Using collections in teaching & learning

Name/School/Email address
Rob Banham / ACD /

The work undertaken was to engage UG students in design history and printing history through its lettering, printing, and graphic design collections. The impact was improved attendance and greater engagement of students with history modules, increased use of collections by staff in other modules, development of new modules, and UROPs.

• Increase attendance and engagement in the UG module history of graphic communication
• Improve students understanding by revisiting topics covered in lectures
• Encourage students to develop skills in analysis and debate
• To enable students to learn through task-based learning activities, rather than traditional seminars

TGC’s approach to teaching design has always involved history, theory, and practice. Over time, changing practices and new technologies in design and printing meant that the history of the subject has become less connected with current design practice. UG students were therefore less inclined to positively engage with modules with a historical focus. The activity was undertaken to make history teaching in TY1HG (now TY1HG1) more dynamic and engaging, using interactive sessions with TGC’s collections, and task-based learning, in place of traditional seminars.

• New module outcomes and seminar content for TY1HG1 (History of Graphic Communication 1), with task-based learning, relating to material from TGCs collection
• Additions to TGC’s collections

The revised module content achieved its immediate aims of improving student attendance and engagement in seminars, with students frequently commenting positively in module evaluation about the inclusion of collections-based seminars. Students were also more engaged with associated lectures, and with the coursework submissions and examination in the TY1HG1 module. There were also further, unexpected outcomes. The popularity of the revised module led to student requests for additional opportunities to study the history of the subject and new modules were introduced in Part 1 (TY1PRI: History of Printing and Printmaking, TY1HG2: History of Graphic Communication 2) and Part 3 (TY3ES: Ephemera Studies). There was also an uplift in the number of students using collections in general, and TGC’s collections in particular, as the basis for dissertations in Part 3. Staff also began to employ collections-based sessions in practical design modules across all three years.

The activity was successful for a number of reasons. Students have the confidence to participate in seminars because the task-based learning activities mean that they can discuss questions in pairs or groups before sharing their answers. This is particularly appreciated by students with learning styles not suited to traditional seminars, or from WP backgrounds who tend to be intimidated by them. Students also find the hands-on nature of these seminars much more engaging than a straightforward discussion of sources and, perhaps most importantly, find the seminars a useful way of consolidating their learning from associated lectures. The activity had wider impact because the good practice and positive student feedback were shared through staff and student evaluation and review of teaching. The activity could have been better implemented by involving students in developing the revised module description, by de-colonizing the module curriculum (which we will be working on over the next 12 months), and providing students with more training regarding how to handle collections materials.

Follow Up
The TY1HG1 module has continued to evolve, with the introduction of new seminar topics, classes looking at University Special Collections and (as outlined above) new modules and increase use of collections in practical project teaching.

LE1, TQ1