The Open Minds course is at the cutting edge of educational thinking. Against a backdrop of education systems ever more focused on exam results and the memorising of content, this course looks to provide a richer, broader and ultimately more rewarding educational experience for its students.
The course focuses on a diverse range of thematic topics designed to develop an incredibly wide range of academic skills, including critical-thinking, collaboration, research and analysis, project management, independent learning and creativity.
The course is available as either a two-week course or a four-week course. Each week is dedicated to one module; the first part of the module involves delivered content designed to educate and inspire and to engage with the topics in academically challenging ways which in turn encourages students to see things from new perspectives. Each of the modules will then have a collaborative project to complete based on the content of the module which provides the assessed content of the course. These projects may involve, for example, a newspaper or pamphlet, a presentation, a research paper, an essay, a short film or a wide range of other projects to be agreed between the students and their lecturer. Each project is presented at the end of the week to all members of the School of English and Culture. Students will then have a chance to reflect on their learning throughout the week with their module tutor. Following this discussion, students will give themselves a score which is then combined with a grade for effort during the course to give the final grade of PASS, MERIT or DISTINCTION.
Open Minds is a rigorous and intellectually demanding course and as such a grade of Distinction should be considered an educational accolade of the highest order. That being said, the core aims of the course are to foster a curiosity about the world, a desire to take ownership of learning and a willingness to take risks and challenge themselves intellectually. As such, effort and creativity of thought will be highly rewarded.
The course is suitable for high level or native English speakers and as such there will be no specific language teaching within the morning classes. However, the format of the classes will undoubtedly offer an excellent opportunity for non-native speakers to perfect their language skills through discussion, debate and high-level readings. The course is supported by an academic enrichment programmes of talks, plays, workshops and guest speakers that take place during the evenings and weekends throughout the course.
The course will be of particular interest to those who are coming from international schools and are looking to join a British private school or university or simply those who relish an academic challenge or are seeking educational inspiration and development. The course involves a pre-course task to assess the candidate’s suitability for the programme.
OPEN MINDS 2018 MODULES
(2019 modules will be confirmed in due course)
MODULE ONE - 'Another World Is Possible if...' - How stories affect the way we see the world and can be used to change it.
Our experience of reality is shaped by the stories we hear. From well-known childhood tales to our own nation's understanding of itself, and the media images and headlines that bombard us daily. We will pick apart the messages within and discuss what world they describe, and who benefits from them? We will look to alternatives and try to re-imagine and re-write ones that contain a different message.
We will explore tales from different cultures; dominant stories from history and how they have changed (that the world is flat, for example); links between personal stories and political issues; and memes, brands and how social media can spread a new story.
This course will be full of dynamic conversation, group tasks, and fun, creative activities. Students will learn to think critically about the art of storytelling and debate its power and influence in society and get the chance to use story-telling as a tool for shaping how we see the world.
Come ready to share stories that are important to you; Ask yourself; What story would you want people to tell of your generation today in years to come? How can we start telling that now?
MODULE TWO - Theatrics of the Mind: How madness and our understanding of it has been explored in theatre and performance. This is a practical, drama-based module.
This module will explore madness from classical Greek period right through to the 21st century and explore how Shakespeare brought these behaviours to centre stage. In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, abnormal behaviour was portrayed in domestic settings by Ibsen - theatrical madness became a family drama. Tennessee Williams and Eugene O'Neill drew on their own families for their explorations of madness and addiction. Pinter's masterful use of the ambiguity of language finds strong echoes in the psychiatric clinic. Finally, Sarah Kane created plays that were the physical embodiment of her inner world.
We will observe the depiction of mental health and madness as a concept in society. As a group, we will come together and observe the importance of this type of theatre as a forum for sharing, understanding and its therapeutic, cathartic potential.
Representation: How are mad people represented in theatre? Do these people have key traits? What is their role within their play? Is their personal malady a reflection of a greater malaise in society?
We explore madness from the fantastically other-worldly through to stripped back simplicity.
Language and behaviour: What language do mad people use and how does it differ in text/place/time/medium? How important is it that we select the right language and terminology in reference to them?
Boundaries - What is our responsibility in representing mad characters safely and respectfully on stage and what can we do off stage to increase knowledge and awareness. What is acceptable and not?
Identification: Our rehearsal space will become a safe space for sharing and exploring the ideas and concepts that arise. We will discuss whether we identify with these mad characters and how, as an audience, we can learn from playwrights about the psychological processes in mental illness. We will even give modern-day diagnoses to famous Shakespearean characters.
Comedy: How are mad characters used for comic effect? Why do we find them funny? How can comedy be used successfully in exploring mental health? We will explore comic relief and the notions of black comedy and dark humour.
MODULE THREE - Being Human in the Age of the Internet - How the online world is changing what it means to be human.
A series of sessions interrogating what it means to be human in the age of the Internet- what the technology magnifies about us, and what it might minimize. We will be discussing the utopian ideal of the Internet when it was in its infancy and the ways in which it falls short or can be abused. We’ll look at recent revelations about the cultural and political impact of Big Data. We’ll look at the positive platform that the Internet can give isolated and marginalized communities. We’ll look at the identities we construct online; the personal branding that social media encourages and discuss the mental health implications of this. We’ll look at the way we interact with companies online and the current debates about net neutrality. We’ll look at how the Internet throws up problems relating to censorship and free speech.
Session 1 - Being human online:
How does humanity refract through the Internet? How was the Internet talked about politically and culturally in its early days- utopian technological democracy? Exploration of ideas raised by Jon Ronson’s work ‘So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed’.
Session 2 - A platform for all!
Power to minority voices, online niche communities, the notion of the echo chamber, recent Cambridge Analytica revelations, online trolls.
Session 3 - Identity:
Constructing identities/personal brand management, mental health implications and the relationship with Neoliberalism, online loneliness/isolation.
Session 4 - Who’s in charge?
Free speech, censorship and net neutrality
Session 5: PROJECT TASK –
A chance to bring together all of the ideas explored during the course into one creative project.
MODULE FOUR - Deconstructing the Power of the Moving Image - How film, in its purest form, has the power to evoke emotion and help us to know ourselves.
- A practical filmmaking module.
Can the moving image come alive and come off the screen? In this week we are exploring significant, non-linear films and their impact. We will question; ‘can film be an event like theatre or Opera?’
As a starting point, we will look at the pioneers of cinema and how they related to the moving image, as well as moments by great film directors such as Jean Vigo, Akira Kurasawa, Andrea Arnold and Abas Kiarostami. We’ll explore the work of filmmakers who don't fit the mould of the Hollywood/Western filmmaking tradition; artist filmmakers such as John Smith, Francis Alys, Maya Deren and Guy Sherwin. We will challenge the idea that the moving image is reliant on narrative and focus on its potential as a creative outlet.
We will examine excerpts of films by the masters of cinema, by pulling apart videos we will explore the structure of the moving image, question how moods, emotions, ideas, and surprises are created, and play with the relationship between the image and sound.
This module is practical and the students will learn the fundamentals of filmmaking; the planning and imagining of a moving image piece, production skills, such as using a camera and working together to gather good footage, setting correct exposure using the 180-degree rule, how to use and not use a tripod; the characteristics of camera angles and framing, exploring ways of recording between the 'action and cut', and finally, using editing (using industry standard Adobe Premiere Pro) to build a film and give intent to its message.
At its core, this is a practice-based module that builds to a presentation of film works created on the course by participants in a cinema/projection space. This will present the skills learnt on the course and invite audience and makers to use their creativity to explore the non-narrative nature of film.