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How art, media and design students conceive of the relation between the dissertation and practice

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This study examined students' conceptions of the relationship between aspects of theory and practice in art, media and design undergraduate education. This was considered specifically in relation to the dissertation which most final-year arts practice undergraduates undertake. The study was based on interviews conducted within one institution where theory and practice is normally delivered, supported and assessed by the tutors who teach the student both theory and practice. These practice/theory tutors also supervise and assess the dissertation. An analysis of interviews of a varied sample of 24 students from the disciplines of fashion design, animation and photographic arts yield four qualitatively different ways of conceiving the relations between dissertation and practice. The semi-structured interviews looked at all facets of the students' experience of how a dissertation may have an impact upon them, from considerations on how they perceived the notion of having to complete a written paper to how a dissertation may support their practice and to the simple practicalities of how they might achieve this piece of work. The categories range from the conception that the dissertation and practice are inseparable, through to a conception that the dissertation is not necessary. These different conceptions appeared to be related to variations of students' views of the role they had undertaken in relation to their own involvement in preparing and writing the dissertation. The implications of this study are discussed in terms of the relations between student conceptions of the rationale for the dissertation, and their understanding of the academic task at hand. The outcomes also suggest further avenues for research and exploration in relation to the key issues raised.
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Keywords: art and design; dissertation; learning; phenomenography; practice

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: University of Wales College, Newport. 2: Herefordshire College of Art and Design. 3: University of Oxford.

Publication date: 2005-09-01

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  • How can art, design and communication aid teaching? Do these teaching methods work better in certain fields of study? Focusing on arts and media-based subjects, and encompassing all areas of higher education, this journal reveals the potential value of new educational styles and creative teaching methods.

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