module specification

JC7104 - Theory in Practice (2019/20)

Module specification Module approved to run in 2019/20
Module title Theory in Practice
Module level Masters (07)
Credit rating for module 20
School School of Art, Architecture and Design
Total study hours 200
164 hours Guided independent study
36 hours Scheduled learning & teaching activities
Assessment components
Type Weighting Qualifying mark Description
Coursework 40%   Portfolio
Coursework 60%   Comparative Study (2500 words)
Running in 2019/20

(Please note that module timeslots are subject to change)
No instances running in the year

Module summary


This 30-week module introduces the Whitechapel Gallery as a model of a European 'Kunsthalle'. The gallery's aims, policies and activities, and the logistical and funding constraints that frame its operations, are contextualized and explained, through a series of lectures given by Gallery Department Heads and Programme Curators.

Lectures are supported by tutorials, seminars and plenary discussions towards completion of indicative practical tasks and coursework. Students are expected to work independently and cumulatively, undertaking appropriate research & development between sessions, and as the year goes along in response to tutorial guidance. In the latter half of the module, students shall commence planning for the curatorial project.

Module aims

The module aims to:

  • Develop knowledge and practical understanding of the history, development and policy objectives of the Whitechapel, understood as an emblematic instance of the European Kunsthalle (as theoretical model and in practice);
  • Develop knowledge and practical understanding of the Whitechapel's aims, policies and operational activities within the context of UK museums and galleries and the wider artistic economy and community;
  • Develop knowledge and practical understanding of the logistical infrastructure and legal constraints informing the programming and maintenance of a UK Kunsthalle.


  • Whitechapel Art Gallery as 'Kunsthalle' (history, development, change, continuity):
  • Institutional practice in theory;
  • Policy aims, institutional and sectoral conventions and practices
  • Statutory framework of operations;
  • Limits of responsibility to the gallery's diverse audiences and community of users;
  • Practical and logististical context and constraints;
  • Conception, design, pre-planning of curatorial project.

Learning and teaching

The Learning and Teaching strategy for the module is to both inform students and actively engage them in a critical discussion and research related to the themes. This is achieved through:

  • Series of weekly lectures and talks given by Gallery Department Heads & Programme Curators
  • Tutorials and seminars organised towards applied understanding of key themes and issues and completion of indicative practical tasks
  • Plenary discussion and analysis
  • Tutor-guided and independent research and development

The module is taught through, a combination of lectures seminar presentations, peer-group critiques and individual tutorials. Students are encouraged to make maximum use of the resources available to them in terms of the IT provision, both within the Faculty and the library. Blended Learning /weblearn includes the provision of course and module information on the web, lecture notes, feedback, and blogs are used to enhance independent learning.

Learning outcomes

Upon successful completion of the module, students should be able to:

  1. Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the various funding typologies and policy approaches characteristic of UK museums and galleries in general and the Whitechapel in particular;
  2. Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the practical and policy implications of the institution's statutory obligations to its varied audiences;
  3. Reflect upon the ways in which the practical and policy considerations influence the staging of public exhibitions;
  4. Illustrate applied understanding of the legal, logistical and other major constraints upon the commission, planning and presentation of art works in a public gallery space.

Assessment strategy

Assessment for this module is intended to measure the critical engagement with the codes, conventions and culture of the Whitechapel Gallery, as an instance of a European Kunsthalle and evaluate the depth of applied understanding of the module’s aims and content. Students will submit: 

Portfolio (a contemporaneously-kept chronicle of engagement, to include notes and research, practical exercises, planning and development)

Comparative Study (indicative word count 4000-5000) Compare and contrast the Whitechapel Gallery's purview and approach with those of other leading organizations in the sector, through analysis of one of the following: 1) education/interpretation, 2) press & marketing, 3) funding, 4) programming, 5) the anatomy of a public exhibition, or 6) other case study, by negotiation.

Work will be assessed against the learning outcomes in relation to the following criteria:

  • Appropriate use of research methods
  • Quality of analysis and interpretation
  • Subject knowledge and relevance
  • Quality of communication and presentation
  • Management of own learning and personal professional development


The following are indicative only. Refereed journals/articles and electronic resources: issued according to syllabus.

The Centenary Review (2001), London: Whitechapel Gallery.
Just What Is It That Makes Institutions So Different, So Appealing? A Manual to the 21st Century Arts Centre (2009) Walter Koenig Verlag.
Whitechapel Gallery policy documents (various)