Critical Appraisal Essay

Critical Appraisal                              Scott McIntosh                                      The Teaching Artist

My current teaching role is the Scenic Art Tutor as part of the Central Production Unit in the RCS. I’m tasked with the management and production of all the painted elements for the Musical Theatre, Acting and Opera productions that take place over the course of the academic year. I work with the first to third year students on the Production Arts and Design course to realise the production designs. All the painting is completed by the students and it is my task to facilitate and support their learning journey. I work closely with the Scenic Art Lecturer to assess each students needs and actions for the future. For the Critical Appraisal essay I have identified three learning and teaching methods to investigate that I believe are relevant to my teaching context. They are the VARK model, Bloom’s Taxonomy and the Flipped Classroom. I’ll be using the the following questions to critically appraise these:

What is the learning theory/teaching method?

Does it have relevance in my subject area?

Do I use the learning theory’s principles in my current teaching practice?

How could I develop my teaching practice using the learning theory?

The VARK Model

The VARK model describes the four different learning styles, which are:

Visual – learners learn through seeing, think in pictures and create mental images to retain information

Auditory – learners learn through listening, think in words and learn best through lectures and group discussions

Reading – learners have a preference for working from written material in hand-outs and book ref

Kinaesthetic – learners tend to learn though doing, express themselves through movement and learn best through interacting with others and the space around them

(Bates, p120, 2016)

That VARK model is relevant to my teaching practice, because although some may describe Scenic Art as a very visual and kinesthetic subject a lot of the information presented to the students comes through auditory and reading paths.

(See my Journal entry where I examine VARK’s relationship further.)

Using scores from the VARK questionnaire, which fields a series of questions about how the participant prefers to have information presented to them. The scores are then used to can identify how balanced or unbalanced the learner is.  I put myself to the test to see my learning preferences:

  • Visual 6
  • Auditory 7
  • Read/Write 3
  • Kinesthetic 6

The results show that I have a strong dependence on visual, auditory or kinesthetic learning modes but I don’t use the read/write mode as frequently. If I lean towards Auditory as opposed to Read/write, how do I ensure that my learning style does not impact on those students who I’m teaching.

The VARK model can be used both formally; where the students actively take the VARK test to identify their preference of learning style. Or informally; where the teacher is aware that every student learns differently and opens a dialogue with the student on their own preference of information delivery. The test results aren’t set in stone and a teacher must be aware of changing in how the students learns when presented with a variety of problems.  A practical visual example can be lead by the teacher for some problems or break it down on paper first to analyze. It is up to the teacher to communicate and respond and having the VARK model to underpin the practice makes for a more dynamic and engaging lesson.



Bloom’s Taxonomy

Benjamin Bloom created taxonomies for the three learning domains; cognitive, affective and psyco-motor. In 1956 created a structure for the cognitive domain that is used in the development of learning objectives. The structure is:

  • Knowledge – recalling or recognizing information
  • Comprehension – understanding the meaning of the information
  • Application – putting emerging ideas from the information into practice
  • Analysis – interpreting and assessing practice
  • Synthesis – developing new approaches to practice
  • Evaluation – assessing how well the new approaches are working

(Bates, p218, 2016)

Using this template, Bloom argued that the design of outcomes and objectives could be further tailored to the learners needs and abilities. Bloom’s taxonomy has actually been revised by Lori Anderson and David Krathwohl (a former student of Blooms) in 2001 using experts in the field of curriculum, instruction and cognitive psychology. Using Bloom’s own views on his taxonomy they produced a new structure:

  • Remembering – recognizing information from memory
  • Understanding – constructing meaning from different types of function
  • Applying – carrying out or using a procedure through executing or implementing
  • Analyzing – Breaking materials into concepts into parts, determining how the parts relate to an overall structure
  • Evaluating – Making judgments based on criteria and standards
  • Creating – Putting elements together to form a coherent or functional whole

(Anderson, L. W. Krathwohl, D. R. 2001)

Krathwohl and Anderson make small but important changes, changing the nouns to verbs and swapping the order of synthesis and evaluation in Bloom’s version, putting their evaluating and creating in the opposite order. They are suggesting that the learner must evaluate the learning process first in order to achieve a successful outcome, not to evaluate after the fact.

The focus of a Scenic Artist is to process the information given by the client produce a product to their specifications. Both Bloom’s original structure and the development by Anderson/Krathwohl are relevant for designing and delivering classes and every day practice for myself and the learners. As a teacher I try to embed principles and the structure on the learner’s journey:

  • Knowledge – Through classes with the Lecturer, video tutorials and discussion with the Tutor.
  • Comprehension – I question the students about the information they’ve been given “why do it this way” “what are the benefits/weaknesses?”. The student begins to examine how this knowledge is useful to their task.
  • Application – Using this knowledge and understanding to apply this in practical context
  • Analysis – The student must break down their process to understand how their knowledge is being applied and why.

I’m leaning towards the Anderson/Krathwohl structure for the last two entries but I have continued to use Bloom’s terminology.

  • Evaluation – The students must assess their progress through the task and evaluate the success or failure of their application of knowledge.
  • Synthesis – Understanding the assessment of one’s work and putting the learning into practice.

By applying Bloom’s taxonomy, using the structure and language to get students to think about and engage their process not it doesn’t devolve into a learning by rote exercise. It enables discussion between the learner and teacher that can help with deep learning:

“In order to promote DEEP learning, we need top engage the students in conversation aimed at eliciting and resolving different conceptualizations of the students and the teachers”

(Troup, 2015)

Bloom’s approach to the cognitive domain offers the learner the opportunity to explore and experiment, their journey of discovery may have outcomes that myself has never anticipated

“Properly used, a taxonomy should provide a very suggestive source of ideas and materials for each worker and should result in many economies of effort,” he wrote in 1956.


Flipped Classroom


“Flipping is a natural compliment to a 21st century learning environment. The teacher moves through the roles of manager, coach, facilitator & mentor. Class time is spent exploring, discovering, succeeding and sometimes failing. Students work on project-based work and collaborate as appropriate to share information and successes.”

(Kahn, 2011)

The approach of Flipped Teaching is to change the common delivery education. Lectures and tutorials are now accessed at home while the classroom becomes the place where problems can be worked through alongside the teacher. The objective is to promote communication and ideas exchange, to enable students to engage with their subject area and explore it further and to allow students to learn at their own pace through multiple learning styles.

The relevance of using a Flipped Classroom for Scenic Art is to help the students become more creative and autonomous. Our main teaching tool in Scenic Art are the drama, opera and musical theatre productions, they give the students the experience and skills needed to work in a professional environment. The objective of flipping the classroom would be to give them a good base knowledge of terminology, techniques, tools and materials. This allows the students to acclimatize themselves with the task ahead. This breaks down the anxiety and stress associated with a new task, freeing the students to apply themselves with freedom. The structure of the Scenic Art course (using productions as the main teaching tool) allows the teacher not to fall prey to the usual problems associated with this method. Where teachers can find they have a void during class time, this is taken up by the production work and personal projects. They students get to apply the skills they have learnt online immediately in a practical, authentic learning experience. I currently implement the Flipped Classroom where I can, where the production requires it I supply the video tutorials made by artist or industry professionals. When a student is approaching a personal project I can give them a variety of videos to explore. My own practice could develop as a construct a database of tutorials and lessons, it would identify the gaps in my own knowledge and allow me to change and develop my practice to the needs of the student. A Flipped Classroom is a malleable model that a teacher can use for the benefit of the student’s journey.

For more on my investigation into Flipped learning please look at my blog:

I have been investigating these three learning and teaching methods because I feel they compliment each other. By using Bloom’s Taxonomy as a structure I know that at every step I must be considering how the information or feedback is being delivered to the learner through the VARK model. This follows on to the Flipped Classroom, if students don’t engage with a visual medium, but prefer text based information I must ensure they are having an equal experience to the other students. The ideologies clash because the main focus of the Flipped Classroom is based around video tutorials. Using this as an idea I can shape how the information is presented to reflect the learners in my group.

By investigating and learning about theories like VARK and Bloom’s taxonomy or teaching methods like the Flipped Classroom the objective is to become, not only, a more rounded teacher but a learner too. I have identified the areas of my practice I want to develop: the way I present information to a group of multi style learners, how to engage a student with before a class begins, the process of how a student approaches and carries out a task and how can I support every stage of that journey. I work with such a varied student body means I need to use theories and methods to keep refreshing and developing my practice.













Atherton J S (2013) Learning and Teaching; Bloom’s taxonomy [online] Learning and teaching. Available at:

[Accessed 21 February 2016]


ANDERSON, L W, & KRATHWOHL D R (eds.) (2001). A Taxonomy for Learning, Teaching, and Assessing: A Revision of Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives. New York: Longman

Bloom, B and Krathwohl, D. (1956) Taxonomy of Educational Objectives. London: Longman

Bates Bob (2016). Learning Theories Simplified London: Sage Publications LTD

The Centre for Teaching and Learning. Writing Objectives Using Bloom’s Taxonomy Available from: [Accessed 21 Feb 2016]

Fleming, N.D (2001) Teaching and Learning Styles: VARK Strategies. Honolulu, HI: VARK-Learn

Gerstein, J (2012) Flipped Classroom: The Full Picture for Higher Education [online], Available at:  (accessed 3.13.16).

Kahn, S (2011) Let’s use video to reinvent education, [Online] Available at: [Accessed November 2, 2015.]

Munzenmaier, C, MS, with Rubin, Nn PhD. (2013) Bloom’s Taxonomy: What’s Old is New Again Santa Rosa: The eLearning Guild

Troup, M. (2015) The teaching artist: A focus on learning theories Glasgow: Royal Conservatoire of Scotland

Tucker, B. (2012) The Flipped Classroom [online] Available at:  (accessed 3.13.16).

Wilson, L (2013) Anderson and Krathwohl – Bloom’s Taxonomy Revised [online]

Available at: [Accessed 21 February 2016] (Updated 2016) The VARK Questionnaire [online] Available at:  [Accessed 21 January 2016] (Updated 2016) Introduction to VARK Available at: [Accessed 21 January 2016] (Updated 2016) Using VARK with a group  [Accessed 21 January 2016]





2 thoughts on “Critical Appraisal Essay

  1. Hi Scott, I think you have a fairly good critical appraisal here.

    The learning theories you have chosen are clearly appropriate to your learning context and you outline them fairly well. The document could do with a further proof read, and whilst the referencing is generally good, it would be good to find some way to clearly differentiate the quotes from your text.

    I think the submission would benefit from a little more contextualisation i.e. I know what scenic art is and what the learning environment will be like, but this won’t be the case for an external examiner. You might benefit from beginning with a clearer outline of your role, your subject area, you learning environment and your students before you outline the learning theories that you feel are most relevant to them.

    It would also be good to include a bit more depth of critical analysis when you are discussing the approaches and how they relate to each other. Consider what the conflicts might be, and where they work together well.

    In general it might be good to consider in more depth ‘why’ you are drawn to these styles and what that says about your philosophy of learning and teaching.

    Just some ideas, but good work. If you want to chat over any of this, just let me know



  2. Pingback: The Teaching Artist Module Submission – scottmcintosh

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