Inclusivity in Context: The Artefact as a Critical Tool For Creative Inquiry

  • Sally Hall : Inclusive Environments Project Lead
  • Jason Hirons : Senior Lecturer Contextual Studies and BA Illustration


Our discussion centres on the issue of assessing academic writing at Plymouth College of Art and our current solutions for working with a very high level of neurodiverse students, together with constant threats to the development of this from within the institution itself. 

PCA is one of the last independent art colleges in the UK, offering degrees in art and design including Illustration, Graphic Design, Painting, and Fashion. Contextual Studies is a cross college, interdisciplinary module that contextualises and critiques debates around the histories and cultures of art, design and media, seen through the prism of practice.

In recent years we have introduced a number of visual writing opportunities for assessment, utilising what we have called the artefact option; this involves students writing through the processes of thinking and making. We suggest this is far more inclusive as, on the whole, the students at the college are recruited on their portfolios, rather than their academic profile and this contributes to widening participation in assessment and access to HE for students from disadvantaged backgraounds. The artefact is academic, it still adheres to the conventions of academic rigour (methodology, framework, referencing, citations etc).

Through understanding of the making that comes through thinking, explicated through writing, the students successfully produce contextual outcomes that push their ideas, knowledge and understanding far further than writing alone. These artefacts provide an awareness of theories connected to being and doing, thinking and making; semiotics, phenomenology, hermeneutics etc.  They are often pushed through a higher level of inquiry and lead students to successful outcomes in their practice modules leading to further developments and projects on practice led research beyond level five and six. Questions around rigour can be tackled by attaching Bloom’s taxonomy to identify precisely where critical inquiry, application of theory, reflection, and analysis occur.

We will present a number of case studies that show the success of using the artefact as an inclusive tool for creative education.

These include posters to
support level 6 presentations for illustration students; critical sketchbooks to develop writing skills; and the artefact as dissertation.