module specification

CP4021 - Critical and Contextual Studies 1 (Visual Communication) (2024/25)

Module specification Module approved to run in 2024/25
Module title Critical and Contextual Studies 1 (Visual Communication)
Module level Certificate (04)
Credit rating for module 30
School School of Art, Architecture and Design
Total study hours 300
72 hours Scheduled learning & teaching activities
228 hours Guided independent study
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 2024/25

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

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.

Prior learning requirements

Available for Study Abroad? NO


Critical and Contextual Studies 1: Visual Communication 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
What is Visual Communication?

The first teaching period introduces the practice and purpose of critical and contextual studies from the perspective of visual communication within the broader context of historical and contemporary critical theory. Through student-led research tasks, and individually written assignments, you will identify the broader contextual factors and wider cultural elements that have influenced and informed visual communication practice. You will demonstrate this knowledge through a variety of practices including visual analysis, contextual analysis, application of theory, and critical reading skills. A core aim of the first teaching block is to develop the confidence to identify prevailing styles of art and design work, and to understand their relationship to society, and the modes, techniques and purposes of their production and distribution.
(Learning Outcomes 1-6)

Teaching period 2
How do changing cultures and contexts shape Visual Communication?

The second teaching period investigates contemporary visual communication practice through its historical development. In this period, as a group, you will outline a survey of visual communication practice through the twentieth and into the twenty-first century. Through in-class practice-based sessions, you will rethink what timelines mean (in a research sense, and in a practical sense) and how commonly understood ideas of timelines and a ‘canon’ of work can be rethought and reimagined in order to produce expanded and alternative understandings of visual communication practice.

Drawing a wide variety of visual communication practice, you will produce your own timelines, working in small groups, with your own identified agendas, mapping points, referenced art and design works, and historical and theoretical contexts. Underpinned by a series of core texts, the narrative of this teaching block is to interlink concepts of research and mapping, decentring the canon and bringing your own voices to an ‘archaeology of knowledge’.
(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.