Coventry University (UNITED KINGDOM)
About this paper:
Appears in: ICERI2010 Proceedings
Publication year: 2010
Pages: 3016-3021
ISBN: 978-84-614-2439-9
ISSN: 2340-1095
Conference name: 3rd International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 15-17 November, 2010
Location: Madrid, Spain
Most art and design students increasingly see written work as irrelevant. However, recent innovative assignments which judiciously mix formal constraints and reflective freedom have encouraged students to apply critical thinking to their practical work. This paper analyses three such written assignments and outlines a fourth, to be delivered in autumn 2010, which aim to inject rewarding creativity into student writing.

The students are from Coventry University’s School of Art and Design, and range from Art and Design Foundation to undergraduates in Fashion and Graphics. The assignments set meaningful restriction against opportunity: for example, essay lengths are set in terms of the physical space allowed (page extent, or maximum page area: thus students can integrate emerging arguments with layout) instead of word count; picture captions have very specific overall lengths but can be distributed at will amongst the images (thus the images can be strung together as part of a sub- or meta-narrative); conclusions have to be presented wordlessly as one-page picture essays (thus encouraging students to summarise cogently whilst at the same time considering intelligently ambiguous reading as a way of adumbrating meta-truths); and the main points of a hypothetical debate between students and their chosen practitioners for comparison are to be presented as a dialogue replacing the original speech in short clips from feature films (thus obliging students to exploit genre and expectation in text / image combinations).

Students have enjoyed the work: not only have they reflected constructively about their practice, but they have also produced work of appropriate scholarly content. However, the work has not favoured those predisposed to write: it has favoured those predisposed to develop sophisticated critical insights as creative visual arts practitioners.
Structure, restriction, opportunity.