Friday, 6 November 2009

Your course is about to expire. Please take action now.

Why have I not blogged recently?

I've been busy busy with the reality of teaching and learning in the 21st century; managing the move into our fantastic new art school building, Broadcasting Place, and dealing with the day-to-day hubbub on a massive undergraduate course. I've had things to say about learning and technology, but I've been too busy doing the business to find the time to write about it all.

Also, I don't write things in this blog for you to read, I write mainly to try and pin the things down that I'm intrigued by, but not totally sure about. Today I opened up a massive can of worms when I decided to start planning for the imminent periodic review of the BA(Hons) Graphic Arts & Design course that I'm currently in charge of at Leeds Met.

If you're not familiar with periodic review, it's basically the process by which a course renews its licence. It happens at least once every five years, and as well as giving the institution the chance to do a proper check on the health of the course, it also opens up the possibility to make major changes. It's a chance to refresh and update everything for the better. I've been a bit-part player in previous reviews, but with the departure of nearly all of my senior colleagues in the School, the task seems to have landed on my lap. That's not a bad thing. I like a challenge.

And a challenge it is. A quick peep at the relevant documentation reveals a mountain of paperwork that will need to be produced for the review, and it's not easy stuff. However, as a trained designer, I have a methodology to tackle this mammoth task.

The first stage is to define the brief, which I have made a start on today. These are the things that Leeds Met says I will need to produce:

• Briefing Statement
• Critical Appraisal
• Course Document
• Programme Specification
• Mapping of Subject benchmark statements
• Module Specifications
• Admissions profile
• Staff CVs
• Statement of Resources

Having half-guessed my way through most of these things, I got stuck on the Mapping of Subject benchmark statements. I had a rough idea of what the benchmarks were from the last review, but sensed that this might be the really important bit. Ultimately, the benchmarks define what degree level means in relation to art & design subjects, so it effectively forms the root of the brief. I quickly found the QAA benchmark statement for Art & Design and, surprisingly, found myself enthralled by what I read. This document was obviously written by people that understand the essence of art and design education, and beautifully articulate all of the things that us purists hold dear. For example:

2.2 Learning in art and design develops:
• the capacity to be creative
• an aesthetic sensibility
• intellectual enquiry
• skills in team working
• an appreciation of diversity
• the ability to conduct research in a variety of modes
• the quality of reflecting on one's own learning and development
• the capacity to work independently, determining one's own future learning needs.

And things like this:
"divergent forms of thinking, which involve generating alternatives, and in which the notion of being 'correct' gives way to broader issues of value, are characteristic of the creative process."

Brilliant. The QAA put 'correct' in quotes. Who are we to doubt the QAA in their questioning of the dogma of the measurable.

This is my favourite: 'Students [in art & design] will have the ability to anticipate and accommodate change, and work within contexts of ambiguity, uncertainty and unfamiliarity.' Call me a saddo, but the celebration of ambiguity and uncertainty in the educational process by the ultimate official authority on the subject in the UK fills me with joy. It also gives me a big, big stick with which to beat off institutional doubters when the reviewers try to pick the thing to pieces.

I've just made a start on adapting some of the learning outcomes from this benchmark statement to use in our new course document, but I'm finding it hard to change it to the point where it's not so obviously stolen from QAA. Much more work will be needed over the next few months, but it feels good to get started. I'll keep you posted.

1 comment:

Ben Dalton said...

I think it would be a legitimate move to include sections of the QAA benchmark verbatim in your learning outcomes if that felt appropriate.