module specification

CP3010 - Critical & Contextual Studies: Foundation (2022/23)

Module specification Module approved to run in 2022/23
Module title Critical & Contextual Studies: Foundation
Module level Foundation (03)
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 20%   Coursework 1
Coursework 40%   Coursework 2
Coursework 40%   Coursework 3
Running in 2022/23

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

Module summary

The Critical and Contextual Studies module introduces a range of cultural and contextual practices and is diagnostic in helping students to identify areas of reading, writing, information gathering and research in relation to their abilities, needs and aspirations.  The intention is to prepare students for critical and theoretical work in Higher Education.

The focus of the Critical and Contextual Studies module is on the ability to ask questions and find answers; specifically, those bearing on architecture, art, design and media in the broad sense and to the conventional means to present these. The experience of the module is structured by a sequence of three submissions: an initial patchwork assignment that includes a Learning Reflection element, an analysis of the works of a particular creative practitioner and a final submission is a self-directed essay.

The contents include answers to questions that range from practical or theoretical ‘how to’ or ‘what is’ exercises; to simple ‘what do you think?’ form of analysis or reflection; to complex structured responses in the form of the essay.

The module is constructed around three core blocks of intensive study. Each block has a thematic structure to allow the exploration of different topics and approaches, for example: ‘Contexts’, ‘Connections’, ‘Themes in creative practice’. The first assessment includes the Learning Reflection element.

The module aims to motivate and aid the student to find out about and engage in the practice and culture of architecture, art, design and media.  The module should help inform the student about their future direction of study as well as providing useful insights into their potential and abilities.  Students learn how to ask and begin to answer questions about the discipline they are interested in and its broader context. They should acquire a portfolio of methodological and critical writing and communication skills that enable them and know how to apply themselves to the various forms of study and assessment ahead following progression to the next level in Higher Education.


The syllabus is structured around three themes, for example:

1. ‘Contexts’
2. ‘Connections’
3. ‘Themes in Creative Practice’

The syllabus examines short examples of historical, theoretical material and current work in practice.  (LO1, LO2)
It includes texts, visual and aural material from books and journals, multi-media and internet sources and gained on visits to, for example, places of interest, events, films, plays, exhibitions, galleries, and museums. (LO1, LO2)
Assignments are undertaken as part of class activity and as self-directed study. (LO1, LO3)
Presentations build experience of reflecting on their own work and constructive evaluation of other’s. (LO3, LO4)
Developing learning habits and skills to apply these to aspects of their own work in increasing detail, as the course progresses, in preparation for degree courses ahead. (LO2, LO4)

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 through the 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 to:

1. demonstrate good practice in relation to written work, information retrieval and presentation and communication skills for articulating ideas and applying a critical understanding of objects of study;

2. read, reflect on and discuss different kinds of texts and information resources, ie, libraries museums, galleries, exhibitions and to identify cultural/ social, ethical, environmental and economic issues in relation to creative practice;

3. demonstrate personal learning development and improvement using self-reflection, critical evaluation, responding to feedback, time-management skills and learning resources;

4. engage and participate in different discussion and presentation contexts including seminars, peer to peer feedback, online platforms.

Assessment strategy

In Critical and Contextual Studies each teaching and learning block provides a multifaceted programme that feeds each assignment - a series of 200 word reviews, longer reflective pieces and a single focussed essay). The aim is to encourage active and confident learning through multiple achievements.

The component parts and overall assessment stages mirror the tripartite structure in CCS Level 4 and reflect the preparatory level of study of Level 3. There is benefit from the more immediate and interactive framework of formative feedback throughout the course.

The three assessment components each include written texts (supported by illustrations where appropriate) and are designed to enable students to work with different modes of presentation.  The assessment overall is of all the written exercises and a complete 1200 word essay. Coursework 1 includes the written ‘Learning Reflection’ and this is used to diagnose and risk-assess at an early stage to advise on student support strategies where necessary.


Core Texts:

Berger, J. (2013) Understanding a Photograph, London: Penguin Classics

Barthes, R. (2010) Camera lucida: reflections on photography, New York: Hill and Wang

Burns, T. and Sinfield, S. (2012) Essential study skills: the complete guide to success at university, London: SAGE

Cottrell, S. (2008) The study skills handbook, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan

Janson, H.W. and Janson, A.F. (1995) History of Art, London: Thames and Hudson

Mann, S. (2011) Study skills for art, design, and media students, Harlow: Longman

Rose, G. (2012) Visual methodologies: an introduction to researching with visual materials, London: Sage

Sturken, M. and Cartwright, L. 2001, Practices of Looking: An Introduction to Visual Culture, Oxford University Press

Other Texts:

Fear, B. (ed.) (2000) Architecture and film II. Architectural design v. 70, no.1. New York ; Chichester: Wiley-Academy.

Lamster, M. (ed.) (2000) Architecture and film, New York: Princeton Architectural Press

McIver, G. (2016) Art History for Filmmakers, London; New York, NY: Fairchild Books

Sontag, S. (2013) Against Interpretation and Other Essays, London: Penguin

Berger, J. 1972, Ways of Seeing, London: Penguin

Tate (n.d.) Tate Modern. Available at: (accessed 21 March 2018)

Victoria and Albert Museum (n.d.) V and A · The world’s leading museum of art and design. Available at: (accessed 21 March 2018)

Electronic Databases:
JSTOR (n.d.). Available at: (accessed 21 March 2018)

Credo Reference (n.d.). Available at: (accessed 21 March 2018)

Bridgeman Education (n.d.). Available at: (accessed 21 March 2018)