VA7036 - Practising Research

What will I learn on this module?

Practising Research is delivered in the first semester of the two-year MFA programme. This introductory module requires you to develop a self-directed artistic project understood as a form of creative research. Here you will be introduced to ideas of fine art practice as an open-ended research activity involving focused exploration of a specific area of practice (connecting making and thinking). You will be challenged to identify key areas of enquiry to better understand and develop the driving ambitions of your practice and contextualise these within broader fields of artistic and theoretical enquiry.

Practising Research will help you re-evaluate the approaches and concepts underpinning your practice and develop the discursive skills necessary for you to articulate these to staff, peers, curators, and publics. You will also be supported in developing creative responses which advance the terms of your project, acquiring technical and material skills as appropriate. You will learn the importance of situating your work within wider fields of activity to understand the value of its contribution to art and society. Such contexts for your practice could include but are not limited to: the work of other artists, designers, writers and performers; academic fields of enquiry; social enterprises and specific communities; and spaces of exhibition, display and/or public engagement. The module will fully support you in being ambitious and inventive in rethinking your practice across disciplinary and social contexts.

Practicing Research provides a space for new experimentation and reflection on your own practice, both individually, and as a co-producer within the extended community of dialogues generate by the BxNU Institute of Contemporary Art.

How will I learn on this module?

Individual tutorials provide you with ongoing focused feedback on your work, supporting you in the critical and visual exploration of your individual field of interest. Through seminars, reading groups and the BALTIC Research Exchange you are supported in finding new modes of experimentation and collaboration. Staff will offer seminars and reading groups on a variety of complementary subjects from which you will choose, enabling you to build a bespoke pathway through the specialist research-led teaching offered by the academic team. Technical teaching in this module can also be chosen to suit individual preference through specialist areas of photography, print, construction, casting and fabrication, video, sound and digital imaging. Workshops allow you to test out ideas, and group crits foreground discussion, negotiation and critical reflection. Your learning in these sessions is collective, supporting you to establish strong peer links and maximise the collective resource of your peer group. During seminars and reading groups you will occasionally be joined by postgraduate research (PhD) students from the Faculty as well as local, national and international visitors.

Central to your learning on this module is the provision of a collective and flexible studio space, which you are encouraged to organise, curate and develop with your peer group. During this first semester you will be introduced to BALTIC Research Exchange, a chance to work with curators at BALTIC on themes and ideas for exhibitions which will continue throughout the MFA, whilst external visits connect you with wider networks of collaborators, sites, venues and resources.

How will I be supported academically on this module?

Your studio tutor provides you with regular feedback on your progress through tutorials and supports you in working towards the module aims, assessment briefs, and your own personal goals. Written feedback at the end of the module supports your academic progress by assisting your reflection on and awareness of your achievements and potential as a learner. Pastoral support is provided by this tutor who can assist you and help you access all relevant sources of academic and non-academic support through the University’s Student Central. MFA academics work closely with the University disability advisers to ensure those students with dyslexia and other learning difficulties are fully supported. Additional bookable and drop-in study skills support is available through the Northumbria SkillsPlus Programme at the City Campus Library and via MyNorthumbria. In line with the University’s equal opportunities statement, all students that are confirmed with a disability are given every support to enable them to meet their full potential on the course. Meetings with the Module and Programme Leads additionally offer the opportunity to discuss course and related matters. All MFA academics can be contacted via email and have regular in-person consultation and feedback office hours.

What will I be expected to read on this module?

All modules at Northumbria include a range of reading materials that students are expected to engage with. The reading list for this module can be found at:
(Reading List service online guide for academic staff this containing contact details for the Reading List team –

What will I be expected to achieve?

Knowledge & Understanding:

1. To introduce appropriate research methodologies, using informed critical approaches and resources relevant to practice.

2. To contextualise practical outputs / artworks and practice in relation to relevant and timely contemporary art and cultural discourses.

3. To demonstrate awareness of inter-disciplinary fields of contemporary arts practice.

Intellectual / Professional skills & abilities:

4. To demonstrate systematic analysis of practical and theoretical positions and processes, and make clear arguments in written form.

5. To evidence strategies for progressing practice through research-focussed experimentation and calculated speculation.

6. To evidence effective inter-personal and organisational skills, including project planning, live presentation, and time management.

Personal Values Attributes (Global / Cultural awareness, Ethics, Curiosity) (PVA):

7. Evidence Curiosity appropriate to Level 7

How will I be assessed?

Summative Assessment

On completion of the module, assessment is summative. You are asked to demonstrate the development of your studio practice through the presentation of a selected body of art-work (60% weighting) that demonstrates your creative use of the critical tools with which to investigate process and refine output along with evidence of how you are employing a range of effective strategies with which to establish a sustainable professional practice (MLOs KU 1,2,3, IPSA 5,6, PVA 7).

Your studio practice is accompanied by a written summary contextualising this development (20% weighting) showing your developed awareness of historical and contemporary models of practice (MLO KU 1, 2,3, IPSA 4).

The oral presentation (20%) synthesizes how you discuss practice and contextualization. It enables you to meet Module Learning outcomes IPSA 4,5,6.

The assessment is focused on developing a sustainable artistic practice, prioritizing key attributes of research rigour, critical engagement and professionalism. You will receive written feedback delivered in an individual ‘feedback tutorial’ with the module assessment team, ensuring the process becomes a key mechanism for active learning.

Practical artworks (Studio Presentation) 60%

Written work 20%

Oral Presentation 20%





Module abstract

Practising Research will help you re-evaluate the approaches and concepts underpinning your practice and develop the discursive skills necessary for you to articulate these to staff, peers, curators, and publics. You will be introduced to ideas of fine art practice as an open-ended research activity enabling you to create a focused exploration of your own specific area of enquiry. Under the expert guidance of our academic, professional and technical teams, you will be encouraged to expand the interests and skills you bring to the MFA and locate your practice in a wider cultural and critical arena. We encourage people who work in many media, and staff have a strong focus on collaborative, performative and curatorial work. Through varied and responsive teaching sessions, the use of studio and technical facilities, and convivial exchanges with curators at the BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art you will develop creative research skills preparing you for advanced-level professional life and post-Masters research degrees.

Course info

Credits 60

Level of Study Postgraduate

Mode of Study 2 years full-time

Department Arts

Location City Campus, Northumbria University

City Newcastle

Start September 2021

Fee Information

Module Information

All information on this course page is accurate at the time of viewing.

Courses starting in 2021 are offered as a mix of online and face to face teaching due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

We continue to monitor government and local authority guidance in relation to Covid-19 and we are ready and able to flex accordingly to ensure the health and safety of our students and staff.

Students will be required to attend campus as far as restrictions allow. Contact time will increase as restrictions ease, or decrease, potentially to a full online offer, should restrictions increase.

Our online activity will be delivered through Blackboard Ultra, enabling collaboration, connection and engagement with materials and people.


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