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Typically, OSL teaching methods feature assessment by means of an ‘examination of practice’ that stand in place of a traditional examination in which candidates sit at desks and produce written responses to questions. Examination of practice is supported by a viva voce, and a record of individual process, variously called a ‘reflective journal’ or a ‘commonplace book’. Assessment practices have been adapted from criteria in both Warwick’s English Department and its School of Theatre, Performance and Cultural Policy Studies. The latter has a long established record of using such means for assessment.


Examination of Practice


It is important that candidates are aware that the performances and installations that are the typical outcomes in examinations of practice need not necessarily be ‘finished’ or ‘polished’. Such works must necessarily be works in progress. The idea is not to produce a finished mini-drama, or a complete piece of performance art – although this is fine if it occurs. The purpose of the examination of practice is to show a depth of understanding of some, or several, aspects of the material presented and discussed on the module or workshop. The task is intended to be intellectually demanding rather than an examination of any acting, directing, or artistic skills. It is worth noting, however, that it has been our practice to reward felicity of style in these projects, just as we would for the same thing in writing in other subjects. The criteria detailed below might be perceived to be ‘subjective’ or overly ‘impressionistic’, but we would note that these criteria have been adapted from those in use for the grading of essays at the University of Warwick and, as such, students taking modules in which OSL assessments are in use are no more or less exposed to subjective or impressionistic marking than other students in areas such as literary or theatre studies.


For assessed modules the examination of practice would normally be video recorded. This is necessary in order that third markers or external examiners have easy access if a review of the work is necessary for any reason. The viva should also be recorded for these purposes. There would typically be a single group mark based on the video of the performance, but this would be calculated only in the light of the viva. The module is designed in this fashion as both viva and performance as one piece of work are integral to students’ demonstration of their understanding of the material. It may be possible, for example, for an opaque or apparently muddled performance to come sharply into focus in the viva. Equally, an exceptional performance might balance a less confident viva. In order to calculate individual marks from an examination of practice and a viva we recommend that 100% be divided into 75% for the performance/installation route, and 25% for the viva.


Individual marks are then arrived at using a ‘reflective journal’ that constitutes 25% of the overall mark, and results in a unique, individual, mark for each student. The idea for reflective journals originated with Professor Allan Owens of the University of Chester We have adapted his notion for use in assessment. An assessed (and indeed an unassessed) reflective journal should above all show process. It is crucial that the examiner can see the mechanics of the student’s participation recorded in the pages. The journal must also be current – a journal is not satisfactory if it is begun completed in a hurry after the examination. It must be reflective on a weekly basis (or whatever the meeting intervals are). The assessment criteria below are also applicable to journals. Finally, good presentation should be rewarded (although not excessively) just as it might be for an essay.




Participants are expected to adhere to principles of good practice in group projects: attendance, punctuality, commitment, and willingness to share responsibility with other members of the group are expected from each participant and which also reflect the ‘real world’ aspects of OSL. These principals are a minimum requirement and group members should be responsible for enforcing these themselves by negotiation.


Participants are also expected to engage at a higher level. As individuals, participants should be willing to initiate ideas; as members of the group they should also be willing to negotiate, synthesise, and realise their own ideas and those of others.


These principles form the base of collaboration. In some circumstances (unusually) the tutor or facilitator may decide to agree or allocate specific responsibilities within the group. Participants are expected to report serious problems that cannot be resolved within the group dynamic.


Advice to Students


  • Don't be technology obsessed, but do feel free to use it.


  • You are dealing with complex issues, but this need not necessarily result in an overly complex piece. Think, however, about the amount of work you would put in into 9 x 2 hour sessions of traditional seminar work (including the reading) over a term, add to that the time you would spend researching & writing an essay, then subtract the time you will spend on the reflective journal. This is roughly what you should be putting into this piece. Some of what you do will be "book research" – you could do this individually, but it might also be an opportunity for someone who is less comfortable with the performance aspects of the piece to contribute in another way. Other work will involve scripting, of course, rehearsal, the acquiring of props and materials, design, construction, etc, etc.


  • If you have concerns about direction, voice them to the group frankly and readily. Be prepared, however, to compromise in certain areas. This is a collaboration and that – obviously – involves some give & take.


  • Reflective journals should show immediacy, engagement and, above, all should offer your examiner some insight into your process. A well presented journal will provoke the same response in an examiner as a well presented essay.


A sample of a 1st class reflective journal from the module ‘Drama, Performance Identity post 1955’ is available here.