Fail Again, Fail Better: The Case for Formative Assessment in First-year Undergraduate Creative Practice-based Modules

By Szilvia Naray-Davey and Ursula Hurley.

Published by The International Journal of Arts Education

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Article: Print $US10.00
Published online: June 13, 2014 $US5.00

This article identifies an intrinsic paradox in creative practice-based degree programmes that use outcome-led curricula and summative assessment in their first-year undergraduate practical modules. Offering a personal reflection by two teacher-practitioners, this article is not a comprehensive study of current practices but rather is informed by specific teaching experiences in the United Kingdom higher education setting. It will argue that it is detrimental to have specific learning outcomes at such an early stage of students' development where trial and error should be part of an organic and experiential learning process. It will also question more broadly the usefulness of summative assessment in process-led subjects such as acting and creative writing, and suggest that this kind of assessment may be in tension with the methodologies of these disciplines. It will develop the argument by using an experiential descriptive case study to propose an example of an alternative, “utopian blueprint,” practical, process-led first-year acting module. This utopian module proposes pedagogical principles which are interchangeable with other practice-led subjects such as creative writing. This blueprint design favours the process-led curriculum, and thus lends itself to formative assessment. Not only does formative assessment thereby offer a better fit with first-year students’ learning experiences, but it also mirrors professional relationships such as actor-director/writer-editor associations in the creative industries, thus preparing students for life outside the academy. Finally, the article foregrounds the importance of utilising the benefits of the “practice as research” methodology for practitioner-lecturers in higher education.

Keywords: Pedagogy, Creativity, Higher Education, Practice-based

The International Journal of Arts Education, Volume 8, Issue 3, December 2014, pp.1-13. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Published online: June 13, 2014 (Article: Electronic (PDF File; 507.126KB)).

Szilvia Naray-Davey

Lecturer in Drama, School of Humanities, Languages, and Social Sciences, English Subject Directorate, University of Salford, Manchester, Lancashire, UK

Szilvia is a lecturer in drama at The University of Salford, England. She is a graduate of the University of London and the University of Salford and is a fellow of the Higher Education Academy. She is currently working on her practice as research PhD on drama translation. A trained actress, she has done stage and film work in London, New York, and Los Angeles. She is the artistic theater director and producer of Ignition Stage, a small Manchester-based theater company. Her most recent professional performance activity is radio acting and she can often be heard in leading roles in Radio 4 dramas in the UK. Szilvia's research interests include drama pedagogy and drama translation with a special focus on the translation of Hungarian contemporary drama into English. She is currently working on translating three Hungarian plays by different contemporary dramatist that she hopes to get published as a trilogy. Szilvia is also involved in poetry translation and is co-translating the Hungarian poetry of Anna T. Szabo.

Dr Ursula Hurley

Lecturer in English and Creative Writing, School of Humanities, Languages, and Social Sciences, English Subject Directorate, University of Salford, Manchester, Lancashire, UK

Ursula Hurley is a prize-winning author who specialises in experimental prose forms. She also has a strong interest in writing pedagogy and has published widely in this area, contributing to How to Write Fiction (and Think about It) (Ed. Robert Graham, Palgrave, 2007); Everything You Need to Know About Creative Writing (but Knowing Isn't Everything) (Eds. Robert Graham and Heather Leach, Continuum, 2007); and Beyond the Workshop (Ed. Paul Perry, Kingston University Press, 2012). She is a senior lecturer in English and creative writing at the University of Salford, UK, and has recently completed her doctorate, which staged a praxical enquiry into the processes and products of autobiographical fiction.