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module specification

CP4013 - Critical & Contextual Studies 1 (Art) (2022/23)

Module specification Module approved to run in 2022/23
Module title Critical & Contextual Studies 1 (Art)
Module level Certificate (04)
Credit rating for module 30
School School of Art, Architecture and Design
Total study hours 300
75 hours Scheduled learning & teaching activities
225 hours Guided independent study
Assessment components
Type Weighting Qualifying mark Description
Coursework 33%   Patchwork and Reflection
Coursework 33%   Case Study
Coursework 34%   Essay
Running in 2022/23

(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 (CCS) Level 4 aims to orient and critically engage students in the history and theory of their discipline, its extent and conventions, and its broader social and material context in culture and contemporary practice.

The module helps students to reflect on what they see, and to read connections between different ideas that have shaped their discipline. In particular the module investigates how thinking and articulating ideas about practice in their field might be framed – for example in relation to history, the economy, society and the environment, or through theory and practice.

The module introduces students to a range of academic skills needed to produce a graduate-level study in their final year. It helps students to develop their own interests, and to reflect on and take responsibility for the development of their own learning. This includes surveys in the history of their discipline, research and writing workshops, seminars, library sessions, visits and tours in addition to guided independent learning.


Critical and Contextual Studies Level 4 is structured in the form of three equally-weighted, intensive teaching blocks. Each of these blocks culminates in a summative assessment. Assessments include a range of different modes of written assignments such as patchwork-writing, a case study, or an essay. The first assessment includes a 500–700 word learning reflection element. 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:

Orientatio LO1, LO2, LO3, LO4, LO5, LO6

Students explore a breadth of field – the sort of topics, readings and sources they might encounter; distinguish in this material artefactual or authoritative status of sources; research historical movements; learn to format and shape their writing including citations and text-types; reflect both in a formal exercise and as an ongoing basis in the VLE. Students reflect what a contemporary artist does, using the skills and knowledge needed to produce academic work appropriate to degree level study. In particular, the block will develop skills and confidence in writing, using style, sources and conventions appropriate to academic work. This will allow students to reflect on what an artist does and establish connections between art theory and art practice.

Informing the Work LO1, LO2, LO3, LO4, LO5, LO6

Students are introduced to, research and discuss a range of topics that inform production in their field and the practitioners that engage with these topics; consider display practices and the sort of writing practice associated with display. Emphasis is placed on the determining factors of history, politics and economics.

In Search of a Topic LO1, LO2, LO3, LO4, LO5, LO6

Students take a part in a range of study trips to conduct independent research in order develop and inform a topic within their field to which they prepare an extended written response; learn to use a range of collections and archives and negotiate various approaches to search, storage and retrieval found in the various institutions.

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 to:
1. use information retrieval systems effectively and develop appropriate methods for collecting, organising and deploying knowledge;
2. read, analyse and interpret different kinds of written texts and other key sources of documented knowledge, such as recorded sound or images, objects and artefacts;
3. demonstrate familiarity with the scope of their discipline and its and broader ethical, historical, social, cultural, economic and practice-based contexts;
4. articulate a critical understanding of the objects of their study, using a range of written forms of presentation, noting specific terms, languages, references, genres and audiences;
5. become aware of the relationship between the theories and practices of their discipline in its creative application;
6. effectively respond to and reflect upon feedback on their own work in order to develop and improve their learning.

Assessment strategy

The module is assessed in a developmental way and structured as 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 that enable students to use different modes of presentation, for example:

1. Patchwork assessment and short written exercises (900–1,200 words) and Learning Reflection submission (500–700 words)
2. Case study or studies (900–1,200 words)
3. Essay (1,700–2,200 words) 

The word count for the whole module is between 4,000–5,300 words.  

Module assessment criteria:
1. Application and engagement
2. Quality of content (research, accuracy, relevance, scope)
3. Quality of presentation (English, references, terminology, literacy, protocols)
4. Effective structure (clarity, links, synthesis)
5. Deployment of critical and analytical skills (argument, interpretation, discussion)


Core Readings
Harrison, C., Wood, P. and Gaiger, J. (1989/2001) Art in Theory, (3 Vols) Oxford: Blackwell
Bull, S. (2009) Photography, London: Routledge
Joselit, D. (2009) 'Painting Beside Itself', MIT Press Journals October 2009 Issue 130 p.125-134
Krauss, R. (2000) A Voyage on the North Sea: Art in the Age of the Post-Medium Condition, London: Thames & Hudson
Berger, J. (1972) Ways of Seeing, BBC Publications

Further Reading
Williams, G. (2014) Writing About Contemporary Art, London: Thames and Hudson
Stallabrass, J. (2013) Documentary, London: Whitechapel
Shore, S. (2010) The Nature of Photographs, London: Phaidon,
Soutter, L. (2013) Why Art Photography, London: Routledge
Barthes, R. (1993) Camera Lucida, New York: Vintage
Sontag, S. (1973) On Photography, Harmondsworth: London: Penguin
Flusser, V. (2000) Towards a Philosophy of Photography, London: Reaktion Books
Laruelle, F. (2011) The Concept of Non-Photography, Falmouth: Urbanomix
Bishop, C. (2004) 'Antagonism and Relational Aesthetics', MIT Press Journals October 2004 Issue 110 pp. 51–79

Journals, Websites and Databases
a-n, The Artists Information Company
Critical Inquiry, Chicago: University of Chicago Press