module specification

CP4011 - Critical & Contextual Studies 1 (3D) (2023/24)

Module specification Module approved to run in 2023/24
Module title Critical & Contextual Studies 1 (3D)
Module level Certificate (04)
Credit rating for module 30
School School of Art, Architecture and Design
Total study hours 300
228 hours Guided independent study
72 hours Scheduled learning & teaching activities
Assessment components
Type Weighting Qualifying mark Description
Coursework 50%   Portfolio of written work (2,500 words)
Coursework 50%   Essay/ case study (2,000 words)
Running in 2023/24

(Please note that module timeslots are subject to change)
Period Campus Day Time Module Leader
Year City Tuesday Morning

Module summary

The module aims to orient and critically engage you in the history and theory of your discipline, to examine its scope, conventions, and broader social and material context in culture and practice. The overarching purpose of this is to enable a greater ability to think through and develop your studio practice, enriching it with knowledge and ideas gained from study of the contexts in which it is framed. You will be encouraged to explore issues relevant to your own background and identity.

The module will help you to reflect on what you see and experience, and to find connections between different ideas that have shaped your discipline. In particular, the module investigates how ideas about practice in your field might be framed, for example in relation to history, the economy, cultures, society and the environment, through both theory and practice. You will be encouraged to question received ideas and to broaden your thinking and understanding of the global and previously marginalised contexts and histories of your discipline. The current and historic practice, impacts and implications of your discipline in relation to matters of sustainability, equity and accessibility will also be a focus of your studies.

The module will begin to introduce you to a range of academic skills needed to produce a graduate level study (a dissertation) in your final year. It will help you to develop and define your own interests, and to reflect on and take responsibility for the development of your own learning.


Critical and Contextual Studies 1: 3D is structured as two teaching periods of twelve weeks each, in the autumn and spring semesters. The first period begins at the start of the academic year with submission of work for assessment after the winter break, the second period begins at the start of the spring semester, with submission for assessment at the end of the academic year. The assessments are equally weighted.

One of the two periods will study the histories of your discipline, the other will investigate the practice of your discipline in its context.
Teaching period 1
The Everyday
The first teaching period asks you to reflect on the objects with which we surround ourselves, and how those reflect broader material and psychosocial conditions and intervene in the production of identities. You will consider specific artefacts each week and write about them, drawing on information and ideas provided in lectures, seminars and in your self-directed study undertaken in preparation for each weekly session. You will curate an exhibition based on these weekly discussions. This will increase your confidence in discussing and writing about familiar things, but interrogating them by using new ideas, concepts and histories. Lectures will provide the week’s theme, which will then be discussed in relation to readings tailored to your specific disciplines. Study skills, focused around the assessment, will be embedded in the weekly seminar activities.
(Learning Outcomes 1-6)

Teaching period 2
Design Histories
This block explores the material, cultural, social, political and discursive forces shaping 20th and 21st century design histories. While presented in a broadly chronological manner, the block foregrounds a non-linear reading of history. The emphasis is not on the study of isolated periods and currents, but on how design produces and responds to a set of recurrent questions introduced in this block, including the notions of identity, otherness, technology or care.
(Learning Outcomes 1-6)

Balance of independent study and scheduled teaching activity

Scheduled teaching provides the guidance and foundation to ensure that independent study is effective in addressing the module’s learning outcomes and assessment tasks.

In-class activity makes use of varied student-centred approaches such as active, flipped and blended learning, so that a range of learning strategies is deployed, and individual learning styles are accommodated. Information is provided through a range of means and sources to minimise and remove barriers to successful progress through the module. The course team seeks to embed the University’s Education for Social Justice Framework in fostering learning that is enjoyable, accessible, relevant and that takes account of the social and cultural context and capital of its students.

Activities foster peer-to-peer community building and support for learning. Reflective learning is promoted through interim formative feedback points that ask students to reflect on their progress, receive help where they identify the opportunity for improvement in learning strategies and outcomes and make recommendations to themselves for future development. Throughout the module, students build a body of work, including written reflections on progress and achievement.

The School’s programme of employability events and embedded work-based learning within the curriculum supports students’ personal and career development planning. Through these initiatives, students are increasingly able, as they progress from year to year, to understand the professional environment of their disciplines, the various opportunities available to them, and how to shape their learning according to their ambitions.

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of the module you will be able:

Cognitive intellectual abilities

1. to articulate a critical understanding of the objects of your study, using suitable  written and visual forms of presentation, appropriately using specific terms, language, and academic referencing;
2. to discuss the relationship between the theories and practices of your discipline;
3. to read, analyse and interpret written texts and other artefacts, such as images, environments and objects, understanding that they are produced with cultural bias;

Knowledge and understanding

4. to demonstrate familiarity with the scope of your discipline and its historical, social, cultural, economic, ethical and environmental contexts;

Subject specific skills

5. to use libraries, databases and other sources of information effectively and develop appropriate methods for collecting, organising and assessing material gathered;

Transferable skills,

6. to manage your own studies, reflecting on and effectively responding to feedback on your work in order to develop and improve your learning.

Assessment strategy

The module is assessed in a developmental way which will enable you to continually build your skills and confidence. You will receive a tutorial and commentary on your work before each submission (for example, on spelling, essay structure and technical details such as captions, referencing and bibliography-writing) and overall remarks.

Assessment 1 (50%) will be submitted in the first week of term after the winter break.  It is designed to help you re-engage with writing, to express yourselves in English if this is not your first language, and to build confidence in writing. It is based upon a ‘patchwork’ structure of written work that encourages reflection on various elements of your first semester’s learning journey. The syllabus and assessments address learning outcomes that develop academic skills, including inductions to using libraries and archives, critical reading skills, presentation skills, writing skills, working with feedback, planning and time management skills.

Assessment 2 (50%) will be submitted at the end of semester 2. It is an essay or case study specifically related to the coursework covered in the second of the year’s two teaching periods. Centred upon a series of core texts, the essay will combine contextual analysis of design work and a range of theoretical and historical contexts.

Assessment components:
1. ‘patchwork’ portfolio of written work (2,500 words);
2. essay/ case study (2,000 words).

Module assessment criteria:
1. engagement with the learning process and study skills;
2. quality of content (research, accuracy, relevance, scope);
3. quality of presentation (use of language, layout, referencing and academic protocols);
4. effective structure;
5. critical interpretation of images or artefacts;
6. deployment of critical and analytical skills (interpretation, debate and argument).