Studio learning, staff collaboration and the holistic curriculum (2014)

David Dennison & Adam Mead, School of Journalism and Media, University of Central Lancashire

Having high expectations of students, particularly students new to HE, presupposes that they are well motivated, understand the academic regime they are working within and have a positive attitude to their studies. This session takes a student-centred perspective on curriculum design & integration, induction and academic & social integration.

The session discusses the integration of modular schemes and the impact on students new to HE with particular reference to creative practice but it should be of interest to any academic staff teaching on modular schemes, as well as personal tutors, year tutors and technical & demonstrator staff.

We examine the ways in which studio practice can be integrated within a holistic approach to learning: discuss the role of expert technical staff in the context of a broader programme of work and make specific reference to first year students and their transition to HE studies.
We argue against looking at any aspect of the curriculum (e.g. contextual and critical studies, professional development, studio practice and creative development) in isolation. Instead we should look to create an experience that encourages students, particularly new students, to engage with all aspects of the curriculum and at the same time, offer them creative challenges and encourage their social and academic integration into the programme.
We draw references from a range of writers: Tinto (1975), Grossman, Hammerness and McDonald (2009), Martinez (2001) and Thomas (2002) who all promote, in subtly different ways, an emphasis on integration, group support, academic support, shared values and a community of learning. We discuss how expert technical staff can give valuable feedback without the pressure of the formal critique (Day, 2012) and how they can encourage the development of peer group support that now seems an essential aspect of success in HE (University of Leicester, 2010).
With specific reference to our own subject area, Photography, we examine how we have created a more holistic experience within a modular scheme, how we have co-ordinated the curriculum across a range of subject areas, integrated the role of personal tutors, encouraged academic and social integration among new students and how we have actively supported students at risk of withdrawing. We also discuss how a balance of new technologies and traditional methods can engender a balanced and productive approach to creative practice, examples of which can be seen on the course blog:

Day, P. (2012) ‘The Art Group Crit. How do you make a Firing Squad Less Scary?’
Available at:
Grossman, P., Hammerness, K. and McDonald, M. (2009) ‘Redefining teaching, re-imagining teacher education’ Teachers and Teaching: Theory and Practice, 15:2, 273-289.
Martinez, P. (2001) ‘Improving student retention and achievement – What do we know and what do we need to find out?’ LSDA
Thomas,E.A.M. (2002) ‘Student retention in Higher Education: The role of institutional habitus’ Journal of Educational Policy vol.17 no.4
Tinto,V. (1975) ‘Dropout from Higher Education: A Theoretical Synthesis of Recent Research’ Review of Educational Research vol.45
University of Leicester (2010). An initial analysis of a survey of students withdrawing early from their courses at the University of Leicester during 2007-08 and 2008-09.
Available at: