People have been asking if things are going as I expected. To be honest, I didn’t really know what to expect. I knew that I’d be focusing on a specific research topic, which was a welcome opportunity as I now have the time and support to produce a significant body of work, and am working towards the qualifications to pursue an academic career afterwards.
However, it doesn’t stop there, as although there are no set modules, Post Graduate Researchers are expected to complete regular study reports, as well as participating and attending events, exhibitions, conferences and seminars to build up their academic cv. As a practicing artist, I am used to presenting, promoting and cataloguing my practice through blogging, which has been really useful for the transition into research and something I would recommend as a matter of course for all artists.
How is creative practice assessed?
The thing I am particularly interested in however, is the way in which the research degree is documented and assessed. When applying for the course, I had been asked to supply additional information to support my application, including my educational transcripts. Anyone who hasn’t experienced an education in fine art might be mistaken for thinking that it is one that allows more creative freedom without imposing the restriction of academic outcomes, but of course, grades are never awarded arbitrarily. Even having been through the process, it was interesting for me to see the outcomes that my work had been assessed against, and I wondered whether it would have affected the work that I produced if I’d had access to that information.
The personal development record
This brings me back to the research assessment process, which is documented using an online personal development record or PDR. This consists of a database which provides space for the numerous things needed to assess your PhD, such as supervision notes, meetings, reflections, and training. However, there is an additional tool, called a TDNA, which is used for outlining the stages of development for doctoral candidates.
Each outcome is listed under one of four headings; knowledge, effectiveness, organisation and impact, and lists everything from personal integrity to web presence, in order to understand the strengths of each post graduate researcher. Having access to, and knowledge of, these outcomes helped me to feel more comfortable with understanding the expectations of my supervisors and the course in general, and I wondered how I could apply those things to my own teaching practice to develop autonomous learners at all levels.
Pedagogy as practice
As someone with a keen interest in structural systems (especially from a data visualisation perspective), this also brought me back to thinking about my research collages and other artists using similar techniques to discuss social hierarchies, namely Hans Haake and Stephen Willats. Both these artists have created work addressing socio-economic policies, usually in relation to the international art market, and are especially interesting in the way they incorporate interaction into their work. In the context of the PDR it also made me think about pedagogy as practice, a term which related to some earlier work I’d produced as part of a group called the University of Incidental Knowledge.
Another area that I’m expected to develop is my international profile as a researcher. As part of this, the arts and humanities faculties have teamed up with universities in Sheffield and York to create the White Rose Skills Development Network. This allows researchers from different countries to connect specifically in the context of sharing knowledge of different academic cultures within an arts framework. There are also opportunities for peer language learning through partnerships between individuals with shared interests.
Through searching online I also discovered www.academia.edu, an online repository of papers, books and academic interests, all of which are linked to researcher profiles. These developments have undoubtedly come about because of the social media revolution, and will, I hope, encourage more of a creative commons mindset within the academic community.