VA5004 - Developing a Critical Practice

What will I learn on this module?

In this module you will learn to independently progress a self-motivated, critically positioned studio-based contemporary art practice. Learning will be underpinned by the acquisition of new critical research skills orientated around contemporary art practice. You will learn to articulate and evidence your creative research skills in your independent personal studio enquiry. You will learn to independently identify and reflectively assess specific lines of enquiry and your evolving artistic position and learn how to effectively communicate this to academics and to your peer group. You will learn to confidently present verbally and creatively a range of ideas and positions relevant to contemporary art practice through the module’s seminar programme, its studio-based teaching and your engagement with the available technical facilities.

All of your learning underpins your studio and virtual studio practice with a strong subject specific knowledge base and the range of strategies aims to engender your confidence in identifying and understanding new knowledge in relation to your studio and out-of-studio practice.

How will I learn on this module?

You will learn through a range of teaching approaches that are either individual or peer focussed. The studio is the primary location for your work, paralleled by the virtual studio, and learning and acts as a place for connecting processes of thinking, making and creative speculation. You will learn through individual tutorials, group critiques, the seminar programme, independent study, technical workshops, and your own independent initiatives.

Tutorials are forty minutes and are individually focussed around your work; these are delivered by your Studio Tutor. ?Your Studio Tutor will work with you across the semester providing a continuity of dialogue to underpin your learning. These tutors have subject specialist knowledge in areas including painting, photography, sculpture, print, moving image, social practice, installation and sound. You will also opportunities to receive tutorials with staff other than your Studio Tutor through an allocated tutorial system.
Peer learning happens through group critiques. With four to eight of your peers you will collectively present work in progress for open discussion with your Studio Tutor for three hours. Group critiques link you to peer interests and encourage you to consider and explore the intellectual, technical and creative research mechanisms underlying your approaches to production and alert you to considerations of audience and spectatorship in exhibition making. Further peer learning happens through the seminar programme, where you learn to develop - in a small group of ten to fifteen – presentation skills, critical thinking, research skills and advanced subject knowledge.
Your independent and self-directed use of the studio and virtual studio for the testing and production of artworks is a crucial part of your learning and is supported by peer engagement, informal conversations and walk-rounds by academics. Central to all your learning is how you process and reflect on your production and experiences through teaching. This happens through on-going formative feedback provided to you verbally during individual tutorials, group critiques and seminars.

How will I be supported academically on this module?

You are supported with the provision of a studio space, and access to specialist technical facilities, materials, resource areas and research studios. You will also develop a parallel out-of-studio practice. Technical facilities include the wood and casting workshops, the print studio (including screen-printing, etching, lithography), the mac lab and digital print (including industry standard digital imaging, moving image and audio software), analogue darkrooms (black and white and colour processing and print) and digital photographic studios. You have access to specialist materials in all workshop areas. Resource areas include our Technical Resource Centre, University Gallery and project spaces. You have twenty-four-hour access to the University Library.

Your learning will be supported by subject specialist academics and by expert technicians. Academic support is provided by individual tutorials, group critiques, the weekly seminar programme, and weekly technical workshops that you elect into. Your learning is clearly mapped out to you on the BLACKBOARD module page. This includes your assessment brief, guidance notes and key dates for the semester to help you organise and plan your time. Teaching materials, notices and guidance are made available to you through BLACKBOARD. This is accessible to you on campus or externally through the Internet. You will have a University email that we contact you through, and all course timetabling is published online and on noticeboards in your studio area. Student REPs represent you in weekly meetings with the Programme Leader.

To support you we provide you with on-going formative feedback through the teaching you receive, and ask you to write and submit electronically a Self-Evaluation Review (SER) evaluating your own achievement against the module learning outcomes. This provides you with an on-going record of your learning through the semester.

What will I be expected to read on this module?

All modules at Northumbria include a range of reading materials that students are expected to engage with. The reading list for this module can be found at:
(Reading List service online guide for academic staff this containing contact details for the Reading List team –

What will I be expected to achieve?


Knowledge & Understanding:

1. To produce a range of artworks, through an ongoing visual and material enquiry, that develop a critical understanding between content and method.

2. Conduct independent research that demonstrates a sustained engagement with relevant contemporary art practices

Intellectual / Professional skills & abilities:

3. Produce a written artist’s statement and reading list that articulates and evidences a critical understanding of the relationship between research and practice.
4. Undertake specific research tasks in the seminar program and organise their studio activity and research in a coherent and useful format

Personal Values Attributes (Global / Cultural awareness, Ethics, Curiosity) (PVA):

How will I be assessed?

You will receive on-going verbal feedback (formative) from academics through individual tutorials, group critiques and seminars. This enables you to respond immediately and clarify with academics any points you are unsure of. At the mid-point of semester 1 you will complete a Self-Evaluation Review form outlining your progress against module Learning Outcomes. Your studio tutor will also complete a copy. You will meet for a feed-forward tutorial in the following week to identify gaps in understanding against the Learning Outcomes and agree on ways in which you can move forward and develop your work.

Summative Assessment
(MLO’s 1-6)
Semester 1

The Summative Assessment provides you with a mark for your semester and carries a 100% weighting. It is assessed against the same learning outcomes that are covered in the SER and this ensures that you are prepared. You will mount a presentation or exhibition of works evidencing that you have evolved your practical and intellectual skills through self-motivated practice, technical development, academic research, and in response to tutor feedback. Alongside your practical works and presentation you will submit all sketchbooks and notebooks, a written artist’s statement, a creative research file and a documentation file.

Following review and internal moderation from the academic team you receive verbal feedback. This provides you with a detailed evaluation of your work through the semester that is aimed at preparing you for study in the second semester. It provides you with the opportunity to reflect objectively on how decisions made through development, production and presentation are working and contributing to your practice. The Level 5 External Examiner reviews samples from the submission, and you have the opportunity to meet them in person to discuss your experiences of the module at the end of the academic year.

Summative Assessment Feedback
You will receive verbal feedback from your studio tutor in your studio, alongside your presentation, within seven days of the submission deadline. Feedback is individual and provided in the context of the assessment criteria given to you at the start of the academic year in the module guide. You will receive written feedback within 20 working days of the assessment deadline.





Module abstract

In this module you will learn to independently progress a self-motivated, critically positioned studio-based contemporary art practice. Learning will be underpinned by the acquisition of new critical research skills orientated around contemporary art practice. All your learning underpins your studio and virtual practice with a strong subject specific knowledge base and the range of strategies aims to engender your confidence in identifying and understanding new knowledge in relation to your studio and out-of-studio practice.

Course info

UCAS Code W100

Credits 40

Level of Study Undergraduate

Mode of Study 3 years full-time or 4 years with a placement (sandwich)/study abroad

Department Arts

Location City Campus, Northumbria University

City Newcastle

Start September 2023

Fee Information

Module Information

All information is accurate at the time of sharing.

Full time Courses starting in 2023 are primarily delivered via on-campus face to face learning but may include elements of online learning. We continue to monitor government and local authority guidance in relation to Covid-19 and we are ready and able to flex accordingly to ensure the health and safety of our students and staff.

Contact time is subject to increase or decrease in line with additional restrictions imposed by the government or the University in the interest of maintaining the health and safety and wellbeing of students, staff, and visitors, potentially to a full online offer, should further restrictions be deemed necessary in future. Our online activity will be delivered through Blackboard Ultra, enabling collaboration, connection and engagement with materials and people.


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