Documentation

Documentation activities are a significant part of almost every institutional teaching-learning-situation. Looking at academic institutions there are two different levels of documentation:

  • On a first level, there is a descriptive documentation. This kind of documentation generally has an organisational function: e.g. teachers registering the attendance of students or students making notes on the contents of a course.

  • On a second level, there is a kind of evaluative documentation. This one is often directly linked to assessments: e.g. portfolios, used alongside or at the end of a course, reflecting personal learning processes, homework and exams trying to get an overview on the quality of scientific skills and the knowledge about a content.

The inclusion of creative methods into academic teaching requires reconsideration of both kinds of documentation in two respects: with regard to the documentation medium on the one hand and the topic of documentation on the other.

Affecting both questions, two general points have to be discussed – independent from the teaching method used in the course:

Is the documentation an essential part of the learning/working process? Does it have a representational or only an organisational function? Documentation activities may structure but also disturb a learning/working process and influence the atmosphere in class. Therefore, it is worthwhile to think about the importance of documentation before starting a course. If it is fundamental for reflections on the content and the learning process or important in other respects, disturbances can be more tolerated than in other cases.

How to minimize the disturbance of documentation to the learning/working process? There are many forms of documentation and all of them can disturb a productive climate in the classroom – especially discussions of sensitive contents. The rule of the thumb is that the more visible a documentation process the more disturbing is it. So it is recommended to use documentation tools that are an integral part of the study field.

 

Medium of documentation

As mentioned, academic institutions generally use specific mediums of documentation that focus on verbal academic scientific language. Therefore, universities face a challenging task, when accepting alternative forms of documentation such as films, drawings, sculptures and the like. Especially complicated, is the certification of students' academic achievements on this basis. Then it is not only necessary to get involved in a largely unfamiliar form of communication, but also to develop new and appropriate evaluation standards. This is a challenge for an organisation in which scientific nature and scientific representation are the dominant features and have clear priority over artistic skills. Therefore, on the one hand it is important that teachers rethink their orientation towards certain forms of course output, and on the other hand to involve the collaborating artists as experts in the evaluation process. This often puts the teachers in the position of advocacy vis a vis the academic institution for the artistic evaluation means.

 

Topic of documentation

In principle, creative or arts-based teaching can be differentiated in two kinds of practices: (a) observation/exposure activities and (b) creating/art making activities.

  1. Working with already completed art products/exhibitions focuses on the interpretation of art. In this case, documentation is looking at a process between perception and discussion. Decide at the beginning of your course which documentation medium you want to use and which parts of the process you want to document. Some tools do not allow retrospective documentation!

  2. At the end of an art making activity, usually an artistic product is usually perceptible to outsiders. While artworks and performances have a certain durability or repeatability, there is also art, which significance lies precisely in their transience/the transience of a moment. With this in mind, two central aspects need to be clarified when using art in teaching. On the one hand, it is necessary to deal with the question of whether the creation of a product is sufficient as an object of documentation or whether additional documentation of the creation process is required. So there will be the need to discuss, which kind of documentation develops the (learning) progress, especially since it is sometimes far removed from the products themselves. It is important to consider not only the documentation requirements of the academic institution, but also the teacher's demands and expectations. In addition, it must be considered to what extent the reflection on the work process is a necessary component of learning. Sometimes documentation may hinder the process of learning and be perceived as competing with the actual product. For example, pre-structured forms documentation may restricts the creative process and thus reduce the added value of creative teaching.

  3. Documentation in the context of creative courses can acquire significance beyond the direct course context. The communicability of artistic products and their being attractive to mass media may be utilized for bringing relevant social issues to the attention of policy makers and the public in general.

Disclaimer: "This project has been funded with support from the European Commission.

This publication [communication] reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein."

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