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Unit information: An Introduction to Study in the Arts and Humanities in 2018/19

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Unit name An Introduction to Study in the Arts and Humanities
Unit code AFAC10007
Credit points 20
Level of study C/4
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Professor. Tom Sperlinger
Open unit status Not open




School/department Arts Faculty Office
Faculty Faculty of Arts


This unit aims to introduce students to the skills required for studying the arts and humanities within the foundation year and (ultimately) at undergraduate level and to the range of disciplines available within the Faculty of Arts at Bristol. There will be opportunities for students to discuss issues related to the transition to higher education and/or returning to study and the process for progression beyond the foundation year. The unit aims to help students operate with self-confidence in a variety of university environments, including those with which they are initially unfamiliar, using a range of relevant skills for self-directed study, including those particularly relevant to study in the arts and humanities.

Students will be asked to complete a range of practical tasks in their own time and will have opportunities to reflect on this work in seminars; the unit is thus intended to help students familiarize themselves with the balance there will be in other units between work completed independently and during contact time.

Topics covered may vary from year to year, but would normally include: note taking; library use; how to organize your time; how to make use of feedback; prioritizing among different tasks; reading in depth; reading around a subject; the implicit sensory and other skills required in various disciplines (looking, hearing, performing, listening, reading); and an introduction to critical thinking. There may also be a general session on planning, drafting, re-drafting and editing assessed work, but more detailed and focused work on this will be done in the period units.

The unit will normally include one session looking at the ‘value’ of studying the arts and humanities (financial, moral, personal, other), which will allow students to connect the practical skills they are acquiring to a larger conceptual sense of why they might study the arts and humanities and how this connects to the relevance (or difficulty) of such study in the context of their own lives.

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this unit, students will be able to demonstrate:
(i) the requisite confidence and skills to study the arts and humanities within the foundation year and (ultimately) at undergraduate level;
(ii) an ability to reflect on their own transition to higher education and to complete a series of tasks related to study at this level.
(iii) the acquisition of relevant skills (e.g. in reading, note-taking, library use and time management) for that transition;
(iv) a conceptual awareness of how these skills allow them to engage with the intellectual debates that are at the heart of the arts and humanities as disciplines
(v) an awareness of how the skills they have developed might be relevant beyond the course;
(vi) how their confidence has developed in articulating their own ideas in seminar discussion and associated formats.

Teaching details

The unit will be taught in seminars, with an emphasis on small-group discussions. Four hours per week for the first three weeks and two hours per week for the next seven weeks.

Assessment Details

This unit will be assessed on a pass/fail basis.

Students will be required to submit a portfolio of work at the end of the unit, demonstrating their engagement with the tasks set week-to-week and reflecting on what they have learnt. The portfolio would normally be equivalent to 4,000 words of reflective writing in total plus associated notes or materials (100% of the unit mark)

The reflective nature of these tasks is designed to help students develop confidence as well as skills (i) relevant to study in the arts and humanities and to place what they are learning in the context of (ii) their own transition to higher education. In the tasks students will not only be asked to demonstrate what they have learnt (iii) but also to reflect on the different ways in which they are learning, e.g. including through reflection on their own contributions in seminars (vi).

The exact nature of the tasks set may vary from year to year, but these might normally include asking students to reflect on skills such as time management and taking notes in lectures, demonstrating their awareness of how the skills they are learning have allowed them to engage with various intellectual debates in the arts and humanities and/or how these skills may be relevant beyond the course (iv, v).

Reading and References

Catherine Bates and Abi Matthewman, Studying Arts and Humanities (Palgrave Macmillan, 2009)

Diané Collinson et al, eds, Plain English, 2nd edn (Buckingham: Open University Press, 2001)

Stella Cottrell, The Study Skills Handbook (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013)