S. Bell

Coventry University (UNITED KINGDOM)
The title of this paper refers to the game in which perhaps unexpected patterns emerge once connections are made. In my dissertation teaching to UK art and design undergraduates, I find that once the students have identified an argument they find writing easier and more rewarding than they might at first have supposed it to be. I do not really teach writing as a discrete activity, but as a product of an argument that is born out of connections.

In this paper, I discuss an unassessed, 30-minute exercise in class in which small groups of students are given three random images and asked to come up with one word that summarises each image and one word that connects all three words. The exercise aims to do two things – firstly to analyse the content of each image and to label its essence, and, secondly, to find a word that makes sense of corralling together the three labels (now no longer just words) without distorting or diluting the argument/s they create (despite the implicit abstraction in returning to words). In this way the two parts together mirror Cottrell’s view (2005) that an ‘overall argument’ (in my case the single connecting word) refers to a ‘set of reasons, or contributing arguments, structured to support the overall argument’ (in my case the three summarising words and the images, now vicariously connected).

The trick is to discuss the emerging arguments with students as exemplars for their own dissertations, without allowing the arguments in the exercise to become self-referential curios. The arguments need to be productively generalised, itself a commendable and not undemanding task. The exercise helped a diverse group of students, including several direct-entrants from overseas, to ‘process complex and possibly contradictory information’, a course cognitive skill requirement (Coventry University, 2016) with imaginative forays into wit, lateral thinking, layered meaning and appropriation, amongst others, that prompted rethinking of existing stances.