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Teaching and Learning

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How will I be taught?

Our carefully limited student numbers- approximately 25 in each year- give you close contact with your tutors, who are themselves world-leading researchers in their field. You will meet with them on a weekly basis in a variety of teaching environments.

Each separate module (or ‘paper’) you study will be based around a series of lectures lasting for either a term or the full academic year. You will have between one and three lectures per paper each week. These take place in the department and everybody studying the paper is expected to attend

Some papers include seminars. These are more informal sessions, usually requiring the students to read and discuss texts set beforehand and often including a presentation, either from the lecturer or some of the students.

In first year you will also be taught through objects classes. These are intensive visual analysis sessions that will take place in front of some of the amazing art that Cambridge has to offer. Each week you’ll be in a different museum or college, working with a world-leading researcher to deconstruct and analyse a variety of objects, artworks and architecture.

For each paper you will have a weekly supervision. These are a central part of the Cambridge system and give you high-levels of contact with your tutors. For these you are expected to prepare a weekly essay on a given topic, which you will then discuss in a group of two or three with your supervisor. Supervisions are an excellent way to explore and understand new ideas as well as a means of developing your academic confidence.

Your college will appoint one of its History of Art fellows (or sometimes another lecturer, teaching associate or fellow of another college) as your director of studies. You will meet with them regularly and they will oversee your academic work, arrange supervisors for you, and be there to help you with any difficulties that may arise.

In addition, some courses include an opportunity to travel overseas to study the art and architecture of other regions. Colleges often have bursaries to support these trips. History of Art is an international subject; our students come from many different countries and many also choose to take language classes during their time at Cambridge (either starting a new language or continuing a language they studied at school). You can learn more about the languages on offer at Cambridge through the Language Centre.

Alongside your degree studies, undergraduate students are also encouraged to attend the weekly research seminars and lecture series hosted by the Department which feature leading researchers from around the world. The most famous of these is the Slade Lecture series, which brings a world-renowned art or architectural historian to give weekly talks for one term of each academic year. You won’t be assessed on these, but they are a wonderful opportunity to access ground-breaking international research and widen your understanding of the latest developments in the discipline.

How will I be assessed?

The course is entirely focused on the History of Art. There is no practical art component. Courses are assessed with a mixture of essay and visual analysis exam papers. In the first and third year you also prepare extended pieces of written work known as dissertations.

In addition to this, you will be asked to complete reading and write essays on a weekly basis for discussion in your supervisions. These do not form part of your overall degree mark but are a critical part of your study in developing your skills and knowledge.

What skills and knowledge will I gain?

 

Part I (Year1)

On completion of Part I students should have:

1)      made the transition in learning style and pace from school (or other educational backgrounds) to university;

2)      acquired a basic understanding of the use of different media and the making of works of art;

3)      acquired a basic familiarity with numerous traditions of iconography, and of architectural language;

4)      acquired a facility to appreciate works of art at first hand and to recognise personal and period styles;

5)      acquired basic learning skills in:

  • the analysis of visual images;
  • the study of primary and secondary written sources;
  • effective extraction of key ideas delivered in lectures;
  • essay-writing, the formulation of argument, and use of evidence
  • effective participation in individually supervised and group discussion;
  • acquisition of skills of oral presentation in seminar classes
  • experience in carrying out an independent research project.

6)      acquired sufficient knowledge of the range of sub-disciplines to make informed choices of subsequent more specialised study.

 

Part IIA (Year 2)

 On completion of Part IIA, students should have acquired in addition:

1)      subject-specific knowledge, through the study of two ‘Special Subjects’, focused on particular periods, artists or themes;

2)      critical understanding of the theory and historiography of the discipline

3)      confidence in the independent exercise of subject-specific skills of

  • careful reading, analysis and critical interpretation of visual images, and of the literature of art;
  • the construction of arguments and the assembling of relevant evidence;
  • clear written expression in essay form; and
  • effective and constructive participation in individually supervised and group discussion.

 

Part IIB (Year 3)

On completion of Part IIB students should have acquired:

1)      advanced understanding of two further Special Subjects (periods, artists or themes);

2)      an understanding of the role of art in society through the study of the relationship between art and its viewers (collecting, display and conservation)

3)      through the writing of a dissertation, a more advanced level of subject-related skills including

  • sophisticated powers of visual analysis, detailed knowledge of specific issues in a chosen field, of the basic principles and skills of scholarly research, of independent and critical judgement, and of the construction of complex argument.

Students will also have had the opportunity to acquire increased proficiency in one or more European languages through their use in study, research and travel.

 

Skills

On completion of the course, the University wants students to have acquired the following skills:

1)      Knowledge and understanding of the subject matter.

2)       Intellectual skills: The written work which students undertake enables them to learn how to study steadily, assimilate swiftly issues that they hear about and large amounts of literature that they read, and to evaluate critical positions and visual and documentary evidence; to produce succinct arguments to tight deadlines, and to engage with those with whom they disagree. Students will have acquired the skill to engage with the thought of major critics, historians and philosophers of art and their traditions, and to understand the historical, social and cultural context which produced a work of art or critical text, or affected a writer or artist. They will have developed an understanding of the processes of production of artefacts (including buildings), and the technical issues of medium, state of preservation and restoration (if any) to be considered when viewing a work of art. Many students will be able to read written texts in at least one other European language, and be able to evaluate these in their own context. The dissertation develops the skill of articulating an argument at length and working independently with appropriate guidance from a supervisor. Students will learn to present an argument and attain analytical skills. By the end of the course students should have completed a degree which could be a basis for postgraduate study.

3)      Practical Skills: use of libraries and museums and their catalogues, using a bibliography, taking notes effectively both from lectures and from secondary literature, learning languages, independent fieldwork, basic photographic and recording skills, computer presentation of images and text.

4)      Transferable skills: the ability to communicate effectively both orally and in writing; to analyse and respond critically to ideas, texts and visual images; to work to deadlines and under pressure; to manage time; to set priorities; to formulate an argument; to work independently and with initiative; sound IT skills (email, computer and internet use); critical analysis; to present papers in a seminar context; linguistic skills; skills of analysis and interpretation; self-discipline, self-direction; respect for other views; understanding of the role of museums and heritage bodies in the curating and conservation of works of art and architecture.