Developing Academic Writing Skills in Art and Design through Blogging
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In the creative disciplines of Art and Design, students need to develop the ability to critically assess and put into words what they feel, think and know about their working practices (and by extension their work). The careful development of the transition between knowing instinctively, thinking and writing is well established in the literature (e.g. Schön 1983 and 1987, and Biggs 2004), but only little has been done to integrate this into the Higher Education curriculum using writing as a tool for making the reflection explicit. In order to find out whether exploratory writing in the form of blog posts has the potential to allow Art and Design students to develop their academic practice, a small scale pilot project integrated blogging tasks into introductory modules of four first year undergraduate courses. Student feedback on their experience of blogging, and particularly their perceptions of the value of blogging as exploratory writing, gained through end of module questionnaires is analysed to investigate the potential to use writing to develop their academic practice. Findings indicate that it is the motivation of students that is crucial to allow students to see writing as a thinking process and developmental tool for their practical work, rather than as an unrelated academic outcome.
Disciplines that are concerned with creative studio practice, such as 3 Dimensional Design, Fine Art or Animation, occupy a potentially problematic space in Higher Education today. Students join these courses, which can be found in the areas of Art, Design and Media, because they want to learn how to make a particular type of outcome – for example products in 3D Design, works of art in Fine Art or animated films in Animation. What students are often less enthusiastic about is the academic portion of an undergraduate degree, which in these courses is usually taught through an element of contextual studies. A particular issue is the requirement of courses to include academic essays and reports in the mix of assessment strategies. While students (and practitioners) in creative, studio-based disciplines usually do write in sketchbooks or reflective journals (or a hybrid of the two), writing up research in accordance with academic conventions is often seen as not just a challenge by undergraduate students, but also as something that has little to do with their discipline and that, often, makes little sense to them apart from being an academic requirement towards securing a degree. The purpose of this paper is to explore whether a weblog (blog) has the potential to build on the types of notes students (and practitioners) take in the course of their practice (i.e. in the sketchbooks, etc.) in order to prepare and improve the students’ academic writing.
By Alke Gröppel-Wegener
Staffordshire University, Stoke-on-Trent, UK