module specification

CP5011 - Critical & Contextual Studies 2 (3D) (2023/24)

Module specification Module approved to run in 2023/24
Module title Critical & Contextual Studies 2 (3D)
Module level Intermediate (05)
Credit rating for module 30
School School of Art, Architecture and Design
Total study hours 300
225 hours Guided independent study
75 hours Scheduled learning & teaching activities
Assessment components
Type Weighting Qualifying mark Description
Coursework 33%   Essay
Coursework 33%   Case Study
Coursework 34%   Essay
Running in 2023/24

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

Module summary

Critical and Contextual Studies 2 is an inter-disciplinary module taught across all disciplines in the AAD 3D subject area, including Design Studio Practice, Fashion, Fashion Accessories, Jewellery, Furniture and Product Design, and Textile Design. It continues to orient and critically engage students in the history and theory of their discipline, its scope and conventions, and its broader social and material context in culture and contemporary practice. It builds on studies undertaken in Level 4 and prepares students as independent thinkers, capable of selecting an appropriate topic and producing a sustained piece of independent study in the form of a dissertation in Level 6.

The module continues to situate the student within the process of constructing knowledge about their discipline, its history, context, and its professional and ethical dimension. It rehearses the analytical and discursive skills students need to become knowledgeable about the theorists, objects and methods in their field; to understand the roles, locations and responsibilities of important authorities while examining the broader ethical questions relevant to their discipline; and to become conversant with current debates across the subject area. This process may be approached from the point of view of the producer or consumer, the critic or the professional, the academic or the practitioner.

Students are encouraged to think creatively and to take responsibility for the development of their own learning. The module recognises that the student is also an active contributor in the process: what students bring to the construction of knowledge counts – and how effectively they construct this knowledge depends on how well they understand the field of their discipline.

Prior learning requirements



The module offers a sequence of three intensive teaching blocks structured to include surveys in the history of their discipline, research and writing workshops, seminars, library sessions, visits and tours in addition to guided independent learning. Each of these blocks culminates in a summative assessment. Assessments include a range of different modes of written assignments such as presentations, case studies and essays. The syllabus and assessments are designed to support the development of academic skills, including inductions to using libraries and archives, critical reading skills, presentation skills, writing skills, working with feedback, avoiding plagiarism, referencing, as well as note taking, planning and time management skills. The following themes and activities are indicative.

The Culture of Consumption  L.O 1 - 5

This block will encourage students to consider their role as consumers in contemporary culture, with particular emphasis on the ethics of consumption. They will develop knowledge and critical understanding of a range of theoretical approaches to the study of consumption in weekly lectures, seminars and especially on a number of London walks visiting key sites of consumption. They will be encouraged to consider the ways in which consumption is integral to the shaping of identities and how it can have a utopian as well as a repressive aspect. Students will meet each week for a lecture and then will break into smaller, discipline-specific groups to discuss issues raised by the formal presentations and by their own independent research.

Design and the City  L.O. 1 - 5

The block will examine critically the way in which the contemporary city is both the result of design decisions and also how it helps shape thinking about design. Students will meet weekly for lectures and seminars as well as participating in urban and suburban walks, in order to consider the histories of the city and its imagined utopian and dystopian futures. The assessment comprises a case study where students will focus on a particular aspect of urban or suburban culture which they will present in short video or PowerPoint presentation with an accompanying written text which will draw on key theorists of the metropolis.

Histories  L.O 1 - 5

The final block at Level 5 is intended to help students prepare for independent study at L6 and in particular will expose them to a range of methodological approaches.  Typically, these might include: semiotics, Marxism, feminism, post-colonial and post-structuralist theories.  In addition, students will be introduced to research ethics, and to some of the problems of working with qualitative and quantitative data (especially questionnaires and interviews). This block will include fewer formal lectures, as students move towards becoming independent learners, and they will be expected both to work independently and in small groups. Readings and practical assignments (such as developing questionnaires) will be discussed each week in seminars. For the assessment, students will be expected to choose to write on a topic which they will explore using the methodological approach that is likely to be what they might choose to use for their Dissertation at level 6.


Balance of independent study and scheduled teaching activity

Scheduled teaching ensures that independent study is effective and addresses the learning outcomes and assessment tasks. Students are expected to, and have the opportunity to, continue with their studies outside of scheduled classes. There will be a range of learning strategies deployed and individual learning styles will be accommodated. The module’s learning outcomes, its contents and delivery, have been scrutinised and will be regularly reviewed to ensure an inclusive approach to pedagogic practice.

The module and course utilise the University’s blended learning platform to support and reinforce learning, to foster peer-to-peer communication and to facilitate tutorial support for students. Reflective learning is promoted through assessment items and interim formative feedback points that ask students to reflect on their progress, seek 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 reflections on progress and achievement.

The School’s programme of employability events and embedded work-related learning within the curriculum supports students’ personal 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 students will be able:

1. to research and formulate a comparative knowledge of different aspects of their discipline, its specialisms and broader contexts; and to distinguish how their work relates to and arises from previous work in their discipline;
2. deploy critical and analytical skills in oral and written discussions; and to develop, structure and communicate an argument or similarly rigorous and evidenced line of enquiry;
3. produce cogent oral/visual and written presentations, using appropriate scholarly methods, conventions and protocols;
4. demonstrate an understanding of the ethical and professional responsibilities appropriate to their practice;
5. demonstrate an understanding of the relationship between the theories and practices of art, its creative application and architectural design.

Assessment strategy

The module is assessed in a sequence of summative assessments submitted at the end of each teaching block. Students receive formative tutorials before each submission, and feedback during the first session of the following block. This helps students to build and improve skills as the syllabus progresses and distributes time spent preparing for assessments evenly throughout the year. Assessments comprise different types of written texts and modes of presentation, for example:

1. Essay (2,500 – 3,000 words)
2. Case study (1,000 – 1,500 words)
3. The third assessment item includes a written component (2500 – 3000 words) and should be equivalent in ambition, scope and scale to the essay or case study and rehearse skills required for the dissertation the following year

The word count for the whole module is between 6,000–7,500 words. The order of assessment types is not developmental.

Overall module assessment criteria:

1. breadth and depth of knowledge of an aspect of the subject area;
2. clarity and coherence in presenting an argument or similarly rigorous line of enquiry;
3. deployment of critical and analytical skills in oral and written discussions;
4. cogency of oral/visual and written presentations, and appropriate use of scholarly methods, conventions and protocols;
understanding of critical context, ethical dimensions, and the broader construction and limits of knowledge.


Core Readings
Clark, H. & Brody, D. (2009) Design Studies: a Reader Oxford: Berg
Lees-Maffei, G. & Houze, R.(eds)  (2010) The Design History Reader Oxford: Berg

Further Reading
Adamson, G. (ed.) (2010) The Craft Reader Oxford: Berg
Barnard, M. (ed.) (2007) Fashion Theory: a Reader London: Routledge
Boradkar, P. (2010) Designing Things: A Critical Introduction to the Culture of Objects Oxford: Berg
Candlin, F. & Guins, R. (eds) (2009) The Object Reader Abingdon: Routledge
Cheasley Paterson, E. & Surette, S. (2015) Sloppy Craft: Postdiciplinarity and the Crafts London: Bloomsbury
Clarke, D.B. et al (2003) The Consumption Reader London: Routledge
Craik, J. (2009) Fashion: the Key Concepts Oxford: Berg
Hemmings, J. (ed.) (2012) The Textile Reader London: Bloomsbury
Kerr, J. & Gibson, A. (eds) (2003) London from Punk to Blair London: Reaktion
Miles, M. & Hall, T. (eds) (2000) The City Cultures Reader London: Routledge
Norman, D. A. (1988) The Design of Everyday Things New York: Basic Books
Norman, D.A. (2004) Emotional Design: Why we Love (or Hate) Everyday Things New York: Basic Books
Paterson, M. (2006) Consumption and Everyday Life London: Routledge
Scanlon, J. (ed.) (2000) The Gender and Consumer Culture Reader York: New York University Press
Woodham, J.M. (1997) Twentieth-Century Design Oxford: OUP

Journals, Websites and Database
Dezeen (web)
The Design History Journal