Constellation 1000 words PDP

As part of my academic study, I am required to write (at least?)1000 words of reflective feedback on my blog. What this encompasses, I no longer know. I would like to note that I am writing this out of pure frustration at this point.

I thought I had already been doing this, but I have been told so many conflicting things by tutors, students, Blackboard and the course handbook. The organisation of Constellation is ridiculous, it’s like none of the tutors involved are communicating with each other; it seems they don’t even know what it is they’re expecting of us.

What makes it worse? Everything seems to end in the inevitable;  “…or you will fail”.

Supposedly this 1000 words should have been accumulated from a series of short posts mentioning how we were finding constellation, what we found interesting from the sessions and how it influences our subject. Blackboard also mentions we could talk about how our actual making processes were going and why we felt good or bad about the finished pieces.
Yet I’ve just been told that instead this needs to be a single post, in a separate category, that describes how we have found (just) Constellation during this year. The sheer confusion of nearly every student on my course (this is most likely true of the other courses too) indicates that the fault does not lie with us.

Firstly, the Study Skills sessions. These were allegedly meant to prepare us for our 500 word essay and develop our academic skills. In my opinion they were, for the most part, a complete waste of my time offering only the basic of writing skills such as, “how to use a semi-colon”. I understand the need to account for all skill levels but advanced sessions could have been offered in addition to these more basic ones.
We briefly touched upon Harvard referencing in one of the sessions but nowhere near to the degree that was needed for our actual essays. For example the need to cite within the main body of the essay was not mentioned, nor was the correct way to reference images.
The only one of these sessions that I found particularly useful was with Cath Davies. In this session we were actually offered an approach to tackling the essay which was well explained and memorable. When it came down to it I didn’t actually use this approach as I felt it wouldn’t work with the arguments that I wanted to make. However it was nice knowledge to have nonetheless and could still be helpful in the future.

Next, the key note lectures. These were a bit hit and miss but I think I enjoyed them overall. The major difference between these and the study skills sessions was that they actually required us to think more philosophically about the context of art and design rather than putting the main focus on tedious, time consuming group tasks.
The most note-worthy of these lectures were; Jon Clarkson’s “Post-perspective”, Mahnaz Shah’s “The Literal and Phenomenal” and Stephen Tompson’s “Joey: The Mechanical Boy”. It’s no co-incidence that these were also probably the most challenging to comprehend, offering a much more engaging experience for me.

Then came the 500 word essay; another unavailing attempt to improve our academic writing. I have already disclosed my disappointment in the feedback I was given here. The only transferable point was “use in text citation” but if the study skills sessions had simply provided this information in the first place it wouldn’t have even been an issue.
The subject of controversy and the baby cage was an odd one. It’s not really an art based subject so it didn’t relate to anything we had been studying. It would have made more sense for this to have been a short draft of our 2500 word essay. Whilst it may have been difficult for us to have chosen a topic that early in the year, even a vague starting point would have been extremely useful for later on, as I have always found the starting point of an essay the most challenging.

In Term 2 we were required to pick from a list of study groups. The students in each group would be picked on a first come first serve basis so we were advised to sign up as soon as possible within the given time frame. I was excited by Cath Davies’ option, “Smells Like Teen Spirit” which looked at various social groups and their influences. I knew it would’ve been a popular choice so within the first 2 minutes of the options being opened, I submitted my choice. Sadly I still didn’t get my first choice and instead found myself in “Sonic Arts” but I didn’t find this too disheartening as the subject matter was still new and interesting to me.
Sonic Arts was split in two halves, one run by Alexandros Kontogeorgakopolous and the other by James Kent. They seemed to be working independently from each other, sometimes even presenting us with the exact same videos that we had been shown by the other lecturer. Alexandros’ lectures were fairly interesting but lacked any form of discussion or theoretical understanding. This left me feeling as though I hadn’t been challenged to develop my learning within the lecture confines; any other learning was strictly self directed in preparation for the essay.
As stated by James Kent himself, he is not a lecturer. His sessions were considerably more dull and disengaging; sometimes even featuring moments where we would watch a video clip for 30 minutes (with no input on his part) and at the end he would simply move on to the next one with no further explanation.

When it finally came to the 2500 word essay, we were asked if we wanted to come up with our own essay question or pick one from a list. I thought I would find writing the essay much more motivating if I came up with my own.
Before the Easter holidays, Alexandros offered tutorials to those of us that wanted to come up with our own questions, but again this was unhelpful to me. After explaining that I was interested in the translation of music to images, his advice was, (as with every other student in my tutorial group) “go to the library”. I at least expected some specific book recommendations or advice on how to zero in on a question title, but no, this was all I was left with to start my essay over the holidays.
Understandably, I failed to produce any considerable amount of writing during this time. In the last week of the holidays, members of my course went on a working trip to France and wouldn’t be back until the third day of the term (Wed 29th April). An email was sent out by Alexandros on Monday 27th, stating there would be a presentation on how to layout the essay, along with bookable tutorials on the Wednesday. Exhausted from travelling all day on the Tuesday, I didn’t receive any of this information until after; but based on previous experiences I doubt they would have helped anyway.
As I was nearing the end of my essay, an influx of last minute emails were sent out to a number of my fellow students, some coming 2 days before the deadline stating things such as, “quotes do not count towards your word count”. The general consensus was that all the tutors seemed to have conflicting criteria that caused unnecessary panic and confusion throughout. I’ve now handed in my essay and I’m fairly happy with how its turned out despite the overwhelming uncertainty that ensued.

In short, based on the sheer inconsistency of information and the lack of communication between the tutors in general, I have to say that whilst I enjoy being an academic, I am not looking forward to Constellation next year.


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