Practical Essay Exeter



2nd year Applied students have been out working in secondary schools all across South Devon during January with Erin Walcon, delivering devised theatre workshops as part of January RAW Outreach programme, covering a total of 12 schools & 250 students, plus a showcase.

Practical Essay students worked with the following organisations:

  • 100 Club
  • Exeter Cathedral
  • Exeter Community Centre
  • Exeter Royal Academy for Deaf Education
  • Fore Street Traders Collective
  • Highfield Farm
  • Lympstone Commando Base
  • Montgomery Primary School
  • St Michaels Primary Academy
  • St Sidwells Community Centre
  • St Stephens Church
  • St Thomas Methodist Church

Research & Performance students, under the guidance of tutor Tony Lidington, have developed over two hours of performance material at the Royal Albert Memorial Museum (RAMM) in Exeter.

Practical Essay students are working with the following organisations this year:

  • The Bill Douglas Cinema Museum
  • The Bridge Collective
  • CEDA
  • Cricklepit Mill / The Wildlife Trust
  • Cystic Fibrosis Trust
  • The Norman Lockyer Observatory
  • Poltimore House
  • St Sidwell's Community Centre
  • The Stansfield Centre
  • The local Traveller community
  • YMCA
  • Local Schools

3rd year Applied Theatre practice students are running projects this term in:

  • Whipton Barton junior School : encouraging play and creativity
  • Northcott Theatre: physical theatre and devising with over 50s
  • St James’s School: after-school drama sessions with students in Year 7 who are struggling socially and academically
  • Westbank Centre: arts workshops with adults with dementia 

3rd year Applied Theatre practice students are also 

  • working with Value Theatre in a Pupil Referral Unit in Exeter, supporting Jo Tasker’s work with children and young people who have been excluded from school
  • working with Kate Dinin’s after school drama club, helping to devise and direct 2 shows - Alice in Sunderland and The Grinch - with local children aged from 6 to 14.


MA Applied Theatre students have been working with Ripple Effect volunteers - a group for users of Devon’s drug and alcohol services. The members of Ripple Effect are part of a process of service development – managers in Devon’s consortium of drug and alcohol services want to involve service users in shaping the service provision. The MA students ran a series of workshops with both the Ripple Effect volunteers and the Service providers, investigating the drama processes that can encourage dialogue between groups of people who bring different perspectives to an issue.

MA Applied Theatre students worked with Exeter young people in care alongside students from University of Austin, Texas. The Perfectly Mixed Up project was performed both in Exeter and in Texas, in March 2013.
News Story on the University of Exeter website.


We have existing and developing partnerships with the following organisations:

We also have connections with local schools and colleges and have worked with many local tourist & local council organisations.

Practical Essay (DRA3061)

StaffMr Martin Harvey - Convenor
Credit Value30
ECTS Value15
NQF Level6
Pre-requisitesSuccessful progression from Drama Level 3, Term one
Duration of Module Term 2: 11 weeks;

Module aims

This module aims to allow each student: a) to draw together the experience of theatre-making gained through the degree programme; b) to apply this experience and learning to a context beyond the University, and to develop associated skills that might be applicable in future employment; c) to work in a group (usually of five-seven students) in the complex logistics of mounting a culminating presentation, that is likely to take the form of a performance; d) to guide an individual and collaborative process of creative work, and to contribute to the creative work of their peers.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Experiment and to produce an original performance or performance-related composition for a student-selected context/audience beyond the university
  • 2. Articulate a set of appropriate research questions, a research context and a set of working methodologies (and bring these together in the form of a mid-process presentation to the full year group and an abstract presented to staff in advance of the final practical examination)
  • 3. Engage with the selected context/audience throughout the production process, and make appropriate creative choices
  • 4. Utilise practical, creative and organisational skills in bringing work to performance/presentation
  • 5. Co-operate with others, both inside and outside the university context
  • 6. Reflect on, analyse and evaluate the creative process with an appropriate critical distance

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 7. Relate to others in theatrical processes and performances - to work effectively with others in small task-orientated groups and to initiate and sustain creative, analytic and interpretative work within strict time limits and to solve a number of specific technical problems and apply that understanding to performance work
  • 8. Utilise research tools and to translate theory into practice
  • 9. Contribute research to small groups in effective presentations, to evaluate visual evidence and to develop advanced confidence in the ability to analyse, critique and manipulate complex material
  • 10. Engage critically and analytically with physical discipline - to develop thoughtful creative processes, an understanding of physicalisation in performance and the capacity to articulate that understanding in appropriate ways
  • 11. Engage critically and analytically from different theoretic perspectives, to explore theoretical concerns through practice, and vice versa, and to synthesise findings in practical tasks

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 12. Develop advanced personal research skills using personal initiative - to set personal objectives that are linked to a sense of challenge and extending boundaries and to identify and evaluate personal learning strategies that are self-critical as much as self-reflective
  • 13. Develop group co-operation skills, including the ability to give and receive constructive critical feedback, and to improve communication skills and advanced analytic abilities in discussions
  • 14. Develop advanced confidence in performance skills and public presentation, in a variety of situations and/or with a variety of audiences, both of dramatic practice and researched material.
  • 15. Think laterally and demonstrate originality in problem solving
  • 16. Express and communicate creative ideas and images, and to initiate and sustain creative work, both group and solo
  • 17. Collaborate in various groups and group sizes, to learn elements of teamwork and presentation, and to negotiate and manage conflict when appropriate and to demonstrate leadership skills when appropriate
  • 18. Balance self-direction and collaborative work; to adapt and design working methods for each new situation, self-management, collaborative working skills, problem solving, critical analysis and valuing own and others' ideas and beliefs

Syllabus plan

This module is the culminating practical element of a full-time Drama student's work over the three-year programme. It is an invitation to create collaboratively an original work for performance/presentation. To some extent, then, it replicates the processes of professional theatre groups whilst allowing students to build on their previous experience. Three sessions with tutors will take place during the process, at which the students will present and discuss their work. Additional support/feedback is available from peer 'buddy' groups. In addition, each group is expected to: 1. provide regular reports to a supervisor; 2. give a short, mid-module progress report to the full year group; 3. submit an abstract (comprising a set of research questions appropriate to context/audience, a research context and a set of working methodologies) to the module convenor in advance of the final practical work. Examiners will take account of this abstract when assessing the practice. Individual fifteen-minute vivas are conducted after the final performances/presentations, at which each student is expected to reflect on, analyse and evaluate the creative process with an appropriate critical distance. Students will be encouraged to keep personal documentation of their work throughout the Practical Essay process, which will help them in preparing for their vivas.

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled learning and teaching activities132Workshopping, tutorials and performance
Guided independent study168Preparation

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Short mid-term group report to full year5-10 minutes2-3,5,8-9,11-13,15-18verbal feedback
Group abstract1 sheet A41-3,5,8-9,13,15written and verbal feedback
Regular group reports to supervisorshort oral/written reports allied to supervisory meetings2-3,5,8,9,11-12,15-18verbal feedback

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Practical performance/presentation, length as appropriate to context (indeed, judging this correctly is part of the task). Possible contexts might include (but by no means be limited to): a 1 hour piece of story-theatre in a heritage site; a 2 hour workshop plus a 30 minute T.I.E. performance in a school; a week-long web-based multi-media work80as appropriate to context1-5,7-18verbal and written feedback
Viva2015 minutes1-4,6,8-12,15-16,18written feedback

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Practical performance/presentationPractical performance/presentation1-5,7-18Referral/deferral period
VivaViva1-4,6,8-12,15-16,18Referral/deferral period

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

In conjunction with the supervisor, each student devises a personal reading and research programme.

Module has an active ELE page?


Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date

March 2012

Key words search

drama, practical essay, performance, contextual practice, relational, devising

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