedings of the MODELS Educators Symposium (EduSymp ‘14). Vol. 1346. 2014, pp. 12–21. | PDF
  6. Christopher N. Bull, Jon Whittle, and Leon Cruickshank. Studios in Software Engineering Education: Towards an Evaluable Model. In: Proceedings of the 35th International Conference on Software Engineering (ICSE ‘13). San Francisco, CA, USA: IEEE Press, 2013, pp. 1063–1072. | DOI