This article appeared in NSEAD’s AD Magazine January 2016
The Art of Questions by Paul Carney
When planning and delivering lesson content teachers are continually striving for a balance between ensuring their pupils achieve the intended learning objectives and maintaining their motivation. We can’t place enjoyment above the need to deliver good content, but in we can’t ignore it either, because creativity is dependent on motivation.
Now of course many art teachers build creative opportunities into project learning stages to facilitate personal interpretation and so improve motivation. Whilst this usually reaps considerable rewards in terms of the quality of pupils’ output, it’s still very teacher-dependent. All those long nights planning lessons and making resources, select appropriate images, objects, themes, topics, artists as starting points etc. are often counter-productive to good learning. They usually end up making your students dependent on you. Our well-intended, conscientiously over-planned projects often kill the very thing we are striving for. We dull creativity and teach learning by imitation. Pupil motivation can be lost if the teacher has done all the thinking beforehand. Sometimes all that is left is a series of instructions for students to follow. In their book Questioning in the Primary Phase, Brown and Wragg say the ability to ask intelligent and searching questions and to use questions that stimulate complex reasoning, imagination and speculation are crucial to teachers of all ages and subject groups. Research by Professor Steve Higgins for the Sutton Trust bears out the potential gain of metacognition as being equivalent to eight months academic progress, which is the most effective way of raising attainment and the cheapest.
In her book ‘Principals and Student Achievement: What the Research Says’ Education Researcher and author Kathleen Cotton says that Primary children and less able children learn when lots of lower-cognitive questions are asked that build gradually to higher cognition. In the Secondary sector she recommends you show students how to answer higher cognitive level questions and increase the frequency you ask them in order to attain higher pupil performance.
Virtually every thing you do in your classroom, every skill, every technique, every knowledge finding, idea developing, project making, material exploring thing you do can become part of a question-based model instead of a teacher-led model. If you want to transform your teaching you will need to switch your mindset away from delivering content to facilitating investigation, problem solving and inquiry. You will become someone who stops answering questions and demonstrating learning and starts helping people to find the answers themselves.
Essential questions are questions that evoke curiosity, deep thought, enquiry and reflection. They make us focus on core knowledge and values, and ensure we consider alternative options, provide evidence to support our ideas and provoke discussion. They are the driving force behind any intelligent thinking person; ‘Why am I here? What do I want to do with my life?’ and so are integral to Art and Design, because artists have struggled with similar themes throughout time.
Writing Essential Questions isn’t easy. It requires a lot more thought from the teacher at the planning stage for one thing. Even then, pupils need to be taught how to respond to a question like this, how to present an argument, show evidence and persuasion. That’s where the Foundation Questions come in, because they help to develop the pupil’s understanding of the big question and steer the outcomes. Without the supporting questions the students become confused and the outcomes chaotic. The skill with the Foundation question is to write them so that they support and steer but don’t dictate obvious outcomes. Think of them like giving clues to the answer.
Here is an example of an essential question I have written based on Arte Povera:
Is the world’s greatest art just a product for rich, intelligent people?
Supporting foundation questions:
✴ Why is some art worth millions when other art is not?
What effect does this have on artists?
What makes some art great and other art not?
✴ The Arte Povera artists in the 1960’s made art out of rubbish to attack the snobbery of the art world and the high prices of art. Many artists to this day make art from rubbish and unwanted objects and their art is worth a lot of money. How should we value art?
✴ “You owe the companies nothing. You especially don’t owe them any courtesy. They have re-arranged the world to put themselves in front of you. They never asked for your permission, don’t even start asking for theirs.” (attributed to) BANKSY.
However, Banksy’s art is now so valuable that people actually want him to graffiti on their building, so when is graffiti art good and when is it vandalism?
✴ Can beautiful art be made from rubbish?
This type of approach not only brings more interested curiosity from your pupils, but they have greater autonomy to work in ways that interest them.
Once ideas and responses begin to flow you should find an increase in eagerness to get started and this is where you need to balance the amount you hold them back with the need to think about what skills they have, what criteria their idea needs to be successfully executed and what the project learning objectives are, so that you don’t stifle that enthusiasm. This is where further questions come in and in fact, they should support every step of the process:
• Which materials will you need to make your idea?
• Have you used these before?
• How successful were you the last time you used them?
• Where can you get the help and support you need to practice the skills and techniques you need?
Throughout the process you will need regular evaluations to ask; ‘Do you need to alter and adjust your idea in light of what you’ve just done?’
You might use supportive comments from other pupils for improvement. ‘How might this person improve their work?’ Or to focus the group on something you know needs improving, direct the question thus: ‘What do you think might improve this work’. Again, the emphasis is on steering and guiding not dictating. You are supporting, showing and helping them to self-analyse through dialogue, evaluation and collaboration. Making art in this way is very different to the standard process model you may be used to. It takes time for pupils to be able to achieve the same standard of outcomes you may be used to, but it’s more exciting, dynamic and ultimately less stressful for you, because you are putting the responsibility for learning back onto the pupil where it belongs.
‘The Art of Questions’ is available from Paul’s website www.paulcarneyarts.com, and explains in more depth the theories and techniques of using questions in the art room for projects, exploring materials and developing autonomous learners.
Superb political summary of a thoroughly depressing scenario for the arts that also impacts other subjects such as DT. Thanks
What? Has someone had a Heart Attack? Quickly. Call an ambulance!
No, no, no! Though you might have one after you’ve read the latest NSEAD (National Society for Education in Art and Design) survey. You can download a pdf copy here. It’s the teaching of Art & Design in our schools that’s in critical danger and may not survive much longer.
Ah. But I keep reading that the Department for Education say that the numbers taking Art GCSE have risen by as much as 1%, so all this whining about children not being allowed to take creative subjects at GCSE is really just a lot of fuss about nothing.
Well, for a start you shouldn’t believe DfE political propaganda statements, just as you’d be advised not to take a headline in the Daily Mail at face value. The problem is that the DfE’s figures don’t include the large numbers…
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General Intelligence or g and it’s impact on education
The pursuit of intelligence in education is extremely important to us as educators. SAT’s GCSE’s, A Levels, Degrees, are all barometers of our pupil’s intelligence and thus, our performance as teachers. How much have our pupil’s progressed under our tutelage, how effective are we as professionals? There is an abundance of information about this on the web, on Twitter etc. and lots of stuff on multiple intelligence, Blooms, learning styles and much much more, all aimed at helping you to be able to improve the cognition of your students. But what do the scientists say REALLY works? Writing in New Scientist magazine, Linda S. Gottfredson, professor of education at the University of Delaware and an expert in the social and cultural implications of intelligence, outlines what the current scientific understanding of intelligence is.
This article is my own summary transcript of her article.
The notion of ‘g’ (or general intelligence) prevails as the primary label by which scientists measure a persons ability to deal with cognitive complexity. This idea was first outlined by Charles Spearman in the early Twentieth Century and resulted in ferocious debate ever since. Spearman and his supporters on one side, who defend the power of his general factor of intelligence and on the other hand, supporters of the multiple intelligence abilities such as verbal, linguistic and spatial. Both sides eventually conceded that both had merit and in 1933 John B. Carroll published his three stratum theory, a pyramid in which the general intelligence ‘g’ factor rests on top, a middle layer comprised of ‘Broad abilities’; fluid intelligence, crystallised intelligence, processing speed, retrieval ability, cognitive speed, visual perception, auditory perception, memory an learning. A bottom level is composed of ‘Narrow abilities’ which are sixty four specialised aptitudes or skills that each relate to the broad abilities on the layer above. The Broad abilities are all composed mostly of g but each containing a different additive that boosts performance in the broad domains. The broad domains contribute to the sixty four narrow abilities, which are a complex composite of g and the broad domains.
This structure enables measurement of intelligence in multiple domains without compromising the notion of g intelligence. This multi-facetted approach, where all intelligence is underpinned by ‘g’ makes the notion of multiple intelligence implausible. However romantic it might seem to our inclusive education policies to attempt to assimilate different types of learners in our lessons, it appears that they don’t exist. All aspects of intelligence are driven by the g factor. This notion has been repeatedly tested and found to line up with diverse features of the brain, from relative size to processing speed and to defy cultural and species variance. Most cognitive variance comes from a variation in g.
But whilst the g factor as an indicator of intelligence is accepted, finding it in the brain is more difficult. Where is g in the brain and how do we get it? That is not certain but most likely, g comes from the actions of hundreds of genetic variants and environments which result in the brain’s overall efficiency. Higher g is useful for complex cognitive tasks such as school and for being associated with lower levels of damaging behaviour such as substance abuse, chronic illness and even premature death. It seems higher g is a real advantage, however it is not an indicator of emotional well-being, happiness or conscientiousness.
So is intelligence inherited?
The answer to this questions is that heritability of intelligence rises steadily with age, from thirty percent in preschool until by adulthood it is around eighty percent. This indicates that we cannot boost low intelligence, even into the average range, but we can add knowledge relative to the individual, to help them to know more and achieve more with the intelligence they have.
How does the home or school environment alter a person’s intelligence?
The answer is surprisingly little. Test on identical twins adopted into different homes with identical genes but with different environments show that IQ closely lines up with genetic similarity. In fact, these tests show that they answer IQ tests almost as if they were the same person and adoptees in the same household as if they were strangers. This indicates that most family environments are equally effective at nurturing intelligence regardless of where they grew up. This might be very frustrating for teachers trying to shape their pupils in particular ways and in any case, as people age, they tend to seek out the environments that suit their own cognitive complexity. But don’t despair teachers! These tests simply measure general intelligence, they don’t factor in aspects of education that define success in tests, such as method, discipline, rigour and learning approach. You can’t alter a person’s intelligence, however hard you try, but you can increase knowledge in the individual and create an environment conducive to more effective acquisition of the skills and habits of success.
Fluid intelligence versus crystallised intelligence
Some researchers distinguish between tests of fluid intelligence (gF); on-the-spot learning, reasoning and problem solving and crystallised intelligence (gC); broad cultural knowledge, prior intellect and vocabulary. During youth they rise in tandem but after that gF abilities decline whereas gC abilities remain constant. The implications of this are that the gC intellect buffers the decline of the gF fluid intelligence. Older people are generally less able to solve novel problems but compensate by being able to draw on their wisdom and experience. The most effective way of slowing down these losses in cognition is through physical exercise, which protect’s the brain by improving the body’s cardiovascular health. Also important is the avoidance of smoking, drinking and head injuries etc. Mental brain training has limited effect in boosting only specific skills.
Effects of environment and other factors on intelligence
Also of significant effect on our intellect is the natural variations in our cognitive ability caused by sleep deprivation, hunger, sickness etc. all of which cause significant fluctuations in our intellect over the course of a day or week. So when schools start too early, or when they fail to recognise the environmental needs of their pupils, these all affect performance. Of significant importance to educators is one that we have known for some time; that different levels of intelligence require different types of support. Educational and Military psychologists have shown people of below-average intelligence learn best when given concrete, step-by-step, hands on instruction with lots of practice, whereas people of above average intelligence learn best when allowed to structure their own learning. A one-size-fits-all approach stunts the learning of both types. Schools can get far more out of pupils by educating them to their personal potential. In fact cognitive overload is of particular concern in modern life. Medical trails have shown that there is a significant need to simplify the management of medication, especially in patients with a lower IQ. Schools might do well to heed this advice, when greater demand is being placed on pupils for higher exam results.
In the drive for increased success in our schools there is a thirst for a cognitive enhancer, a magic bullet that will provide the g factor for all, but this is a long way off. The most effective solution to date seems to be meditation. Evidence suggests that mindful meditation provides measurable cognitive improvement including attention and memory. In her final paragraph Linda addresses the ‘Flynn effect’; the idea that humanity is getting progressively smarter, since each successive generation is scoring on average 3 points higher per decade on IQ tests. This is unlikely a factor of cultural environment and the increasing complex world we live in since it is established that IQ is not affected by environment. It may be a side effect of increasingly better public health and growth. Also diversity of marriage and population may result in increased vigour of genes. More likely is that certain biologically rooted cognitive abilities related to IQ tests are improving. In short, we are getting better at passing the tests, rather than our whole cognitive ability improving.
From an article in New Scientist – 15 ideas you need to understand 2016,
by Professor Linda S. Gottfredson, University of Delaware, Newark.
Linda focusses on the social implications of intelligence including how cultural institutions are shaped by the wide variation in human cognitive capability.
My Primary Art course is now being run by Osiris Ed, so book now for dates in
Birmingham 1st March 2016
London 15th March 2016
Teach like a specialist
- A busy teacher’s guide to exciting, yet simple, provision
- Action-plan high-quality art to ensure:
- continuity of skills
- pupil progression
- resources are available
- confident assessment
- Effective ways to secure high learning outcomes
I hope to see you there! Follow the link for booking details
Key Stage 3 Art & Design Progression
Much of what we define as progress is smoke and mirrors. You can’t always demonstrate progression, because more often than not, it isn’t tangible. Often, I’ve spent two hours wrestling with an idea or a thought in my head, and how can you evidence that to an Ofsted inspector? The answer is that you can’t evidence every type of progression, but then the Ofsted inspector isn’t expecting to see it either. There is often a panic or a misguided belief that the teacher has to continually assess every mark the student has made in order to demonstrate progress is being made, but this is wrong. Assessment should be a silent friend, intervening only as and when appropriate, to enhance, support, motivate and guide the learning, not throttle the life out of it.
Progression in art seems obvious enough. Just doing art provides visual, tangible outcomes, but it is actually a lot more complicated than that. Take a look inside most art sketchbooks and it’s a horror story of badly drawn, unfinished experiments and unresolved ideas. The thing is to bear in mind is that this is normal. It’s ok, it’s what you should expect, because that’s what most of our thoughts look like, mine included. An artists working process is usually a working, rough collection of scribbles, diagrams, unfinished maquette drawings and experiments, and this is what it should look like. Some people produce achingly beautiful sketchbooks where every page is a work of art, but I would argue that this isn’t the way everyone should work and shouldn’t be the norm, merely one way of working.
AS David Didau says in his blogs, much learning is liminal, that is to say it is undeterminable. It is between stages of the known and unknown; it is woolly and vague to coin a phrase. But this is what you have to evidence to those inspectors; how to bring clarity in the fog of learning. It’s quite a challenge but rest assured, one of the most significant points I’d like to make about identifying progression is that it isn’t your problem; it’s your student’s! It is for THEM to demonstrate what they have learned and to clear away that fog, it’s not your responsibility to continually mark the life out of their work to find it. Your role as the teacher should be to provide a framework of possibilities for them to demonstrate what they have learned. Then you can make judgments as to what degree of confidence you have about the evidence they present.
Art behaviours In order to identify key stage 3 progression you should identify what it is you feel are the most important learning attributes, behaviours and knowledge that pupils need to learn or demonstrate. These aren’t just generic learning objectives that mean little to the pupils but should be deep, focussed behaviours that you want them to evidence. They need to be able to demonstrate that they can do these, or that they have understood them, which may be in the form of a conversation or activity they have taken part in, rather than nailed on, concrete evidence.
Pupils should not only be able to read and assimilate these objectives (with help) but understand that they will take time to achieve, they aren’t just a tick list. If the pupils understand these well enough then they can form the basis for all of your future assessments. Because the key point is that the pupil must understand and take ownership of the learning objective. They have to not only understand it, but also want to do it! They should understand that they have to demonstrate to you that they have successfully achieved that objective, then your role is to judge to what degree they have achieved it.
So the first step is to identify what the important things are that you want the pupils to learn over the key stage. In core subjects the curriculum is prewritten, they don’t have to design the content, it’s all mapped out for them, but in art this is a blank canvas and as we all know, a blank canvas can be a nightmare for many artists. So you should identify not only what the key learning is, but also the behaviours you want your pupils to exhibit, the knowledge they should have and, just as importantly, the application of that knowledge. Art skills are important too, but not in the way you might expect. There is no expectation for any student to have a set of art skills based on drawing ability or in fact anything resembling traditional art skills. Contemporary art shows us that conceptual art is king and therefore art can be an idea, it can be music, performance, film, text, found objects and even thin air! It may seem like the emperors new clothes, but what this approach shows us is that art can be inclusive for all. You don’t need to have skills, you need good ideas.
Progression as Learning A while ago I developed this rubric based on Krathwold’s; ‘Blooms Revised Taxonomy 2001’ for developing learning targets in art and design. It was based on a similar thing I’d seen developed at Ohio State University for their Science students.
This sets out the development of learning and progression in the subject in increasingly complex and more challenging targets from the Factual Remembering cognition in the top left corner to Metacognitive Creating in the bottom right. I believe it’s based on sound science and indeed it relates strongly to the GCSE Assessment Objectives for the subject. It isn’t Key Stage related either, so it’s perfectly able to be adapted to any educational phase perhaps with some modification, though I doubt many teachers will use it in the Primary sector. Nor is it linear either, so you might access the ultimate goal; ‘Create’ at any time and still need to constantly revisit ‘Factual Remembering’. The four Knowledge dimensions relate strongly to the requirements of the new curriculum for art and the NSEAD’s Competencies, but I would argue that these are more succinct and flexible. Whilst the Cognitive Process dimensions are all very familiar to us educators, here each one is defined in four ways, to the four knowledge strands making them I believe more useful. What appeals to me also is that a Metacognitive strand is prominent, replacing and improving the evaluation targets that many art teachers struggled to facilitate effectively. Here, metacognition is embedded in such a way as to make understanding a recognisable aspect of attainment. These learning goals are a very useful working tool for you to identify the key aspects of the art understanding that you are trying to deliver.
Progression related to GCSE assessment objectives So all of this leads me to my next point, that many Subject Leaders for art are being asked to define new progression models for Key Stage 3 in light of a renewed drive by Senior Leaders to Assess without levels. But as I’ve outlined earlier, progression in art should clearly identify starting points and then signpost learning behaviours rather than be simply the completion of projects assessed to the skill level attained. These behaviours in art are outlined in the National Curriculum to some extent, but then the National Curriculum for Art in the UK is so poor that you ideally need more than this. The NSEAD of course produce an excellent set of Competencies (which I helped write) and these are great too, and I fully endorse the four attainment targets they promote Making skills, Generating Ideas, Knowledge and Evaluation. However, what I’d like to suggest is that some vital components of art education aren’t mentioned anywhere until you study the GCSE guidance documents (e.g. AQA’s; Interpreting the GCSE Art Assessment Objectives).
The exam boards provide explicit information about what the assessment objectives mean and how best your students can evidence them. This is not to be confused with teaching directly to the Assessment Objectives for GCSE because you shouldn’t do this; the Objectives aren’t meant to be evidenced as separate entities. They are supposed to be evidenced holistically or partially, integral and interwoven. The guidance documents for best practice at GCSE are rich in language such as ‘realising personal intentions’ ‘exploring possibilities’ ‘learning journeys’ and ‘unresolved outcomes’ and they make it clear that art should be a personal journey of investigations and informed practice, not a series of fully resolved projects directed by the teacher to fulfil constraints of assessment objectives. So when planning Key Stage 3 content, your projects need to reflect this. What I’m advocating is a key stage 3 revolution! Throw away all of those teacher-led projects based on an artist you love or think the kids will love that succinctly last a half term or full term. Fill your curriculum full of personal choice, different approaches, provide opportunities to express in different ways, make significant reference to contemporary artists, make your curriculum about personal freedom, choice and exploration.
Principle learning behaviours for Key Stage 3 So the trick to good Key Stage 3 Progression is to study the understandings that lie behind high attainment in GCSE and work to build these into your key stage 3. Ideally what you should try to provide is a very flexible curriculum that builds skill and confidence of course, but also it should facilitate;
- INCLUSIVITY for pupil’s of all abilities, to show them that you can be good at art regardless of traditional art ability.
- PERSONAL interpretation that allows pupils to investigate the visual world that appeals to them most and isn’t too teacher directed.
- ART SOURCES that inspire personal outcomes and that aren’t just traditional art or artists work but cover a diverse references from the arts and contemporary society.
- RESEARCHING as a complex skill that needs to be taught directly, so that pupils are able to find, filter and utilise only what they need.
- EVALUATION as a constant, ongoing thinking process that informs every decision, and that other’s opinions can really help them to develop and grow.
- METACOGNITION as a means for pupils to confidently explore and identify personal preferences, develop understanding and complexity of thinking and approach.
- CREATIVITY as a diverse and valuable skill that can be applied in many different areas outside of art.
- IDEAS generation, from the use of direct purposeful solutions through to the understanding of deep, complex, metaphors and symbols.
- PRESENTATION as a personal and diverse process that can be tailored to suit learning styles.
- PROCESS when making as a complex, often unresolved, exploratory, non linear, experimental thinking journey that may or may not result in final outcomes.
- ANNOTATION as a means of adding something extra, for understanding, or for explaining choices, influences or how problems have been overcome.
- APPRECIATION and understanding of visual culture without it being attached to a bigger making process.
To translate these into the MIKE Key stage 3 learning targets might look like this:
Skill & Confidence: Make the best progress you can from your starting point and according to your ability. Try to develop confidence by doing the things you enjoy when making art.
Develop Personal Learning Style: Develop a personal learning style by using own tastes & preferences, and building on strengths
Creativity: Develop ability to draw in a chosen style; realistic, graphic, expressive, abstract, sculptural, pattern, digital, text based. Draw on different scales, surfaces, using different tools and media, for different purposes and in different places. Learn a range of new approaches to making art
Choices: Develop independence and ability to make own, effective choices when making art.
Explore & Experiment: Experiment with, explore, try out, discover, learn; new techniques, processes, media and ways of working in order to solve problems and realise intentions.
Range of Ideas: Use art to invent, imagine, record ideas, design, thoughts, opinions and for pleasure.
Sketchbooks: Develop a personal means of recording thoughts, ideas, observations, workings and explorations, either using a traditional sketchbook, a journal, a scrapbook, in sheet form, in a folder or through digital means.
Complexity: Become more thoughtful, complex, original and sophisticated when expressing and forming ideas. For example learning about the use of symbolism and metaphor.
Art Sources: Learn that art sources can be the traditional ones of natural forms, paintings, sculpture, design, craft, photography etc. but that they also might be; buildings, magazines, films, computer games, character design, car design, clothes, fashion, make up, theatre, music, set design, illustration, poetry, literature, song lyrics, interior design, internet pages, apps and lots of other aspects of the visual culture around you.
Art Knowledge: Discover how and why different artists work, gain a general understanding of the progression of art through time, Develop personal tastes, preferences and opinions on art. Identify, use and apply aspects of artists work in your own.
Research: Acquire an increasingly competent ability to research, find information independently, then be able to filter, sort, select and discard, adapt and refine what is relevant to support, improve and influence own art.
Language: Gain an increasingly sophisticated language when discussing art
Feedback: Learn to use feedback and constructive critical opinion to gain confidence, overcome fears and to provide clear direction.
Annotation: Learn to make brief, annotated notes to explain choices made, decisions taken, show how problems have been overcome, how things have influenced you NOT to simply describe what is obvious and apparent.
Metacognition: Identify your own tastes when making and looking at art, develop personal opinions and preferences.
Understand that there are different ways of approaching and answering tasks and problems.
Learn to make appropriate choices when making, based on your experiences, preferences and that suit the demands of the task.
I’ve developed these targets further, into Year by Year targets that not get progressively more complex but are also tailored to three ability stands. You can download these for a small fee of £6.99 here
Developing different approaches to Art
It’s important, when teaching art to understand that there are many different approaches to the making process. More often than not, art teacher lean towards a ‘Teacher-led’ approach, where they plan every stage of the learning out. This is fine in many cases, but creates very dependent pupils over time. By the word approaches I don’t mean techniques, such as painting, drawing or print etc. What I’m describing is the type of activity you create.
For example you could just pick up a pencil to draw something, but draw what? If you simply copy a picture you like then we’d call that a direct approach, which means just getting on and doing an art activity. A more complex form of this approach is called active learning. But there are also other ways to approach this drawing activity. If we photograph the drawing we could import it to a computer and use software to create digital art. We could draw something from observation or we could invent an imaginary picture. All of these are different art approaches and by knowing a wide repertoire of them you can make your art lessons much more fun and exciting. In fact, you can take the same theme and adapt it in many ways simply by altering the approach you take. It really is key to improving the kind of art you teach.
And rather than reinventing the wheel when thinking of ideas for art projects, you can just adapt and refine the art activities you do already to make them fresh and interesting. For example; let’s say you are doing a project based on puppets. You might typically approach this activity like this:
- Research different puppet designs
- Create an idea for a puppet
- Make the puppet
But by applying different approaches you can really add some excitement:
- Stimulus – instead of simply showing puppet pictures, use drama and physical movement to act and move like a puppet, then make studies and drawings of these movements and poses.
- Questioning – What were some of the different reasons people made puppets? By knowing the reasons why people made puppets your pupils have a greater understanding to be able to make more meaningful puppets of their own.
- Pupil led – How would you make a puppet if you had no teacher input? This could be assemblage, where you provide a range of scrap, found objects and challenge them to make puppets from them.
- Design – ‘Design a puppet for . . .’ but add design constraints such as; ‘you must use these shapes or objects, you cannot use colour etc.’
- Artist led – Research some different puppet designs to use as influence for your own design.
- Ideas – Develop an idea for a puppet using a tennis ball as a starting point.
- Observation – Simply draw a puppet from observation, using first or second hand sources.
Do you see how it is the approaches you take that create interest, variety and stimulus? When you become familiar with different approaches you might begin to add some more of your own because there are even more than the ones I’ve mentioned here!
The eBook I’ve created describes twelve different art approaches you can use in your teaching. They will help you to redefine what you do to make it much more exciting.
Ten tips for improving the quality of your Art & Design teaching
It’s very easy to get lost in the frantic world of teaching. You get caught up in the day to day and sometimes you forget what is at the heart of good learning. Here are some suggestions that I feel will help focus your teaching to create more effective students that are prepared for exam art.
1. There isn’t a mysterious set of art skills that define a pupil’s art ability
and get you good exam results
• It’s easy to get caught up in the mistaken idea that pupils come to you with inherant art skills that define their ability in the subject and this in turn shapes your exam results. You only need to take a look at the Turner Prize to see this is wrong. Creativity takes many forms, there are a wide array of ways into art and you can be a successful artist without having the ability to draw traditionally. The key point to deliver here is that pupils need to understand that art is many different things and that you as the teacher have to provide the means for them to find their own way to make art.
• The art content that is taught should not be merely a reflection of the teachers tastes and decisions about what should be taught, but be a product of the pupils own tastes, interests and inclinations.
• Pupils should regularly have the opportunity to make art that is a reflection of their own tastes, interests and preferences with minimal direction from the teacher in terms of content. The teacher might direct the pupil to demonstrate a particular learning objective, but still keep the focus for demonstrating that learning open.
2. There are many different approaches to making art
• As well as the traditional, teacher-led, observational or the familiar design and make approaches your pupils should understand and become familiar with other approaches such as direct, questioning, cognitive, sensory, imagination led etc. these should be explored fully. Teachers need to learn these themselves, in order to make their lessons more exciting and interesting.
These aren’t the type of materials your pupils use or even a process such as exploring, but a different way in to making art.
3. Teaching pupils to be able to create original, exciting ideas does not come from direct instruction, it is a cognitive skill that has to be taught
• You can’t just instruct your students to think of ideas, you have to teach them how! Creative thinking skills can be taught and your teaching should deliver exercises that provide challenge, reward and improve innovation and originality. Ideas can be surface ideas or they can get progressively more complex and you should show pupils how to be increasingly sophisticated to reflect their thoughts. They need to understand different ways to stimulate the grey matter, where and how to find inspiration and how to present it once they have found it.
4. A sketchbook isn’t always a book and you don’t always have to sketch in it
• Sketchbooks can and should take many forms and be presented in personal ways that might be built out of the advice of best practice as illustrated by the teacher, but they should not forced upon the pupils. A sketchbook might be traditional and strategies to improve presentation might be taught but again; possibilities should be offered not dictated. A sketchbook may be also be more of a journal; part written, part drawing. It might be a digital folder in a piece of software that can capture ideas, thoughts, pictures and drawings on a smart phone such as Evernote or One note. A photographer might use an app such as Instagram or Flickr. Another method may simply be to present rough investigations and sketches on a sheet or in a decorative folder. The key is to allow pupils to offer pupils possibilities to explore and find the most suitable method for them, then show them ways to present these as successfully as they can.
5. Artistic influences should be the pupils’ not the teachers
• Don’t even get me started about teachers controlling art outcomes with THEIR influences and direction. It angers me so much that their pupils whole art experience is controlled by what they deem to be ‘good art.’
Pupils should build a visual scrapbook of their own artistic influences and sources that are shaped by their personal interests not merely reflect sources that the teacher has deemed to be inspirational. The teacher might provide places for pupils to look; Colossal, Pinterest etc. as a way of supporting, but there should be minimal influence from a teacher. If the pupil fills a book full of Hello Kitty images then so be it! The teacher might use this interest to develop deeper appreciation of more sophisticated and relevant sources (such as Takahaski Murakami) but the skill is in building on pupils own interests and offering possibilities, not forcing ideas onto people.
6. Use artistic sources for real learning not for surface decoration, book and page filling or for objective meeting
• Pupils should learn how to select from the work of other artists in ways that are appropriate to their intentions. It is pointless to simply ask pupils to research artists without there being a focus for the investigation. If this is simply; ‘find artists who have worked on a theme’ then the responses will be merely surface responses. The focus should be more insightful and related to a technique or process that is being learned that in turn, improves the pupil’s own skills. It could be an investigation of the interpretation of an idea, exploring different ways in which artists have executed the same thing, looking at the messages and meanings behind what they’ve done.
• Pupils should become familiar with reading and using subliminal, hidden and symbolic meanings in art, in much the same way as they learn about metaphor, simile, analogy and allegory in English.
7. Good researching skills need to be taught, they don’t come naturally to pupils
• When researching, pupils should learn how to find and locate information on the internet, in libraries and in books. Most will learn some of these skills in other subject areas, but it should be reinforced and built upon in art so that transferability is ensured. Besides, you want to ensure that pupils can identify the credibility of the pages they are looking at, how to identify the key words and phrases they need to input to identify particular information in a browser. They should know how to find, locate and validate the sources they find, filter for image size, date produced, country and other search tools and how to give credit for the work they have found. They should know how to read text in different ways, to scanning, skimming, extensive etc. how to locate and identify only what is relevant to them then discard the rest, recognise, validate and give suitable credit to the original writer. They should know how to adapt and reinterpret what they have read and written to show understanding and so that they can reapply new meanings to it.
8. Presentation should be personal interpretation, not a barometer of your expectations by which to measure people
• When presenting investigations, pupils should understand how to skilfully present information in different ways, not only to present it for personal preference but for suitability to the task or the audience. If you direct the outcomes of presentation to meet your own expectations then you invite failure, because not everyone will be able to meet them. But if you offer a more diverse range of ways in which pupils can present work to suit their own learning style then you invite success.
9. Learning to evaluate is more important than learning to draw
• Evaluation should be seen as a constant, ongoing process that informs every decision, not just a summary process to record the learning journey. Pupils should learn how artists critique their own work, learn to utilise other’s opinions and use critical opinion as a positive springboard for future directions. Not everyone will learn to draw well but they can and should learn to evaluate because they can apply evaluation skills to their whole life; choosing which dress to buy, how to decorate their room, which girl to date, it’s all evaluation!
10. Assessment should be a positive, happy, classroom learning experience
• First and foremost, assessment is a process for the benefit of the pupil to help them to improve and to motivate. It should build and develop skills and confidence. It might indicate possible future directions, but it should reward and praise where possible it should make pupils feel good about what they have done and make them want to try again, to keep learning and participating.