HEFCE Interim Evaluation Report
This page contains the text of the CAPITAL Interim Evaluation report, submitted to the Higher Education Funding Council for England in July 2007. The purpose of this report is to give an overview and evaluation of the work done by CAPITAL at the halfway stage of its initial five-year funding period, and outline areas for improvement and growth in the future.
The main text of the report is below. Appendices may be downloaded as a pdf file using the link on the right.
Interim Evaluation, July 2007
The CAPITAL Centre: Creativity and Performance in Teaching and Learning
An Interim Evaluation: July 2007
|1.3||Areas for future discussion|
|2.1||Structure and audience|
|2.2||Connection with other reports|
||2.4||Overview of evidential basis|
||Aims and scope of the CAPITAL Centre
||Evaluation framework and approach
||Findings addressing key evaluation foci
|The Warwick/RSC Collaboration
Connections with external partners
|5.4||Internal strategic impact|
|5.5||Effects on teachers|
||5.6||Effects on learning design|
||Lessons learnt and future adjustments
|6.1||Overview of new knowledge resources for students|
|6.2||Emerging teaching practices|
|6.3||Implications for university systems and practices|
|6.4||Sector-wide multiplier effects|
|6.5||Adjustments and future plans|
|6.5.4||Internal strategic priorities|
|6.6||Reflection on CAPITAL as a change strategy|
Appendix A: Evidential case studies
Appendix B: Publications
Appendix C: CAPITAL activities and events October 2005-July 2007
Appendix D: Teaching and learning input
Appendix E: Report on progress against 2-year objectives
An Interim Evaluation of the CAPITAL Centre: Creativity and Performance in Teaching and Learning
1.0 Executive Summary
The Executive summary is presented in three sections:
- Headline conclusions
- Main findings
The CAPITAL Centre and its partners are confident that
- CAPITAL is successfully engaging with its core constituents;
- CAPITAL is making a significant contribution to the development of inter-disciplinary collaboration, particularly to strengthen links between research and teaching practice;
- CAPITAL is providing a range of accredited opportunities in teaching and learning for the professional development of RSC actors and school teachers through the RSC’s Learning Network;
- CAPITAL has a strategic plan and expectations for meeting a diverse range of non-arts based students across campus;
- CAPITAL is extending innovation in teaching and learning and sharing best practice at local and regional levels. National opportunities for collaboration and dissemination are being pursued.
1.2 Main Findings
- The main findings of the evaluation are presented thematically focusing on student experience, connections with external partners, internal strategic impact, effects on teachers, and effects on learning design.
The Centre offers students, particularly in Theatre Studies and English an opportunity to enhance their learning through workshop-based models and spectatorship;
- CAPITAL Centre projects have provided students in English and Comparative Literary Studies with a much fuller basis for exploring and understanding texts of all kinds;
CAPITAL has provided opportunities to attend master classes and artist-led teaching events for 1580 FTEs
- The practice-based workshop strand developed for the Shakespeare and Selected Dramatists of his Time has enabled students to receive experiential work, and engage with actors and directors on a professional level;
- There is a relatively clear distinction between the perceived engagement of literature students and those from a wider subject base;
- The workshop-based model must address course content at an appropriate level;
- Theorisation is now emerging having tested a range of models to answer the question “What is the difference between a master class, a performance and a practical workshop?” in teaching and learning;
- CAPITAL has established a foundation of communication with the RSC;
- CAPITAL offers RSC theatre practitioners an opportunity to study in an HE context as well as to develop practice representative of CAPITAL principles;
- CAPITAL is extending its collaboration with local and regional arts organisations;
- There is a consensus among teaching staff involved with CAPITAL that the Centre’s provision of training opportunities in performance-based techniques will enhance their own professional development;
- Dissemination of work and activities has been effective within the School of Theatre, Performance and Cultural Policy Studies, the Department of English Literature and Comparative Literary Studies and the Institute of Education;
- Avenues to disseminate CAPITAL’s work on a national level are being explored;
- Through its support for the RSC’s Learning Network, CAPITAL provides teachers with professional development opportunities focusing on the workshop model of teaching and learning
17 Learning Network teachers enrolled in 2006 for the Postgraduate Certificate in the Teaching of Shakespeare for English teachers and a further 13 in 2007. 11 teachers enrolled in 2007 for the Certificate in the Teaching of Shakespeare for Drama teachers
- There is a strong consensus and excitement among staff that the new facilities at Millburn House and relocation of other departments, the focus of which are the creative arts, will enhance the relationship between research and teaching practice and develop new teaching and learning strategies throughout the University.
1.3 Areas for future discussion
To meet its goals and expectations for the future the CAPITAL Centre should address the following areas of activity
- definition of the relationship with the RSC to secure mutual interests;
- the Centre’s Committee structure to enhance communication and representation of inter-disciplinary projects in the planning and activities of the Centre;
- dialogue and communication with associated internal departments at Warwick;
- with the anticipated move of associated departments to the new space, sharing expertise to enhance the sustainability of the Centre;
- further undergraduate and postgraduate courses and modules embodying CAPITAL principles
- embedding the workshop model of learning across all three years of student learning;
- a strategy and model of communication to address the concern that CAPITAL projects may be seen as an enrichment and supplementary activity to predisposed performative arts students;
- the pedagogic value of the exceptional event to kickstart the teaching and learning process
- the pedagogic value of the workshop model in the HE environment and appropriate methods of assessment and evaluation;
- documenting expertise and resources used by the Centre;
- the Centre’s ICT and web site to include resources, expertise and examples of CAPITAL’s pedagogic paradigm;
- sharing best practices with similar centres of excellence;
- plans to ensure the sustainability of the Centre
The purpose of this interim report is to evaluate the work of the CAPITAL Centre against its strategic aims and objectives and within the HEFCE CETL project. The report addresses five key evaluation foci: 1) student experience, 2) connections with external partners, 3) internal strategic impact, 4) effects on teachers, and 5) effects on learning design .
2.1 Structure and audience
The report has been structured to focus predominantly on the effects of the CAPITAL Centre on students, teachers, and learning design. Firstly stakeholders were invited to comment on the perceived effects of engagement in CAPITAL-led activities on students’ learning. Second, the evaluation addressed the impact and provision of activities for teaching. Third, the evaluation examined emerging pedagogical models and impact of learning designs, particularly within the Department of English and Comparative Literary Studies and the School of Theatre, Performance and Cultural Policy Studies.
The report has been compiled for HEFCE in fulfilment of its requirement for self-evaluation by CETLs and to provide formative information to CAPITAL and its partners to support its strategy and planning for the next three years.
2.2 Connection with other reports
This report should also be read in conjunction with the interim evaluation report of the Reinvention Centre, Warwick’s other CETL.
The purpose of this report is to document exemplar strands of work that are being provided by CAPITAL. The focus has been to provide qualitative commentaries on the effects of CAPITAL on teaching and learning. Much of the report also focuses on the development of the partnership between the RSC and the university and to a lesser extent, the development of other external links to CAPITAL’s work. The purpose of the evaluation is to provide information and identify areas for discussion to inform future adjustments and developments.
2.4 Overview of evidential basis
The core of the report is composed of an analysis of these
- Aims and objectives of the Centre;
- Strengths and weaknesses in the functioning and provision of CAPITAL;
- The Centre’s development of links between research and teaching;
- Effectiveness of the Centre’s dissemination activity;
- Internal strategy and expectations for the future.
Interviews, statements and questionnaires were used to collect evaluative information from stakeholders including:
- Paul Allen: Warwick/RSC Fellow in Creativity and Performance
- Professor Jonathan Bate : Founding Director of CAPITAL
- Dr Christie Carson: English Subject Centre
- Professor Jim Davis: Head of Theatre, Performance and Cultural Policy Studies
- Vikki Heywood: RSC Executive Director
- Tony Howard: Associate Professor in the Department of English and Comparative Literary Studies
- Professor Jonothan Neelands, CAPITAL Deputy Director 2006-7, Institute of Education
- Dr Paul Prescott: CAPITAL Centre Lecturer
- Professor Carol Rutter: CAPITAL Director
- Adriano Shaplin: RSC/Warwick International Playwright in Residence
- RSC Learning staff
- Professor Michael Whitby: Pro Vice-chancellor for Teaching and Learning
- Warwick students
For the purposes of evaluation, evidence was also gathered from key stakeholder statements. Standard anonymous evaluation questionnaires were used to gather feedback from participants in CAPITAL activities and events.
3.0 Aims and Scope of the CAPITAL Centre
The purpose of the CAPITAL Centre is to build on existing excellence in which the arts of creative thinking are developed through forms of teaching and learning that emphasise active performance on the part of both teachers and students. The focus of the Centre’s work is within the Department of English and Comparative Literary Studies and the School of Theatre, Performance and Cultural Policy Studies, which share the highest possible ratings for their teaching and research, and the Institute of Education. The Centre’s external partner is the RSC which is universally recognised as a leader in teaching and learning, both for the theatre profession, but also for its education and outreach programmes and unique collaborations with higher education institutions nationally and internationally. A key objective of the project will be to draw in expertise and excellence, in order to share experience and disseminate creative practice widely throughout the university and beyond.
The central research questions are:
- Is the rehearsal technique a valid teaching methodology?
- What should be the form and content of a practical workshop on Shakespeare for University students?
- What impact does the introduction of kinaesthetic style of teaching and learning have
- on the study of literature at Higher Education level
- on teaching skills
- on teacher and learner confidence in studying Shakespeare
- What impact does the academic input have
- on the acting and directing of Shakespeare’s plays
- on the function of the RSC as a learning organisation
- on the acting and directing of Shakespeare’s plays
- What are the effects on teaching and learning on both sides of a partnership between a leading cultural producer (Royal Shakespeare Company) and a Higher Education institution (Warwick).
There is clear evidence that this purpose is well articulated across the university, particularly within key departments. Comments from university personnel referred to the Centre as aiming to provide all students, not solely those on performance-based courses, the opportunity to experience workshop-based models of learning.
“[in response to the primary purpose of the CAPITAL Centre] I think its opening statement [in the original HEFCE bid] about its aspirations in relation to teaching and learning and the use of performance techniques, the use of theatre and performance in the very wide and broad sense, of rehearsal processes, to enable teaching and learning … within the tertiary education, is very much what its about. Its about every possible way in which performance and creativity can be used across the learning experience of undergraduates, and possibly postgraduates, and of course its mandate is tertiary education“
(Academic, University of Warwick)
“we have asked students [taking the core Shakespeare module] to self-select … who would be like to taught using some practical methods, in two hour seminars… we advertised it as Shakespeare without chairs… that gives them a real sense of the text as its spoken and the text as its done… the language of the plays… the words of the plays, as well as the ideas of the plays, and then the play as it is performed… which has been the core understanding of what we are doing here”
(CAPITAL staff, CAPITAL)
This consensus was clearly articulated, that a pedagogic model focusing on rehearsal and performance techniques provides students with a range of transferable skills, including the ability to see different perspectives and to work within an ensemble or team. This picture of the wider shift back towards a sense of the integral relationship between the university vocations of teaching and learning was confirmed by both Theatre Studies and English teaching staff.
3.2 Specific goals
One of the objectives of the CAPITAL project is to make the resources and expertise of the world’s largest classical theatre ensemble available to the higher education community, while also using the expertise within the university to develop the RSC as a learning organisation (Bate and Brock, in press). The original HEFCE bid proposed the development of an excellence hub, where creative individuals – writer, actors, and directors --- and members of the University at every level , were able to come together in both a physical and conceptual space to inform each others’ work.
While the CAPITAL Centre focuses on performance in a theatrical sense, the aim of CAPITAL is to ensure that a diverse body of students across the university receive the opportunity to experience the workshop model of learning. This model of teaching and learning through practice-based workshops already permeates modules offered in performance practice and hands-on creation, and by the School of Theatre, Performance and Cultural Policy Studies (Bate and Brock, in press).
The objectives of the Centre are closely linked with the University’s Mission Statement, Corporate Plan, Human Resources Strategy, Learning and Teaching Strategy, and e-Learning Strategy which emphasise:
- Reinforcing the strong link between research and teaching: staff members in the Centre’s core team are highly research active in areas intimately linked to the initiative;
- Recognising and rewarding good performance: the Fellowships in Creativity are a key reward element, as is the provision of improved studio, rehearsal and teaching facilities;
- Providing students with the opportunity to follow accredited skills and enterprise modules to enable them to develop academic and career potential and to enhance their skills across the range of disciplines: the work experience placements and new modules, e.g. Teaching Shakespeare: A Practical Approach, provide opportunities of this kind;
- Providing pre- and post- entry support for a diverse student body: the programmes for school students offered by the RSC’s Learning Network provide valuable pre-entry support;
- Extending innovation in teaching and learning, sharing best practice and continuing to exploit the opportunities provided by ICT as part of the wider e-strategy: the workshop model of learning is highly innovative, as are the ICT initiatives being developed in Theatre Studies and the RSC;
- Giving high priority to improving access, to continuing and post experience education and to close collaboration with its local and regional community : joint projects with the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust and the Shakespeare Institute in Stratford-upon-Avon are extending CAPITAL’s benefits to local partners
- Enhance existing collaboration between the university and the RSC;
- Provide reward and development opportunities for staff who teach modules that have a proven track record of excellence in the areas of creative thinking and the use of performance and workshop based techniques
- Develop new research and practice at the interface between teaching and learning and the making of theatre;
- Make a major contribution to the RSC Artists’ Development Programme, through the input of university staff;
- Involve students with a range of performance practice across disciplines and beyond the formal curriculum, seeking to bring an ethos of creativity to the widest possible range of students and teachers within the university, in partnership with the wider community – notably through the collaboration with the RSC.
The core activity of CAPITAL is to provide a programme of workshops and seminars that demonstrate and develop best practice in performance. These activities include:
a) the enhancement of existing modules at both undergraduate and graduate level for the benefit of the student body in core departments
b) the development of new modules that will be available more widely across the Faculty of Arts and beyond;
c) consolidation and development of existing and new interdisciplinary links;
d) special learning experiences in the form of events, outreach activities and students placements;
e) pedagogical research and fieldwork to refine and enhance the model of learning through performance;
f) sharing the model through symposia, conferences, public events and e-dissemination.
For a full list of CAPITAL’s activities to date see Appendix C.
4.0 Evaluation Framework and Approach
4.1 Evaluation approach
The methodology adopted was a mixed methods approach combining face-to-face interviews, questionnaires, and the use of relevant CAPITAL Centre documentation. Specific CAPITAL activities were considered as action research projects. For the purpose of this evaluation, action research is defined as an informal, qualitative, interpretative, reflective and experimental methodology that asks participants to act as collaborative researchers. This model of action research requires individuals, in this instance CAPITAL stakeholders, to reflect on current strengths and limitations, and to develop collaboratively and implement a strategy to facilitate change.
Progress and success have been continuously monitored against the objectives set in the Stage 2 bid to HEFCE. (See Appendix E Report of progress against 2 year objectives.)
5.0 Findings Addressing Key Evaluation Foci
5.1 Student experience
A core notion of CAPITAL is to remodel teaching, to move away from a focus on analysis and theory toward a more performance-based model, where students are provided with opportunities to take text off the page.
Research interviews with a range of academic staff who have been involved with CAPITAL Centre activities indicated a clear perception that the Centre offers students, particularly in Theatre Studies and English, an opportunity to enhance their learning. This judgement appears to be based on both quantitative responses from feedback forms, but also anecdotal comments from students.
“In terms of the experience of the students, which is the most important thing, I think it has made a fundamental difference even though we haven’t got it right yet. I think the experience of this year’s cohort, but even last year’s as well, have been substantially enhanced. [In response to what evidence do you base that judgement on?] I’ve read a lot of feedback forms from various events … statistically I think there is some evidence there, but … I’m thinking more of qualitative anecdotal feedback, but I’m very aware that, for some students particularly, it has transformed their university experience, and of course the challenge now is to make that transformation available to as many students as possible.”
From 10 sample practice-based events for which questionnaires were completed, 61% said the event would affect their approach to their work and 28% said it might.
A Head of Department commented that the work of the CAPITAL Centre had certainly provided students with a much fuller basis to explore and understand texts, particularly addressing how text can be taken from the page and realised in practice. This priority to engage students with the text through physicality and performance is a clear strength of the Centre’s work.
“I think it’s enormously important that the CAPITAL Centre is enabling the learning of a whole new generation of English Literature students … in a three dimensional and physical way …”
(Academic, University of Warwick)
There is substantial evidence that Theatre Studies, English Literature and, to a lesser extent, Cultural Policy students have engaged with the work of the Centre, particularly in the form of workshops and theatre visits.
“Theatre Studies students have also benefited from a number of talks / workshops and from free tickets to productions related to their studies. And support was also given to a site-specific performance developed by a PhD student within the school.”
(Academic, University of Warwick)
“So I don’t know how well or how widely engaged students in other parts of the faculty or throughout the university are engaged with the work of the CAPITAL Centre. I had to add that a number of our students [English Literature] have been and have found it very useful and valuable, everything from tickets to see presentations in Stratford, to workshops that have enhanced their learning experience… it’s been a definite enhancement, and has enabled a broader level of engagement with the work they’re doing. It can only be [a] positive thing”
(Academic, University of Warwick)
Student feedback too has been generally positive:
What followed was an amazing transformation to the extent that the words themselves seemed to have changed, simply because of a change in tone, body language and pacing. This manipulation of language by speech and gesture was an impressive reminder to any of us who were forgetting that these are plays to be performed.
(RSC Interpretive Choices demonstration)
It is refreshing to learn in a different format, as opposed to lectures, seminars and study. This is especially important during revision time because a varied approach helps to consolidate learning
(Restoration Drama revision workshop)
Three modules next year involve the study of plays and I believe that [the] gift of allowing us to understand the job of the actor will give me a greater academic grasp on theatre and hopefully aid my degree
(Capulets and Montagues.cast member who achieved a 1st class degree in 2007)
Though some literature students, even those studying dramatic texts, did not always grasp how the practical element related to their studies, especially to their assessed work:
Our coursework is very text-based but I enjoyed the physical elements; Performance techniques were interesting but I probably wouldn’t explore it in an essay; Too involved in drama techniques. Interesting and entertaining but not useful.
(Shared Experience Orestes workshop)
But many found understanding beyond their course work:
This was a chance to learn how to work under and with people with whom I didn’t necessarily agree and I had to learn to trust people simply because I had to rather than because I wanted to.
The broader ambition of the CAPITAL project is to embody the experience of performative practice widely across the university. At this stage, there appears to be a relatively clear distinction and differentiation between the perceived engagement of arts-based students and those from wider subject areas. There is already a strong collaboration in place with the School of Law. Work with the Institute of Education is instrumental in developing the pedagogical model for workshops, bringing together subject and pedagogic expertise and for enabling dissemination to education and theatre practitioners. There is clear evidence that the Centre is approaching a stage where it is able to address the wider engagement of students and staff across disciplines.
5.2 The Warwick/RSC collaboration
Comments from stakeholders suggest that CAPITAL has been working through the challenges in developing a foundation of communication with the RSC. This is intrinsically a difficult relationship in that the two institutions function differently at a structural level, working to different strategic priorities and agendas. The nature of the relationship raises interesting theoretical and practical questions at the heart of the collaboration– the RSC studying text in a performance context, versus the university’s more academic and analytical approach. Comments from academics suggested that over the first years of the CAPITAL Centre a great deal of time has been devoted to developing that relationship and facilitating communication between the two institutions. Some concerns were raised about how this dialogue would continue, and how such a dialogue would enhance the opportunities offered by CAPITAL. Some concerns were also raised about the filtration of this communication through the layers of both the RSC and the university.
“It is intrinsically difficult to have a light-footed and flexible relationship between two large institutions, so we have spent a large amount of time trying to finesse that with the RSC”
"The two organisations [the RSC and the University] work to different agendas and different rhythms and are constrained by different rules. Each is much more ‘federal’ in nature that the other expected and while the leaderships are united in having a vision of what can be achieved, these visions have not entirely filtered down to, or been embraced by, the personnel who have to make the partnership as productive as it could be.” (RSC staff)
Collaboration between the university and the RSC has been largely positive, although it has more potential to achieve in the future. Where challenges have occurred, staff and management at both institutions have been working through the issues raised. It has made strides but has some way to go before it delivers to the full capacity envisaged by its initiators.
“My impression, as I’ve been involved with other things that involve the RSC, is that it’s working very well. The basic structural problem with the RSC is that they have rehearsal schedules and even within the RSC, different departments have different degrees of holds over people’s time. So in the past, the last thing that’s been a priority in educational work, because [if X] calls a rehearsal that’s what they’re there for and if they have already arranged to talk to some kids in Coventry then they probably won’t do that, but this I think is much more visible, much more institutional.”
5.3 Connections with external partners
Aside from collaboration with the RSC as an external partner to CAPITAL, the Centre is taking an active role in developing other external partnerships in the locality. This is seen as an avenue to pursue both creative and performance- orientated collaborations, but also as a route to cement the university’s partnership with the city of Coventry. There is great enthusiasm within CAPITAL-associated academics to develop these connections further. The intention of the Centre is that such collaborations with external agencies and organisations, including the RSC, will serve as a flagship for the University’s role in the cultural and economic structure of the West Midlands region. While this has not yet been fully realised there is evidence that groundwork towards this goal is being developed.
I'm beginning to work with the Coventry Belgrade theatre because I think they'll be a really good collaborator over the years, which raises all sorts of nice possibilities about a relationship with Coventry, and the CAPITAL Centre may be seen at the heart of Warwick's relationship with Coventry, which is historically interesting."
Two other local partnerships for the dissemination of work are being developed with the Education Department of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust and the Shakespeare Institute at the University of Birmingham. Both organisations have a remit, albeit with a slightly different focus, to further work, understanding and research into Shakespeare and his theatre. Members of the English Department welcomed further discussion and expressed an interest in pursuing similar links with other organisations in the region (for example, with De Montfort University and the University of Coventry).Aside from the development of partnerships at a local and regional level, avenues for the dissemination of CAPITAL’s work at a national level are being explored. These activities include establishing relationships and exploring the possibilities to share good practice with other institutions and CETLs with a remit for creativity in teaching and learning. The picture from interviews with core CAPITAL staff is that such collaborations will enable both Warwick and the RSC to be models of good practice in the understanding and pedagogic application of creative thinking and active performance. CAPITAL has worked closely with the English Subject Centre to develop a network to promote dissemination of best practice and has welcomed the opportunity to showcase its paradigmatic practice; in particular, opening dialogue with other institutions and departments currently examining creativity in teaching and learning (for example, Collaboration 4 Creativity at York St John, the Centre for Employability through the Humanities at the University of Central Lancashire, and Artswork at Bath Spa University).
“One of the problems of the bidding culture is that everyone has put forward this notion that what they’re doing is absolutely unique, never been done before, all that sort of thing. And the trouble is when it comes to actually running the thing, because everyone’s so busy, quite often they don’t get enough time to see what other people are doing, … So they’re all getting students working in the real world environment and I think they should keep tabs on, my only worry is that because both institutions are so big and they spend so much time just thinking about creating that relationship that they might forget that there’s other activity going on.”
5.4 Internal strategic impact
Interviews with stakeholders acknowledged that the Centre has already had a significant impact on strategic priorities across specific areas of the university. Since the inception of the CAPITAL Centre, the School of Theatre Studies has derived a number of benefits from its existence. The Playwright in Residence has contributed, alongside the School’s own pool of writers, to enhance opportunities for students. The School of Theatre is heavily committed to the notion of practice-based work, albeit of a devised, experimental and community-orientated nature, complementing the more text-based work associated with the Centre. The CAPITAL Centre has contributed to this strategic vision.
The vision for CAPITAL was to offer a shared space – both physical and conceptual – for teachers, students and practitioners (writers, actors, directors, others in the creative industries) to come together in a ’third room’. The accommodation funded by HEFCE, which includes a studio, rehearsal room, Writers’ Room and staff offices, was opened in April 2007 two years after the establishment of the centre. The lack of flat and unencumbered spaces on the University campus has curtailed progress with the workshop model which requires teachers and learners to be on their feet. The situation improved with the opening of the Reinvention Centre’s teaching space in summer 2006 which has been used regularly by CAPITAL for the series of practical workshops introduced to the core Shakespeare module and as rehearsal space for visiting theatre practitioners. This sharing of facilities has developed from mutual support and collaboration between the Warwick CETLs.
It is anticipated that the move of Theatre Studies, and other associated creative arts departments to Millburn House will establish an excellence hub within Warwick where a more tuned strategic approach can be developed.
“Ultimately the problem is that the Theatre Department here, … English Literature and student drama, … and the fourth thing the Royal Shakespeare Company… these four groups aren’t connected and they have no connection, they have no common language… and they have no common place in which to collaborate… I think the purpose of the CAPITAL Centre is to function as an inter-disciplinary hub, and effectively a laboratory where the academic practice and the creative practice, … that run through all four of these organisations, can be brought together …”
(Academic, University of Warwick)
In developing collaborative strategies there have been some obvious issues. These have predominantly focused on the ability of departments to work together, to find a common language, but also to identify individuals or projects that are key links between the relevant departments. In 2007/8 an RSC Assistant Director will work with CAPITAL for one day a week in term-time to lead practical workshops across a range of courses.
“What we haven’t managed yet, and I’m hoping we will do so with a new artist in residence… is to have someone who is an amphibious creature who lives and breaths in both these institutions [Warwick and RSC], and who has a measure of influence in both institutions, and someone with whom both institutions are equally comfortable. I think we are hoping very much that the artist in residence will fill this role.”
The CAPITAL Centre has acted as a pin to facilitate communication between other schools and departments within the university. An example of this is the bicentenary conference on Charlotte Smith, the eighteenth-century writer, which fostered collaborative links between Theatre Studies and the English Department through a rehearsed reading of one of her plays by student and RSC alumni actors working with a professional director.
“We have had funding and support for a number of projects which we have been fully engaged with or have been partially engaged in, and that’s been very, very valuable and I think that the project work which in various forms has come out the CAPITAL Centre has been invaluable... the project which supported a play reading of an unknown eighteenth-century play… which supported a module I taught also supported a conference on Charlotte Smith that came out of a member of the English Department and is a very good example of how the CAPITAL Centre has been able to bring together groups of people, using RSC actors, using students and creating something that I think is very helpful actually.”
(Academic, University of Warwick)
One of the CAPITAL Centre’s greatest strengths is its provision of practice-based opportunities, particularly in relation to Renaissance drama and English Literature. The Centre complements very valuably the work of other departments and has made some contribution to the departments’ move away from the traditional text-based exploration of literature. It has enabled students to take a wider look at performance theory and contemporary performance practice.
5.5 Effects on teachers
CAPITAL sees one of its main roles as being able to demonstrate the potential of the RSC’s rehearsal-room technique of learning to academic staff, with the hope and expectation that these strategies can be taken into their own practice (Bate and Brock, in press). Teachers in the departments of English and Theatre Studies at Warwick were brought together at the end of Year 1 to try out performative techniques and to discuss their application. In autumn 2006 teachers from other universities were given the same opportunities during the Teaching Shakespeare Conference organised with the English Subject Centre. Outreach projects have begun with Higher Education institutions in the North –East, with the primary aim of disseminating the pedagogic principles of CAPITAL to academic teachers. Collaboration with the University’s Centre for Academic and Professional Practice in the provision of RSC workshops on the Transferable Skills of the Actor has extended performative practice to teachers, researchers and administrative staff.
This is the first time the body of the teacher as performer has been considered, the course [Postgraduate Certificate in Academic Practice] tends to see teaching and learning in rather technical and disembodied ways.
(Academic, University of Warwick)
This aspect has been a particular benefit of CAPITAL, opening the possibility of training academics and practitioners across the university sector in a broader range of techniques that can apply to their own teaching practice. The Centre has extended the possibility of drama as a methodology in teaching, and raised awareness of using creative practice to engage students and aid the learning process.
There is certainly the expectation among academic staff that have been engaged with the project that the Centre’s work will contribute to their own professional development and help them become better teachers. There was also the suggestion that this experience has been, and will continue to be very important, and, although there are clear strategies concerning how to share this experience with other colleagues, it was recognised as a big task.
In terms of disseminating the work of the Centre through Warwick, CAPITAL has made an impact on teachers, particularly within Theatre Studies and English Literature. Beyond Warwick, CAPITAL has to date had a lesser impact, although it has clearly developed a future strategy for sharing their work.
“the 2-day event that we organised … had some impact; they’re also going to be involved with the running of the British Shakespeare Association Conference, so that’s a much wider group of people. So I think that they’ve been very wise, unlike other subject-specific Centres of Excellence, rather than hosting their own, brand new conference, they are actually hosting another establishment, which I think is a very canny way of getting to people that they might not otherwise have got to.”
5.6 Effects on learning design
The CAPITAL Centre has introduced a practice-based workshop strand to the compulsory English 3rd year module Shakespeare and Selected Dramatists of his Time, taken by approximately 200 students each year. This module is already popular with students, and working with practitioners and companies has been particularly useful although there is always a demand for more.
I would have liked more interaction with the RSC itself, perhaps more master classes with various individuals, or more talks with directors etc. I do understand, though, that they were incredibly busy with the Complete Works.
(Warwick student, Capulets and Montagues cast)
Teaching staff commented that offering learning opportunities to students by opening up dialogue with actors and directors has enabled students to explore, at a different level, professional engagement and to receive experiential work.
It has, I admit, always been a conundrum to me exactly why Shakespeare is still so revered today, and why his works are still performed of any playwright in the world. However … I have come to the realisation that my lack of appreciation for Shakespeare stemmed a lot from the lack of stage encounters I had had with his works, only ever really having studied the texts in English classes, thinking very little about the implications of the text in performance
There is certainly a commitment amongst staff that creativity as a pedagogy is a important tool in the development of teaching and learning strategies in tertiary education.
“[It] confirmed my belief that the vastly increased use of creativity and performance and teaching and learning is potentially the most radical development in higher education… and I have seen how academic teaching and learning can be not only enhanced by creative methods but transformed by creative methods of pedagogy.”
The workshop model of learning has been delivered across specific modules within the Department of English. CAPITAL’s emerging profile has also been strengthened by the development of an interdisciplinary module employing the pedagogic principles of the Centre, which is formulated for students across disciplines within the Faculty.
“What I’ve been doing is looking at courses and seeing what we can do… given that we have this trigger... seeing how we can make performance part of it in ways that make it a better course. For instance, one of my main courses is called European Theatre, which is a history of European theatre from the Greeks until now, what we did this last year, in the first term, some of these students had been working on the first English production of the Montagues and Capulets, as part of the RSC’s Complete Works [Fringe] Festival.
That was a great thing as it meant the students got a chance to work with a professional director and get some experience of the whole structure of Stratford, which was a unique thing for them … not so much the show, but working to that rhythm, which you never do in a University environment. For me what was important was we then took that group and put that play in our course syllabus even though not many of them had read it before, and then we brought them in as teachers into the seminar situation. So they have a unique awareness of what this play is and then they impart that to the students.”
(Academic, University of Warwick)
The role of the Playwright in Residence has also cemented this relationship between practitioner and student, allowing the student to gain valuable experience in a practice-based setting.
“Earlier in March I did a three-week pitch to English Department students, three weeks once a week for 2 hrs… 6 hours in total which was a dramaturgy laboratory, in which we took a new play I’ve been writing for the RSC … it was a work in progress, they were reading my unfinished draft, these ten students, giving notes on these drafts, so we were having a two-hour discussion every week on, I effectively empowered them … I said 'you’re dramaturges now…this is a dramaturgy laboratory, we’re all going to discuss this script ' and I would bring in new pages each week, I would react to them, they would give me notes… some would give me sketches of scenes I hadn’t written yet, take the dramaturgy, take some of my research and see what you can make of the scene. If you can distil this research down to me and hand it to me so I can see”
CAPITAL has brought theatre practitioners into the classroom context through workshops and masterclasses, while also bringing academics to the theatre community with a series of monthly lunchtime lectures open to the RSC
The RSC collaboration has helped develop a learning design that focuses on the process of creativity, rather than the traditional analytical study of performance, to contextualise performance as a series of specific activities and disciplines.
“The atmosphere of the module for learning was very different from most of the teaching I have received over my degree. We were encouraged to share knowledge with the rest of the group, rather than be competitive and keep back knowledge that might be advantageous to us.”
“Even the basis complications of how to work as a group intrigued me as, being a single honours literature student, my degree tends to lend itself towards working in complete isolation a system I feel to be unrealistic outside of the scholarly world.”
This new focus has spotlighted existing practices in assessment which require attention.
“There’s a real disjunction … going here and its because it’s a bureaucracy… a bureaucratic way of evaluating, and also a lack of resourcing, and certain embedded ideas on teaching… teaching in subjects that touch upon art practice, and that includes theatre, art practice, literature, things that are about art factors and are about how you study it … the problem is the majority of what the students get is an analytical model … of understanding art, in which you pick each part… pick it all apart and show how its made and analyse what makes it, and then there’s a mistake that’s made that … if you run the analytical model in reverse, that equals creativity. If you reverse what an academic does… what an analyst does, if you run it in reverse then you get the artist’s creative process. I think that part of the reason the CAPITAL Centre is bringing in working artists, creativity in teaching and learning, in performers is to … revise that attitude and show … that art practice is a series of disciplines…”
6.0 Lessons Learnt and Future Adjustments
6.1 Overview of new knowledge resources for students
The generation of on-line materials, including RSC production notes and materials, will be valuable resources for individual study for students, teachers and professionals. A series of Shakespeare podcasts, will@warwick (http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/newsandevents/audio/more/will/ ), has been inaugurated and RSC performance histories have been created with CAPITAL funding to complement the RSC edition of the Complete Works of Shakespeare but this process is still in its infancy. Strategic priorities and resources, particularly in the form of staff time, have been focussed on developing CAPITAL’s web site (http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/capital). A key stakeholder from the English Department acknowledged the progress that has made in this area, whilst highlighting a number of exciting future developments.
“There’s a very, very good basic web site, into which we’ve incorporated things like publication reports on the Montagues and Capulets which is a great learning resource. I’m very keen on that. A lot of the stuff we’ve done has been recorded which I want to see on the web as soon as possible. And through things like Pete’s blog ( The Bardathon ) and other material, there’s a huge amount of accessible stuff. So just a little bit more time, people will starting looking at this stuff more.”
“my sense is that the CAPITAL Centre given its proximity to Theatre Studies once we move to Milburn House, given the fact that film and art will be moving over there and there will be this extraordinary creative performance grouping, we could be talking an extremely strong and vibrant set of units, with synergies and cross fertilisations occurring which could make it one of the most exciting things happening, not just on this campus but anywhere. So I think there’s an enormous opportunity for the CAPITAL Centre to both take some form of leadership on some activities and also to take some part in a very diverse grouping.”
(Academic, University of Warwick)
6.2 Emerging teaching practices
It is anticipated by many that the opening of CAPITAL’s new accommodation and the relocation of other departments to the same building will cement the relationship between research and teaching practice. The establishment of the new centre has already made a psychological difference: where projects initially existed in virtual space, the new facilities have already allowed for projects to take on a more physical presence.
“[In answer to the influence of the CAPITAL Centre on the integration of research and teaching] I think it will have effects on pedagogic research, I’m doing the teacher training certificate here at Warwick for novices, and we have to write pieces that are publishable. We’re holding a -- we’re calling it a boot camp -- in a month’s time, … and that will be three days working on developing a model for a Higher Education workshop, because its something that the RSC hasn’t thought about, hasn’t done and it’s central to what we’re going to do. So for example, at the end of those three days it will generate research, and I’ve done practical work with students that … could easily, if I had time, be translated into something that is publishable.”
The ultimate intention of the CAPITAL project is to extend drama as a pedagogical model across other disciplines. A course has already been launched in the School of Law, which focuses on performative aspects of law, the context being that students present case studies, not just in the conventional report format but also in the form of dramatised scenes (LA242 Origins, Images and Cultures of English Law)
“The Law Department wanted to do a class that was partly about the history of law and how it’s created, but also about … [the] idea that all day lawyers in this country used to train themselves by writing mock trials and performing them. The idea was, can we somehow have a class … that’s about law and how law develops dialogically, … we also have a series of practical workshops over the semester in which the students are writing plays, with themes borrowed from law, … teaching them principles about improvisation, writing, and anything about rhetoric, and importing the rhetorical skills that come from theatre into law and at the same time my informing what the law students have to offer, and thinking about society and themes in society in a complex way”
There is also evidence to demonstrate the commitment and passion of CAPITAL staff is strongly permeating the work of the Centre. CAPITAL post-holders have high expectations for the future direction of the Centre. Interviews with staff commented that they were offering practical support to individual students who showed a clear desire to gain more from CAPITAL-led activities.
“I had a student that wanted to write a screen play, and I just made myself available as a personal tutor to take him through a screen-play. I had a student that wanted to write stand-up comedy, … I told him to bring me 20 jokes a week and I would cross out 15 of them and gradually we would build a comedy routine for the student because it was something they wanted to do… and I have several students writing plays”
“At the end I expect we’ll have a way of doing things that is recognisable and distinctive, I think making Warwick distinctive, but no hoarding out, not branding it, but finding a way distinctively that can be shared, that would be a hope and an expectation, which can in part be done by developing this model for practical work.”
6.3 Implications for university systems and practices
The perception is that CAPITAL has a key strategic input into wider university practice. CAPITAL is clearly emerging as a prolific Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning, and as a result highlights the profile of Warwick as a university with a commitment to developing innovative models of teaching and learning.
“[in contributing to the profile of Warwick] one is that it helps to demonstrate Warwick’s commitment to teaching innovation – having two CETLs (and a minority share in a third) puts us at the forefront of the Russell/94 Group, and it means that the HEA is happy to exploit Warwick’s overall reputation to demonstrate that serious engagement with the T&L agenda is compatible with research excellence”
(Senior Management, University of Warwick)
6.4 Sector-wide multiplier effects
To date appropriate sector-wide multiplier effects have not been a priority. Interview comments suggested that questions were being asked to identify how pedagogic models of practice could be transferred to wider sector models.
“I guess what I’m hoping is to see the effect of having the influence… with the theatre company, the size of budget, and the proximity they have to the theatre, … Well that’s one of the questions I want to raise … do you have to be physically located in a place where professional theatre happens to make this kind of teaching possible, or are there other methods that come out of it that are more generic, and I don’t think that that’s been solved, or that they’ve answered that question yet.”
6.5 Adjustments and future plans
The evaluation has identified four key areas where recommendations for future developments can be made. These address sustainability, communication, the development of a pedagogic model, and internal strategic priorities.
A key question that the CAPITAL Centre needs to address is the future sustainability of the Centre in the post-funding period. It is clear that the emergent workshop model will be embedded in English Department practice and become associated with the way that literature is taught at Warwick. The Postgraduate Certificates in the Teaching of Shakespeare are expected to be offered as open courses by 2009. The long-term strategy for the Centre includes the creation of income streams, such as workshops and day schools in creativity for head teachers and business leaders. Consideration has been given to approaching relevant internal and external funding sources and this issue is high on the agenda. These intentions, as they arise, will be clearly articulated to relevant stakeholders where appropriate. It is noted that there is a strong assumption from CAPITAL staff that this goal can be achieved and that CAPITAL will continue to be a catalyst and focus for ongoing creative work.
“One of the key issues for me is sustainability, and how will all that space … be paid for into the University’s central funding charge, when it’s no longer being funded through the HEFCE grant. I think there needs to be some thinking through as to ways in which the CAPITAL Centre can continue doing the work that it is developing … and maintaining that is going to be very important, and in a sense the sheer amount of work in just getting it going, the sheer amount of work in getting the building up and running, means that … 2-3 years have gone, and in another couple of years, the key question will be how does one keep that going. Are English or Theatre Studies going to bear the brunt of the cost? How’s it going to go as a self-sufficient unit?”
(Senior Management, CAPITAL)
CAPITAL should seek to take advantage of others’ expertise to enable sustainability to be achieved in the next three years,
“I expect there to be a progressive increasing in the elements of performance in a wider group of courses. I’d want to see a solid relationship established with the RSC, with greater familiarity leading to greater trust and engagement, but also relationships developed with a range of other theatre / performance companies”
(Senior Management, University of Warwick)
Establishing a working relationship between a university and an arts organisation presents obvious logistical challenges, one of these being communication. This key issue of communication also prevails among University departments themselves. Comments from qualitative interviews predominantly suggest that the relationship, and hence communication, between the RSC and Warwick was good. However, cultural differences concerning governance, planning, systems, and working practices were acknowledged on several occasions.
“Having a common language, getting people together… especially the RSC: the RSC bureaucracy is talking to the Warwick bureaucracy and it’s very difficult. They don’t speak well together, the RSC is extremely protective of their resources and their brand… they’re very hesitant to give too much away... there’s a lot of territorial-ness and there’s always a problem that the interdisciplinary forces in the university are seen as a threat to the people entrenched in their particular department”
“There are big differences between the two institutions, they have to do with how the RSC is constituted at the moment and what it has been doing over the last year – they have been concentrating on their core activity… and in some respects taking on this [CAPITAL] at this point was the right opportunity at the wrong time for them. If the RSC was functioning more efficiently, many of the problems we have encountered with them would have not occurred. They don’t talk to each other, departments don’t talk to each other…The RSC as an organisation had not figured out what they wanted to get out of CAPITAL. Out of which all the conversational problems emerged”
At present there appears to be an emphasis on waiting for mutual interests to emerge. CAPITAL has identified such interests and should work to secure a more closely defined relationship with the RSC than originally conceived:
- Workshops and theatre spectatorship for Warwick students
- RSC/Warwick International Playwright in Residence
- Warwick/RSC Fellows in Creativity and Performance
- Postgraduate training for teachers of English and Drama involved in the RSC’s Learning Network
- RSC Artists’ Development programme
- Dissemination of the workshop model to other universities
In light of the associated departments moving to the new space, CAPITAL will open up dialogue with departments at Warwick to further identify complementary strengths and to contribute to raising the profile of CAPITAL, individual departments and Warwick.
“[we need to] speak to individual departments as much as possible so they are aware of what we’re doing so they might take the bait, so to speak, so one thing I’ve been doing this term is to speak to as many departments as possible to raise the profile of the Centre across the university.”
“My overall sense is that levels of engagement have not always been as great as they might have been and that… we need to open up better channels of communication, something that will undoubtedly happen where we are situated in the new building."
To achieve full-integration of other related departments across the university, it may be beneficial to review the CAPITAL Centre’s committee structure to ensure fuller engagement and representation of all key stakeholders in the Centre’s planning and activities. There is certainly a clear willingness from staff across the university to become more engaged with the work of the Centre, particularly in order to expand their own teaching activities, but also to enhance the work and profile of the Centre.
“It may be that the School has to be more integrated into administrative and committee structures of the CAPITAL Centre, in a sense that we’ll be involved in planning, and not just bidding for funding, in that we’re proactive rather than reactive and that’s up to us.”
“I would certainly like to see the CAPITAL Centre continuing to do what it’s doing, I would like to see … more engagement with the sorts of areas in Theatre Studies that Cultural Studies (which we also run in this department) … can do, which are not so close to CAPITAL Centre’s own areas of expertise, because I think that expands out the possibilities for the Centre’s activities and also for their reputation, so I would like to see greater involvement from the side of the School, but that’s up to the School. It may also be necessary to find structures to bring that into existence”
“I know some of my colleagues have had very strong support with theatre visits, workshops, and enhanced learning activity of students, … and what I must say is that I think the School needs to be more proactive in using and taking advantage of what the CAPITAL Centre has to offer."
(Academics, University of Warwick)
With regards to the progression and growth of the Centre, and in particular methods of communication, an important issue was raised by senior managers within CAPITAL regarding the funding received from HEFCE.
“We got the bid in April and … HEFCE started from the April… they should have given us the April, May, June, July, August, September – 6 months before they started the clock, from the start of the academic year, so we could have sorted out all these communication issues … so that was a mistake on HEFCE’s part”
The spending of recurrent funding, especially on staff, reported in the annual monitoring statement to HEFCE, has also been adversely affected by this timetable.
6.5.3 Pedagogic model
There are three areas of action for the development and dissemination of pedagogic models focusing on the ‘workshop’ as a teaching strategy:
a) to develop a strategy to embed the workshop model of learning across all areas of student learning;
b) to develop a strategy and model of communication to address the concern that CAPITAL projects may be seen as an enrichment and supplementary activity to predisposed performative arts students;
c) to develop avenues for sharing best practice with similar centres of excellence
6.5.4 Internal strategic priorities
Interview comments documented a need to examine closely cross-campus creative practice. CAPITAL will seek to establish a means of documenting resources and expertise, both for use by the project, but as a means of developing inter-disciplinary collaboration.
“What would be a good thing is to keep a register of staff, of may be even research post-graduates as well… who are engaged whether it is a particular Lawyer who is engaged or whether it’s a doctor who’s into some sort of macabre performative art, but there are actually a lot of people about, and lots of areas of expertise and I think that CAPITAL in particular needs to keep a full register of what expertise people have, what they can offer, so it can draw on that pool.”
CAPITAL should continue developing the ICT and web site dissemination to share resources, expertise, and significant examples of performative practice and the workshop model in action. This should include video, blog, hyperlink and other associated facilities to aid achievement.
CAPITAL should actively pursue dialogue with other CETLs and organisations with shared interests in creative collaboration, and developing workshop based models of learning.
6.6 Reflection on CAPITAL as a change strategy
Overall, the Centre is providing a dynamic and varied experience for Warwick students. The expansion of the Centre in its new building, and the consequent increased provision of activities and opportunities provide an exciting strategy for teaching and learning. CAPITAL emphasises the need for a place where students are able to follow through to the next stage of engagement with learning. Largely it requires high levels of self-motivation amongst staff and students. This raises an important question that needs to be addressed – How can we serve all students when the activities provided are voluntary? Comments from the evaluation highlighted that difficulties and challenges.
“…I think the CAPITAL Centre in some ways is supposed to be a place where you can actually follow through … to the next step. Largely it requires self-motivation and that may be one of the problems that if the CAPITAL Centre is purely voluntary and everything we do is sort of an voluntary addendum to other people’s curriculum then it’s more difficult… then you only get self-motivated students who realise what’s on offer here… and are going to come back because they’re hungry for it.”
“With the development of the CAPITAL Centre … hopefully there will be more opportunities to get up onto our feet and act out some Shakespeare. I want to learn about this man, not in the confines of a dusty library, but out loud shouting and screaming.”
This report is based on research by Dr Ruth Hewston, Senior Research Fellow, NAGTY, University of Warwick, who was commissioned to undertake a series of interviews with key stakeholders.
Bate , J., & Brock, S. (in press). “The CAPITAL Centre: Teaching Shakespeare (and more) through a Collaboration between a University and an Arts Organisation”. Pedagogy, 7 no. 3 (Fall 2007), 341-58.