It can be applied to all kinds of situations and is commonly used in supporting the development of strategies for improvement or professional development in areas as diverse as Finance and Engineering.
For example, if a student is looking to make progress in their project, a SWOT Analysis will provide a clearer picture of their current performance and ability. It will also give insight into issues that may arise in the future that could both boost or hinder their development and progress. The level of detail that this goes into depends on the amount of time and the kinds of discussions that take place to support the assessment practice.
The analysis of each area enables the consideration of multiple points. There aren’t single or unique threats, but rather a range that are particular to an individual. There is also frequently some overlap between areas like Threats and Weaknesses. However, they differ significantly in terms of the time frame they include. Whereas Weaknesses relates to the work to date, the Threats covers what can happen in the future.
The SWOT Analysis can be done at strategic times throughout the project. It is commonly used at the start of a project to help identify a strategic plan. While this level of planning is more common to media than it is to art and design, there is potential for it to impact on project proposal writing for a final project at the end of a full-time programme. It could also be applied to units that cover professional development or at critical points within a creative programme.
What’s the difference?
One question that does arise is how does the SWOT Analysis differ to other methods of reflection? A common method of evaluation and reflection is the Four Way In method. While the Four Way In approach is really valuable in analysing individual pieces of personal work, the SWOT Analysis is much more holistic in the breadth of issues it can consider. Students will sometimes forget the bigger picture and not realise that personal or financial issues will have an impact on all of their projects.
Moreover, students will often repeat the same kinds of mistakes in different projects. This may be because they have preferences for certain kinds of practice or because they have underdeveloped skills. The SWOT Analysis will help identify issues that arose in previous projects and place those clearly within the Threats section to help make them more aware of those and to learn from mistakes.
Another form of evaluation and reflection is the Reflective Log which considers an experiment or period of experimentation. Students use this to enable themselves to fully appreciate the breadth of learning and see how to improve in a structured way. The SWOT Analysis again differs in that it provides a more holistic picture. The Strengths and Weaknesses parts look at the actual work produced so far, the Opportunities and Threats identifies how their personal approach impacts on the work as it continues to develop.
The beauty of the process is its potential to support development on both large scale and individual projects. It can be applied to group projects involving whole teams of practitioners or it can look at small elements of a project that need to be fully developed or exploited before moving on to the next.
How can it be applied to art and design education?
Media students will be very familiar with short time frames and considering the target audience or client requirements. Because the media student will have these at the start of a project, they will take precedence within the SWOT Analysis. Essentially, they have something clear to aim towards. The Threats are then based around how they might not achieve those requirements. However, many art and design projects are not so rigid, with a more experimental and open approach. Because of this, they sometimes do not have such a clear awareness of what they need to achieve.
Some of the questions are also very broad and might not encourage students to consider the situation in depth. Lower level students may need some breakdown of the four components in order to be able to use it on their own or independently.
Moreover, if students are used to one form of reflection then this might seem to conflict with those other processes. Many institutions will introduce an expected method of reflection using structured questions that students need to follow to ensure they cover the criteria. These are generic questions, that don’t all fit within the assessment criteria.
Many students will see ideas that they are given in discussions and critiques as a positive way of developing a project. However, they won’t always see that the directions that they were already taking were providing the opportunities for those very ideas. Looking at opportunities
There is a tendency for art, design and media students to repeat the points from Weaknesses in the Threats section. This can defeat the object of having a Threats section altogether. While some of the section does overlap, it is important to remain vigilant to potential threats that could arise in the future. This may provoke students into reflecting on previous projects and how at a similar stage in the development they may have made mistakes. It may also mean that they consider new threats like how much final work will cost or how feasible it is to construct or make.
Matching the SWOT to the assessment objectives
It is possible to ensure that the answers students give support their development toward a particular, or set of, assessment criteria. If these have been covered at the project briefing then there can be a discussion of how the answers within the SWOT analysis could answer some of the criteria. Actually assessing progress is an important part of development and reflection so it will contribute to those elements in the assessment objectives. If students are engaged in evaluating their positions and level of development within a project and considering how to move forward then their engagement with the project and creative decisions will be based on a more educated analysis.
SWOT Analysis in lesson or projects
It is important to introduce where SWOT analysis has come from and how it can be applied to different situations. This will enable the students to see the relevance of the method and hence encourage them to use increasingly in their own practice. It will also provide a springboard to using it in different ways.
You can deliver this via a short discussion, with notes on a whiteboard, about how the elements relate to the overall project and to the relevant units or assessment criteria. It is possible to hand out the project brief with the assessment criteria and discuss what the SWOT Analysis should consider.
Ask the students to do a holistic or group SWOT Analysis for the project as a whole. What would they think are strengths within the project so far? What work has gone well and produced exciting experiments? Do the same for the Weaknesses. Then ask them to look forward and discuss the potential Opportunities. What would be really interesting to bring in or directions to take that would make their work more individual? Finally, discuss the main areas that are Threats. Perhaps give them some points to consider such as: timeframe, the need to meet the higher-level criteria, issues that you have seen materialise within previous projects etc.
Once they have a good appreciation of the SWOT Analysis, there is potential for students to undertake the process quite independently. It could be done on their own, but is usually more beneficial when done in pairs or as small groups. Firstly, students should undertake their own SWOT Analysis and then present their work so far to their partner or peer group and discuss the four points. They will then get really interesting feedback on points that they may not have been able to identify on their own.
Example of a student’s SWOT analysis toward the end of a project
The following is an interesting example of a student that has done a self-SWOT Analysis and then asked three peers to consider the points raised and add to them where necessary. The group task took about an hour with some further time to complete the write-up of the activity:
SWOT analysis – swot stands for strength, weakness, opportunities and threats. it’s a way of self analyzing your own work and others to give yourself a idea of where you heading and what to carry on with.
How it compares to other reflection – sometimes when we do critiques, we get lots of ideas, but that doesn’t always consider our personal issues that we have when doing a project. This way seems to cover all of the personal circumstances as well as usual project development things.
The way we did our swat analysis was to get into a group of four and then do one analysis from our point of view and read that out to the group to see if they agree with them and also add their views and ideas on top of them. This can the help cover any new ideas that you may not have thought of doing and to highlight any areas that you may have missed.
- Good detailed mindmaps
- Got tutorial logs and reflection through discussion with tutors
- good moodboards
- reflective logs
- Wide range of idea’s.
- lots more non-art research – background and artists.
- Continue to do reflective log as you go.
- Reflect on mood boards – how they were helpful.
- More experiments!
- Start writing articles in response to magazines.
- Eco research, different materials, cut up magazines etc.
- Look at other cultures and how they recycle/reuse clothes.
- War and conflict references – saying about reusing things as they couldn’t afford new clothes. Look at how conflicts impacted on attitudes towards recycling.
- Maybe look into taking reconstruction ideas further.
- Time keeping – finishing experiments and analysing – reflective logs.
- Doing enough experiments for final piece. Having a wide range of outcomes to build on.
- No film logs or enough references to wider visual and creative culture.
- Keeping focused on one idea and building on strengths in a systematic way.