Participation in Activities

I have found the DWPI module to be incredibly insightful and illuminating, it has prompted me to question my teaching practice and the social constructs that operate on us. Bourdieu’s concept of ‘Cultural Capital’ has been particularly enlightening in the context of Art & Design education, especially his assertion that ‘the meanings and values of culture are contingent on the context and on social conditioning producers and consumers, taste is not pure.’ (Neil and Reid, 2009 citing Bourdieu, 2005) Taste is revealed as a construct of ‘learnt vocabularies’ that can only be decoded once somebody becomes literate in the codes of the cultural hegemony. I found this to be incredibly insightful.

In addition reading Freire’s ‘Pedagogy Of The Oppressed’ was inspiring, although the language is dense and often frustratingly wordy, I found the essence of his stance to be helpful, his view that ‘true education’ is an active space for the effective exchange of ideas which leads to inquiry, action and engagement, is something that I share. His view that education is a ‘liberating’ force, which enables students to ‘become’, is something, which I too believe.

I was also awoken by Ronald Barnett’s Recapturing the Universal in the University (2005) paper that explores postmodernism and relativism in the context of Universities, the following quote has resonated through the module

“…the central idea in postmodernism is that we are in the presence of the end of universals. In a postmodern world no doctrine, no value and no principle can be upheld with absolute assurance.”

I have transposed this to the module, in the sense that all students bring with them their own ‘universe’: their background, culture, view, perspective etc. These are to be accepted and enabled to grow and expand.

In terms of participation, I have commented on Richie’s blog posts and read my other learning groups posts, which have all been insightful. I have found the informal conversations I have had with my peers at the workshops to be the arena, which help the most in clarifying ideas and approaches. I have had numerous conversations with Clare Skeats who is a colleague on the Foundation Course who has been a fantastic sounding board and clarifier…

Posted in PG Cert in Teaching & Learning, Unit 03: Inclusivity: Diversity | Leave a comment

Live Project: Supporting Change

1. How do you plan to address issues around diversity through this course development?

In order to address the issues around diversity I have looked at Part Three: Diversity Strategy 2010–2015 of the UAL Equality & Diversity Framework 2010–2015 that clearly states the UAL position and vision towards the diversity question:

  • To recognise that diversity is everyone’s business.
  • To understand and the strengthen the ways in which the diversity of our students, staff and alumni from the colleges enhances the University’s distinctive reputation for academia and enterprise in the arts and on a regional, national and international level.
  • To ensure that principles of good equality and diversity practice inform and shape our teaching, learning, research and employment approaches for the benefit of our students staff and the creative industries.

These closely align to the Equality Act 2010 that states:

The act covers nine protected characteristics, which cannot be used as a reason to treat people unfairly. Every person has one or more of the protected characteristics, so the act protects everyone against unfair treatment. The protected characteristics are:

  • age
  • disability
  • gender reassignment
  • marriage and civil partnership
  • pregnancy and maternity
  • race
  • religion or belief
  • sex
  • sexual orientation

In raising my awareness of diversity and understanding the wider cultural, social and political contexts of the issue, it will greatly inform my teaching practice, in turn feeding into the course I teach on.

2. In what ways are the different diversity strands considered e.g. age, caring responsibilities, disability, gender, ethnicity, religion and belief, sexual orientation, transgender, socio-economic class?

The UAL Equality & Diversity Framework 2010–2015 considers all of the strands to be of equal importance, and should cater for all equally. The responsibility of honouring the strategy belongs collectively to the University, from each college and department to the individual. The strategies which the Framework proposes to ensure the successful delivery is through 5 actions:

  1. Establishing an evidence base for informed decision-making on equality and diversity issues
  2. Integrating equality and diversity considerations into functions, policies and processes
  3. Providing training, guidance and information
  4. Ensuring accessibility and inclusivity
  5. Promoting leadership and effective communications

I feel that points 3 and 5 are very important, providing suitable training and clear/concise communication of UAL policy is integral for the actions to be delivered.

3. How diverse are your reading lists?

In terms of the Graphics Communication & Design pathway I teach on, the ‘reading list’ we provide to the students takes the form of the references compiled for each project. A one-week project brief will list relevant books, artists, designers, practitioners, exhibitions, museums, films, websites or resources for that specific project brief. With that in mind the resources are diverse often referring to different nationalities, ages, gender and ethnicities. In reflection it would also be beneficial to encourage students to add to these references from their own cultural identity.

4. How wide is the range of references used?

As mentioned in the previous answer references include books, artists, designers, practitioners, exhibitions, museums, films, websites etc.

5. How is the course delivered – group work/ peer assessment?

The Foundation course at CSM is fast paced, running over a 32-week period, which is split into three parts:

  • Part One. Weeks 1 to 9. Units 1–4 —Diagnostic pathway rotation
  • Part Two. Weeks 11 to 18. Units 5&6  — Pathway specialisation
  • Part Three. Weeks 19 to 32. Units 7 — Final major project

Group work is encouraged in Part 1 to build friendships etc, but Parts 2 & 3 projects are focused on the individual, however, group critiques are an integral aspect throughout the course, so peer assessment is embedded and encouraged in all Unit projects.

6. What are the project briefs like? (what is the subject matter/ the cultural references/ the clarity of language)

The Foundation course introduces students to the plethora of Art & Design from Fine Art, Fashion & Textiles, 3 Dimensional Design & Architecture to Graphic Communication & Design (GCD). Project briefs are therefore introduce core principles or approaches indigenous to each discipline.

The schema of work for Part Two comprises of seven one-week projects that are designed to introduce fundamental principles, processes and approaches within the wide gamut of GCD. Each project introduces key skills, concepts, ideas and vocabulary to a particular area of GCD: information design, typography, branding, packaging, book design, image making, photography, printing processes, layout, concept development and critical thinking.

Equipping students with the specialist language GCD is embedded into the projects, thus creating a glossary of terms that students hopefully use and understand. Cultural references tend to be brought in by the students, for example a recent student focused on her cultural heritage for her Unit 7 project.

7. When and how are student identities explored within the course?

Students explore their identities throughout the Foundation course, the course prompts this exploration especially throughout Part 1, in which the students experience all of the pathways and make a decision on which two pathways they want to explore further, in Part 2 student specialise in a pathway. Once specialised project brief encourage students to explore and experiment thus expanding their visual language and encouraging new ways of seeing and thinking. The Foundation course really pushes students to question and explore and therefore identities are explored and often discovered.

8. What level of choice do students have on what subjects to work on?

Part 2 as mentioned is a series of seven one-week projects, the briefs are designed to be open to enable students to respond as they see fit, encouraging students to make their own choices and be able to rationalise and justify why they have made those choices.

Part 3 of the Foundation course is Unit 7: Art and Design Project Proposal and Realisation, it is the final major project and is a seven-week self-directed project, in which the students identify a theme they wish to explore and write their own detailed project proposal, time schedule, bibliography and methods of evaluation.

9. Visual research – Is there a range of images used in the work? (not just from the exclusive western canon?)

Visual references relate directly to project briefs; these are sourced from a wide range of practitioners, which are not exclusively from the western canon.

One Part 2 one-week project is called ‘How To Build An Egg Catcher’; in groups students design & build a structure to catch an egg dropped from 8ft using restricted materials (3 newspaper and 1 roll of string). Using their documentation of the build process, students work individually to produce a set of instructions to recreate it. This introduces the area of information design, exploring problem solving through reduction, using signs and symbols to communicate and instruct, and typography / format. For this project the references include the work of Gerd Arntz, Isotype, Olt Aicher amongst others.

On reflection I could expand the references by researching the use of pictograms / information design in a wider cultural arena. One interesting intervention would be to invite students to suggest relevant references from their own cultural perspective.

10. Which staff teach on the course? – do they have a range of experiences both nationally and internationally?

We have a diverse teaching cohort on the GCD pathway; nationalities include German, Portuguese, Danish, Scottish, Italian, Lebanese and English.

11. What are the range of collaborations with external organisations/or individuals?

Throughout Part 2 the students visit relevant museums or exhibition, this year we arranged for a talk at the British Library by a specialist in Zines. We also arranged a ‘pop up’ stall in The Street, KX for the sale of a product multiple the students produced. 

12. What are the arrangements for reasonable adjustments and anticipating the needs of disabled and dyslexic students?

I would assume that if a student does have specific needs these would and can be catered for. I am assuming that the curriculum leader would inform me of these.

13. What are the opportunities for students to be assessed in different formats- relating to dyslexia? Viva voce?

I assume that these requirement can be catered for, I would speak to my curriculum leader to confirm what policy / approach the Foundation offers.

14. What are the course level strategies to address degree classification differentials?

The Foundation awards an FE qualification. Again I would speak with the curriculum leader as to how classification differentials are handled.

15. What are the strategies for addressing issues raised through complaints and appeals.

This is something that I am not familiar with and again would speak with the curriculum leader to clarify the Foundation courses position / approach.

Posted in PG Cert in Teaching & Learning, Unit 03: Inclusivity: Diversity | 1 Response

What is Widening Participation?

Chapter 1 of Inclusive Practices, Inclusive pedagogies: Learning from Widening Participation in Art and Design Higher Education by Bhagat and O’Neil (2011) has illustrated that this area is deeply complex. WP has emerged to address longstanding issues that are cultural, social and politically embedded realities, these require a radical critique to shift the perpetuating and engrained habits of exclusivity that is prevalent in HE.

The definition of ‘widening participation’ has be been perceived to imply difference and ‘otherness’ which Bhagat and O’Neil question by repositioning it’s meaning to suggest a fully inclusive approach, urging a critical reappraisal of what WP means in all institutions and in ones own teaching practice.

Socio-economic class has been traditionally viewed as the primary focus of WP, increasing lower socio-economic groups’ access to and success in HE. Bhagat and O’Neil, however, assert that many other barriers exist that limit access and success in HE these include age, disability, gender, race, sexuality as well as socio-economic class. It is the transition from exclusivity to inclusivity that is the core of WP.

“We must make certain that the opportunities higher education brings are available to all those who have the potential to benefit from them, regardless of their background…” DFES, 2003, p.67

This quote from the previous governments 2003 White Paper is reassuring yet idealistic, it seems that the powers that be recognise (or recognised) that the WP agenda needs addressing, however, have the sentiments in the quote been realised 10 years later? Change is a slow and complex process. Bhagat and O’Neil explore whom WP refers to finding that in the UK we’re focused on social class whereas the US focuses on race and ethnicity. They suggest that the UK ‘colour-blind’ approach actually avoids the issue; by ignoring it, it does not exist. If the constructs and realities WP wishes to change, institutions need to tackle these issues head-on; it becomes apparent that difficult truths / realities need to be openly addressed and discussed. One ‘awkward’ truth / reality mentioned is that ‘university faculty staff remain predominantly white’, which is an uncomfortable fact.

Within my experience of teaching, cohorts have come from many different nationalities, ethnicities and socio-economic backgrounds. One issue that I have encountered is that teaching staff are never made aware who is WP, which I appreciate illustrates the ‘otherness’ Bhagat and O’Neil refer too, however, WP students are apparently entitled to an additional 1hr tutorial, if that is the case is that only again reinforcing that ‘otherness’ implying that WP students do require an additional tutorial? If I am honest I feel that all students would benefit from an additional 1hr tutorial! I found this issue echoed in Stephen Gorard’s observation that universities attract but do not cater for WP students.

I have found reading this chapter to be both insightful and unsettling; in the sense that it is apparent that injustices and inequalities permeate throughout education and consequently all cultural, social and political institutions. The instruction Bhagat and O’Neil prompt: “…we reconceptualise education as inherently participator and work toward a socially-integrative HE that reflects and speaks to all of British society” is something that I feel is extremely necessary in light of the landscape they paint and something that I would like to assist in realising.

Posted in PG Cert in Teaching & Learning, Widening Particiption & Internationalism | 1 Response

The Purpose of Assessment

Broadfoot (1996) asserts that assessment can be understood through the interplay of the themes; competence, competition and control. Education is an apparatus of social control, to legitimise, reinforce and validate the prevailing political ideology and perpetuate status quo. It is a socialising tool operating as a filter: filtering individuals through assessment for assimilation into the workforce, which equips them with competency and a ‘mastery of the norms and skill necessary for effective participation in society’. This cold, yet accurate, view has challenged my idealised perspective on what education is and what function it provides.

Broadfoot’s exploration of this relationship between education and society is revealing; the political and historical aspects bring forth the complex foundations upon which education and assessment have been formed. The connection between industrialisation and the educational / social shift enabled students with academic ‘ability’ and ‘intelligence’ to transcend social class barriers, thus accessing further and higher education brings to light the transformation of education and society.

The standardisation of education through syllabuses and curriculum is the industrialisation of education, whereby educations role is to provide society with competent and certified individuals with career aspirations or skill for the workforce. Assessment has been legitimised by the notion of ‘fairness’ that it provides free competition based upon academic ability. Assessment ignites competiveness and thus motivates students to do well. Motivation is a form of control. Assessment keeps the loop closed, it locks down the status quo and perpetuates itself.

Considering Broadfoot’s notion that assessment is an agent of control, it prompts me to look again how assessment is employed on the Foundation course.

The aims of assessment are to measure your achievement against the Learning Outcomes and Assessment Criteria for each Unit, to provide feedback on your progress and achievement and to provide a focus for self-evaluation and future learning.” Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, Foundation Diploma in Art and Design, Course Handbook 2011/12

The Graphics Communication and Design pathway on the Foundation course is assessed through the learning outcomes and assessment criteria. The course structure is as follows:

Part One
Learning Skills and Context
Unit 1 Art and Design Research Methods
Unit 2 Art and Design Ideas Development
Unit 3 Art and Design Materials and Methods
Unit 4 Evaluation and Reflection

Part Two
Development and Progression
Unit 5 Integrated Art and Design Research, Ideas and Methods
Unit 6 Preparation for Progression

Part Three
Proposal and Realisation
Unit 7 Art and Design Project Proposal and Realisation

Assessment occurs at the end of each part and progression to the next part is dependant upon passing the previous part. The students are to evidence all learning outcomes and assessment criteria through their sketchbook(s), information file, reflective journal, outcomes and supporting work.

Assessment does assert control, in the context that students are required to fulfil criteria, but I would argue that the criterion, once deciphered and understood, offers a robust, relevant and rigorous approach to the creative process. With this in mind I feel that the Foundation course does not employ control as its modus operandi, but nurtures the threshold concept perspective of education as transformation. The foundation course encourages critical and independent thinking, hopefully igniting ownership and authorship of their own learning within the student assisting them in ‘becoming’ who they want to ‘become’.


Posted in PG Cert in Teaching & Learning, Unit 01: Learning and Teaching for Art & Design | 2 Responses

What does ‘Creativity’ mean to you, and in your discipline?

“When inspiration comes, may it find me working…” Pablo Picasso

To me creativity is not a one off expression, or a flash of inspiration, nor a singular occurrence, but the product of an ongoing process of enquiry. Creativity is a discipline, a way of thinking, seeing and questioning the world, the foundations of which are based on research, experimentation, exploration, engagement and reflection; these approaches create a solid basis for discovery and creativity.

The foundation course introduces this creative approach to the students, which is specified and formalised, albeit wordy, in each Unit’s learning and assessment criteria. These criteria propose this structured process to the creative practise, closely mirroring Lindström (2006) product and process criteria.

My students are currently beginning Unit 7; a seven-week self-directed project, in which the students identify a theme they wish to explore and write their own detailed project proposal, time schedule, bibliography and methods of evaluation. The assessment criteria for Unit 7 are as follows:

  1. Have a critical and contextual understanding of different perspectives and approaches within art and design subjects of study or work
  2. Research, analyse and evaluate specific information and ideas in order to develop creative solutions
  3. Solve complex problems through the application of art and design practical, theoretical and technical understanding
  4. Adapt and use appropriate practical methods and skills for creative production
  5. Use evaluative and reflective skills in order to take responsibility for own learning, development and effective decision making
  6. Critically review the effectiveness and appropriateness of planning, methods, actions and results
  7. Effectively present themselves and their work to appropriate audiences

More often than not students are confused by these criteria, as the language and processes seem longwinded and obtuse. Assisting the student to understand what these actually means is key, as it is common for them to fixate on the ‘outcome’ and ignore the journey of getting there, but this is as important, if not more important than the outcome, rather like the oxymoron ‘the journey is the destination’.

I have conducted a session where I divide the class into small groups, each of which is given the assessment criteria and through a group discussion and brainstorm rewrite the criteria in their own language. Then through a feedback session the whole class discusses each criteria, hopefully, clarifying and defining what they mean. When they identify that the criteria echos the creative process of; research, ideas development, experimentation and exploration of material / methods and ongoing reflection and evaluation, they then understand what is expected from them and how / where they evidence this within sketchbook(s), information file and reflective journal.

Keeping a reflective journal is often the criteria which the students find difficult as ‘a capacity for self-assessment is not innate, it is something that students can develop and refine’ Lindström (2006). Equipping the students with the understanding of why reflective practise is beneficial to their creative process is therefore necessary; and is something that I need to focus on currently with my students. I intend to conduct a session where the students interrogate what constitutes constructive and ‘open’ reflective questions and why it is important to record these. Reflection enables the student to adopt a different perspective on their work, it can assist in objectifying them from their work, thus identifying areas to focus on, change, develop, resolve, enquire, and amend…

“Good descriptive rubics, supported by examples of both high quality and less satisfactory work, help students to assess their own work and to understand what qualities of performance the teaching aims to achieve” Lindström (2006) I found this particularly insightful, as to establish this within Unit 7 group crits and work in progress exhibitions will be helpful in communicating what constitutes best practise and why.

Demystifying the creative process is as Lindström (2006) stated; ‘Creativity is not as private and individual a process as we often imagine. It is always a part of a social and cultural context’. By encouraging exploration in the wider social, cultural and political space, students discover new ways of working; finding links between themselves and others. It is this ‘cultural influence’, which enriches, nourishes and inspires their creative process and ultimately their work.

Posted in PG Cert in Teaching & Learning, Unit 01: Learning and Teaching for Art & Design | 3 Responses

Unit 02: Teaching Development Project Proposal

Will enabling students to define the evaluation criteria, establish a shared language framework and identify ‘best practice’ in a crit, achieve an active arena of student communication and participation?

“In design learning and teaching the crit is widely considered to provide a key moment of critical debate and intervention” (Percy 2004)

The Foundation course exposes students to exciting and new ways of seeing and thinking within art and design disciplines. The crit is an integral part of art and design education; it is an arena to validate, discuss, share, explain, develop and define ideas, which can enable reflective and critical learning within students (Brockbank & McGill 2007, p227). A crit creates a forum for discourse equipping the students with the confidence, understanding and language to become apart of a community of practice (Wenger 2006).

The Foundation course at CSM is fast paced, running over a 32-week period, diagnostic rotations during weeks 1 to 9 with pathway specialisation occurring in week 11. Pathway specialisation covers Units 5&6; the schema of work constitutes seven one-week projects to introduce key principles, processes and approaches, the outcomes of which are to create a strong portfolio to use for BA course progression. At the end of each one-week project the outcome(s) and supporting work (sketchbooks, mock-ups, reflective journal, research) are exhibited for a crit.

On average class sizes are around 30 students, a mixture of international and home/EU students with varying degrees of English language skills and mixed abilities and proficiency within the discipline. Consequently I have found negotiating a meaningful and valued crit a challenge. The problems I have faced fall into two categories:

1. Communication:

  • International students find it very difficult to communicate their ideas if they are not confident with their English language skills.
  • The students do not posses the specialist language to be able to fully articulate their views or ideas.
  • The quality of feedback tends to be superficial and not meaningful, e.g. “I like it” or “I agree with what they said…”

2. Participation:

  • The ‘uncomfortable silence’ which I feel the need to fill, thus I end up doing too much of the talking.
  • Some students do not say anything, others too much!
  • Maintaining a rhythm, momentum and energy.

The strategies I propose to promote communication and participation are centered on aligning the crit to facilitate discourse, establish a shared framework of language, encourage considered and constructive peer-to-peer feedback and embrace the notions of threshold concepts, communities of practice and constructive alignment. The structure of my intervention is as follows:

  • Split students randomly into six groups of five (+/-1) and cluster around the same desk space. Within each group allocate the following roles and responsibilities:
    • Spokesperson / Team leader
    • Time keeper
  • Each group conducts a 10min brainstorm to establish and define the relevant evaluation criteria for the outcome(s) and supporting work e.g.:
    • Research
    • Ideas development
    • Experimentation
    • Materials and methods
    • Production quality
    • Communication
  • All groups feedback to a larger class brainstorm, to establish the evaluation criteria, which will be listed on the whiteboard.
  • Each group conducts two 7mins brainstorms on:
    • ‘Unhelpful’ words / phrases which are not useful within feedback:
      • “It’s nice…”
      • “I like the colour…”
    • ‘Helpful’ words / phrases which are useful within feedback:
      • “Have you seen the work of such and such…”
      • “I like the print process you have used, have you explored cyanotype…”
  • All groups feedback to a larger class brainstorm to establish a list of words that cannot be used in the written feedback, which will be listed on the whiteboard
  • Students display all outcome(s) and supporting work.
  • Each group rotates to a different group’s desk space
    • Each student spends 5mins responding to the work with written feedback addressing each criterion with:
      • Two positives
      • A constructive suggestion for further investigation
    • In groups students share their findings and choose an example of best practice for each criterion
    • Feedback paper is folded and put into the first page of sketchbook
  • Each group rotates to another group’s desk space and repeats the process.
  • At the end of two rotations each group showcases and discusses their chosen ‘best practice’ criterion examples to the rest of the group.
  • On the whiteboard collate all definitions and examples on what constitutes ‘best practice’ for each criterion.

“Communities of practice enable practitioners to take collective responsibility for managing the knowledge they need…” (Wenger 2006)

This intervention establishes an open framework where students take ownership of their learning which increases their depth of understanding. Enabling the authorship of their own evaluation criterion constructively aligns the intended learning outcomes, to the learning and teaching activities with the assessment tasks of Units 5&6 (Biggs 2007). The students identify evidence of their own learning through this process, establishing a reflective practice.

“…learning can become a source of motivation, meaningfulness and personal and social energy” (Osmand, Turner & Land 2008)

The first of ‘Seven Principles Of Good Feedback Practice’ (Nicol & Macfarlane–Dick 2006) states that clarifying what good performance is (goals, criteria, expected standards) greatly assists the student to self-regulated learning. Which is key in the process of transformative learning; whereby a student ‘becomes’ what they are studying; they take ownership of their learning, and becoming part of the community of practice and leads to some change in ideas, beliefs, values, ways of being, knowing and doing. (Danvers 2003)

This intervention aims to develop and refine the student’s language skills through discourse with peers; the guided brainstorms establish a pro forma of considered and relevant language to be built upon in future crits. This will enable students to articulate their ideas and give meaningful and valued feedback, ultimately developing their skills of critical analysis.

A group discussion will evaluate the effectiveness of the intervention; students will feedback comments and suggestions, which I shall document. I intend to expand my research and learning of this area to ensure I facilitate a system to fully encourage communication and participation in crits.


Percy, C. (2004) Critical absence versus critical engagement: problematics of the crit in design learning and teaching, Art, Design and Communication in Higher Education Journal, Vol.2, No.3, PP. 143–154.

Nicol, D.J & Macfarlane-Dick, D. (2006) Formative assessment and self-regulated learning: a model and seven principles of good feedback practice, Studies in Higher Education, Vol.31, No.2, April 2006, PP. 199–218.

Boud, D. (1994) The move to self-assessment: liberation or a new mechanism for oppression? 1994 Scutrea Conference Proceedings, PP.10–13.

Amulya, J. (2003). What is reflective practice? Center for Reflective Community Practice, Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Online Resource accessed December 2011 from

Horton, Dr.I. (2007) The Relationship between Creativity and the Group Crit In Art & Design Education, Creativity of Conformity, Building Cultures of Creativity in Higher Education, January 2007

Blythman, M. Orr, R. & Blair, B. (2007) Criting the Crit, The Higher Education Academy. Online Resource accessed December 2011 from

Osmond, J., Turner, A., & Land, R. (2008) Threshold concepts and spatial awareness in Transport and Product Design. In R. Land, J. H. F. Meyer & J. Smith (Eds.), Threshold Concepts in the Disciplines (pp. 243-258). Rotterdam: Sense Publishers.

Biggs, J., & Tang, C. (2007) Teaching for quality learning at university: what the student does (3rd ed.). Maidenhead: Society for Research into Higher Education and Open University Press.

Wenger, E. (2006) Communities of Practice; A Brief Introduction. Online Resource accessed October 2011 from

Danvers, J. (2003) Towards a Radical Pedagogy: Provisional Notes of Learning and Teaching in Art & Design. iJADE (International Journal of Art & Design Education), Vol. 22, No.1, p. 47-57.

Engendering a culture of the critical review (or the crit). Nottingham Trent University Online Resource accessed December 2011 from

McCarth, C. (2011) The Speed Crit – Redesigning the Design Crit. Online Resource accessed December 2011 from

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Unit 02: TDP — Identify a problem and construct a research question

What problem, challenge or issue have you identified within your teaching practice that will form the basis for your Teaching Development Project?

Throughout art and design education students are expected to communicate their ideas clearly. This discourse takes place in many situations; one to one tutorials, group tutorials, group crits and peer to peer. Equipping the students with the necessary vocabulary, understanding and confidence to engage and benefit from these interactions is a key learning objective.

A crit is an integral part of art & design education. Throughout the Foundation course students experience a crit either as a one to one tutorial, in a small group tutorial, generally in the context of Unit 7 in groups of 4 to 6, or a larger group crit with up to as many as 34 students.

Units 5&6 of the foundation course constitute of 7 one-week projects; at the end of each project the outcome(s) and supporting work (sketchbooks, mock-ups, reflective journal, research) are exhibited for a group crit. I find a group crit both large and small a challenge, the problems I have encountered are:

  • The ‘uncomfortable silence’ which I feel the need to fill, thus I end up doing too much of the talking.
  • Some students do not say anything, others too much!
  • International students find it very difficult to contribute if they are not confident with their English language skills.
  • In a class size of 30+ talking about each students work can take up hours.
  • Students feel disenfranchised if their work has not been spoken about.
  • Maintaining a rhythm, momentum and energy.
  • The quality of feedback tends to be superficial and not meaningful, e.g. “I like it” or “I agree with what they said…”.
  • Keeping the on topic
  • Not giving the students the time to prepare or properly evaluate the outcomes / supporting work in a structured or meaningful context.
  • The students do not posses the language to be able to fully communicate their views and or ideas.
  • Students do not value the importance or purpose of a group crit.
  • Students get bored and unfocused.

What, briefly, do you plan to do to address this problem?

I intend to explore methods of facilitating a meaningful and valuable group crit for students to actively engage with and leave with written feedback and/or a clear action plan of things to consider, research, read or see…

My current understanding of the purpose of a group crit is to create an arena to validate, discuss, develop and define ideas. Here are some additional initial thoughts on what a crit helps develop within the foundation context:

  • Prompts dialogue to develop
  • Grow and develop skills
  • Language
  • Literacy
  • Development communication skills
  • Analytical skills
  • Read and interpret visual language

Through discussion with my colleagues and from a brainstorm I identified parameters, which I could impose to assist in addressing my problem:

  • Establish time restrictions
  • Create small groups
  • Enable peer to peer feedback
  • Create an action plan / to do list
  • Hand out a Crit Sheet with key assessment criteria
  • Response to the work is more valuable that talking through the work
  • Always constructive criticism not negatives
  • State 2 Positives and an area for improvement

How will you evaluate your project; i.e. what will you do in order to determine whether your intervention has addressed the problem? What variables or indicators will you measure? How will you measure them?

Pre intervention my intention is to gauge the current perceptions students have on the function and value of a group crit. I will ask for volunteers to establish a student focus group to meet to discuss their experiences and views and document this event. I will also distribute a questionnaire to the cohort to extract their views and experiences.

Post intervention I will hold another meeting with the focus group to feedback on the intervention, I will distribute another questionnaire to the cohort to feedback on the intervention. Time permitting I intend to refine the intervention integrating amends or suggestion the feedback highlights.

Research links

Posted in PG Cert in Teaching & Learning, Unit 02: Teaching Development Project | 1 Response

Communities of Practice revisited

I first read Wenger’s Community of practice (2006) in October at the beginning of the PG Cert, as a result I am now aware of the various, and in many ways interconnected, communities of practices (CoPs) I have circled, been involved in and now part of. Herne’s Communities of practice in art and design and museum and gallery education (2006) expanded my understanding further. I was drawn to his ‘constellations’ metaphor; that larger social, commercial or institutional bodies are too complex to be treated as a single CoPs as they overlap, intertwine and are interconnected and are best regarded as a ‘constellations’ of CoPs.

It prompted me to consider unpacking and identifying the CoPs within my own micro constellation. I became aware of more established, far reaching CoPs which I have orbited and engaged with over longer durations of time, and which have shaped my design practice in terms or processes, approaches and connections to other CoPs.

From 2001 to 2006 I was employed in the Radio & Music Interactive department of the BBC. One aspect of the department’s responsibility was to develop the online representation for all of the BBC’s Radio networks. I worked in the design team, which was employing what was considered best practice for the design process; integrating the latest methodologies, techniques and approaches of how to develop, structure, design and build comprehensive and ‘user centred’ websites.

I worked with a team of very creative and engaged colleagues, ranging from software engineers, information architects, user experience designers, front end developers, online and radio production teams and the presenters and DJ’s themselves. It was an inspiring environment to work in, I was exposed to a range of ideas and processes, which were not indigenous to my graphic design practice, but came from information architects or software engineers or radio production teams etc. Very different disciplines cross-pollinated in that arena producing some really exciting and innovative outcomes.

Herne (2006) explores conflicts and possible resolutions between two similar yet opposed CoPs, this struck a cord with my own experiences as a designer working with different disciplines; front end developer or software engineers; each party looks upon the same thing with very different paradigms, perspectives, objectives, approaches and language, therefore conflicts or misunderstandings often occur.

To resolve this potential disruption, our multi-disciplinary teams, on occasion, recognised and understood the differences of approach and process but sought to negotiate and allocate a space where we could align to a shared goal, which was to produce a website or product to the best of our combined efforts. This is the essence of what Herne calls ‘fruitful and respectful collaboration’.

Transposing this learning to my teaching practise is intriguing as to establish and help nurture an arena for ‘fruitful and respective collaboration’ I see being very challenging. The Foundation course is a very short course, where group work is embedded predominantly in Part One (weeks 1 to 9) once specialised (weeks 12 to 21) group work is a fractional aspect, and tended to be discouraged as it is about building an individual students portfolio. I do, however, try to encourage and harbour as much discourse between the students as possible, to create an energy and momentum of engagement, production, experimentation and exploration. Which hopefully gives the opportunity for CoPs to emerge in the studio, which the students will orbit for years to come…


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Threshold Concepts

Threshold Concepts represents a transformation through learning. The process of learning shifts to a ‘process of becoming’; a student becomes literate / fluent within a system of knowledge or understanding. They are transformed by this access, dialogue and exposure to fundamental practises and principles specific to that system or discipline.

Every discipline within art and design has unique ‘ways of thinking and practising’, for a student to ‘become’ the thing that they are studying they require the necessary tools of that practice and equip themselves with the revenant nomenclature. To communicate successfully within the community of practise that you are studying you need to know the correct language to explain, justify, validate and communicate your ideas.

This notion of transformation and ‘becoming’ reminded me of Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Need (Maslow, 1943.) in which he establishes the concept of self-actualisation. Self-actualisation can only be attained once the ‘basic needs’ of food, shelter, warmth and love are present, these provide the foundation for an individual to become what they are motived to become; “What a man can be, he must be.” (Maslow, 1943)

This Hierarchy of Need can be transposed to threshold concepts, where the basics needs are the underlying principles, practices, knowledge, nomenclature, understanding a student requires to become ‘self-actualised’ as the practitioner of the discipline they are studying, and to enter into the community of practice.

Within the context of the graphic design pathway on the foundation course, students are introduced to concepts, principles and ideas which are fundamental to the wide gamut of graphic design. Units 5&6 consist of seven one week projects, each designed to introduce a different aspect / principle of graphic design. The first project is titled ‘How to Build an Egg Catcher’; in groups students have to design and build a structure from restricted materials (3 newspapers and a ball of string which will catch an egg dropped from 8ft. They then work individually to produce a set of instructions on how to recreate it.

‘How to Build an Egg Catcher’ introduces to the following concepts, vocabulary and ideas; reduction, semiotics, instruction, clarity, symbolism, visual shorthand and information graphics. Also embedded are specific tasks such as; contextual research, independent gallery visit, drawing exercises, problem solving, reduction; using signs and symbols to communicate and instruct, typography and format. These, hopefully, begin to equip the students with specific and explicit threshold concepts, methods, techniques and language of graphic design.

I found the idea of ‘conceptual transgression’ appealing as it is always a pleasure to see a brief taken on an unexpected tangent which results in something very different. This is always encouraged, as it this freedom of constraint which distinguishes a learning environment from a corporate one.

Posted in PG Cert in Teaching & Learning | 2 Responses

Constructive Alignment

Constructive alignment questions the effectiveness of the hierarchical model of learning and teaching; where a teacher imparts ‘knowledge’ onto a student who subsequently remembers it; by remembering it they ‘learn’ it. The means of assessing the effectiveness of this learning is through examination or essay. I see this as a ‘linear’ learning process, from A to B, from not ‘knowing’ something to ‘knowing’ something; it seems a ‘closed’ learning framework.

Constructive alignment flips this model; it established a ‘circular’ learning process, an ‘open’ learning framework. It can be defined by three questions:

01. “What do you want to learn?
02. “How are you going to learn it?”
03. “Did you learn it? Reflect and evaluate on your learning process”

By identifying the intended learning outcome (ILOs), the student / teacher works backward creating and defining a series of teaching / learning activities (TLAs) which assist in achieving the intended learning outcome. The assessment tasks (ATs) of this process are aligned with both the learning outcome and learning activities. It is ‘circular’ through this interconnection. This iterative ‘open’ framework encourages the student to reflect and evaluate on their progress and development throughout ensuring ownership and authorship of the learning process.

An example could be learning to swim; learning to swim requires swimming lessons; each lesson introduces a new swimming activity, these encompass new techniques, over time culminating in the ability to swim. The swimming instructor ‘teaches’ the student swimmer to swim by swimming. Constructive alignment activates the verb expressed within the ILO; learning to swim by swimming.

On the Foundation course Units 5&6 occur when students specialize within their chosen pathway, it comprises of 7 one week projects designed to introduce fundamental approaches and principles of Graphic Communication and Design (GCD);problem solving and visual communication through understanding typography, book design, information design, layout, branding, packaging, concept development and critical thinking.

The ‘Book’ one-week project reflects the constructive alignment system. The ITO is to design and make a book; through practical workshops (book binding, layout techniques) and setting relevant research tasks (identifying relevant artists or designers who have used books within their practice) and introducing specialist language and concepts (navigation, double page spread, crop, layout) equips the student with the necessary elements to achieve the ITO. It also is open for discovery of new unintended outcomes as it encourages serendipity.

The ATs are constant throughout the learning process; the students keep a reflective journal to evaluate and reflect and iterate as they see fit. At the end of the week all books are exhibited, each student assesses each others work based upon the assessment criteria specified in Units 5&6 (ideas development, research, production quality, clarity of communication…) a group crit is held to discuss the outcomes.

Jerome Bruner’s Spiral Curriculum supports and expands Constructive Alignment. Bruner identifies that learning through enquiry enables effective ‘intuitive’ and meaningful understanding. Introducing the fundamental principles or elements and the connections between them creates a ‘spiral’ learning model, as each project always negotiates one or more of these fundamental principles, through repeating them deeper understanding emerge. I intend to put into practice these systems in the briefs I am currently writing for Units 5&6, I am very much looking forward to putting theory into practice.

Posted in PG Cert in Teaching & Learning | 3 Responses
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