The Negative Impact of Assessment

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Negative Pressure of Assessment
the Negative Impact of Assessment

Assessment does as much harm as it does good. Overtime you labour over those purple pen comments or tedious rubric boxes that you have slavishly produced, please bear in mind that from the pupil’s perspective you have as much chance of damaging their learning as you do enhancing it. Creativity is such a soul bearing, anxious process that you have every chance of damaging their will to keep wanting to create.

Pupils assess themselves more than you ever will. They put themselves in boxes of ‘I can’t do that’ or ‘I’ll never be able to’ and at the same time they elevate everyone else to high plateau’s. In Early Years education, pupils have a habit of assessing themselves as brilliant at everything. They seem to have such a pride and excitement at what they’ve made that they can’t help themselves. Fast forward to Secondary and the picture is almost entirely negative. It’s as though school is teaching them that they CAN’T do things rather than the opposite. For all your high impact learning resources and dynamic lessons, that have taken you yonks to produce, the majority of pupils feel frustration, doom and despondency. Add to that the plethora of targets, grades, levels or whatever your school enforces on your students and you have a disaster waiting to happen.

The most important aspect you have to address is confidence. You have to work hard from about mid-primary onwards to really address the creative frustration that builds up inside their heads. Pupils have a strong tendency to compare themselves against others and when someone pulls out a brilliant piece of work the whole class can be left feeling completely useless. Creativity is like that, so you have to make it clear that we don’t compare ourselves to others in art, we focus on our own learning journey. This takes time, it doesn’t happen overnight.

I’ve written much more about this in my Art Teacher’s Handbook, available from my website at but essentially the message is clear. You, the teacher, have to shelter your pupils from the wealth of negativity that fills their headband surrounds the learning process in order to make it a positive, enriching experience. You should use assessment to:

  • Apply meaningful praise
  • Inspire your pupils to want to keep learning
  • Show them pupils they can improve with constructive advice
  • Recognise the personal attainment and progress that has been made from their own starting points



Durer Drawing and Printmaking

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(Albrecht Durer | Draftsman Drawing a Reclining Woman | Woodcut | 1525)
In the Durer illustration above, you can see how he has created a vertical window onto which he has drawn a grid which corresponds to a grid on his paper. He uses this as a kind of real-time tracing method which really helps improve observational drawing for the less able.
My Method:
I devised a simple, modern version of this exercise and adapted it for print.
It requires a thin piece of clear perspex about A3 in size which may or may not be divided into squares using red or blue permanent marker (the squares are great for the less able). The perspex is fixed vertically to the desk using generous blobs of blue tac, but if you are of a technical nature you might create a more sturdy frame and stand. The window is positioned in front of the item to be drawn from observation and the student draws it. You can draw it in two ways;
1. Draw directly onto a sheet of paper and simply use the grid on the perspex to help you divide the object into smaller, more manageable shapes.
2. Draw onto the perspex using a whiteboard marker and create a print. Once the drawing is complete, the perspex is flipped over and placed marker ink side down onto a piece of white paper (so you can see the drawing clearly) and fixed in place with tape.
Next, use printing ink (not paint) and a brush, to build layers of coloured onto the perspex. Be careful not to make the ink too thick and not too light or it won’t print properly. You can now can print a few mono prints from the perspex. Once dry, you can work back into the print if you like.
Acetate printing
Example of acetate print block produced from observational still life
If you wish, you might just want to use the perspex image to make a drawing, rather than a mono print. You can do this by placing the perspex marker side face down onto a piece of paper. The paper is then rubbed gently and the board marker ink is lightly transferred to the paper. If this method isn’t successful, you can trace it and transfer using traditional tracing paper methods or use a light box. From there you can begin drawing over the transferred image.
Example of a print made by the photo method


You can use this printmaking method to create prints from photos. Just place the photo under the acetate and paint the printing ink over to create your own version of it.

You can also use a digital method. Just take a photo of the still life then trace it using an app such as Tracing Paper, Calrisketch, Explain Everything etc. But its much more fun the Dürer way!

This lesson was designed and developed by Paul Carney. Visit for more exciting lessons

Stop Grading Art

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Superb thoughts on art assessment from across the pond. I especially love the rubric that highlights ‘look for’s’ and in turn teaches students good working practices


Last year I had the brilliant idea to give a presentation to art educators called Stop Teaching Art. Classy, right?! This year, I presented the sequel: Stop Grading Art!


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Picasso Drawing exercise

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Whilst looking at Picassos lovely sketches of animals in a single continuous line, it occurred to me that this would make a lovely drawing lesson.

Create your own animal drawing using a single continuous line.

Lots of art teachers do continuous line lessons but this goes one step further: the children have to reduce a complex image by simplifying it and they are learning that lines can be fluid and have rythmn. As if that wasn’t enough learning its also challenging and fun!


Memory Art

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Memory Art
I learned this exercise from a session i did at the Baltic Quays gallery, Gateshead. It was in a session done by art teacher Elinor Brass so it isn’t mine, but I’m sure she won’t mind me sharing it on my blog. It is a beautiful exercise that I loved doing a lot.
First, spend ten minutes writing down your memories of childhood play onto a sheet of coloured paper using a black pen. It doesn’t have to be this theme, you can alter it of course, but be careful to choose something that evokes powerful feeling or strong memories.
I spent ten minutes writing my childhood memories of play. It was very emotional!!
Once you have completed the ten minutes (I found it very emotional and inspiring) you need to cut the written text up into smaller chunks of text, perhaps selecting word relationships deliberately, or randomly cutting or tearing them. Next, arrange the word pieces onto a sheet of A3 white paper (or whatever really) into an interesting design, thinking of your word combinations and patterns.
I cut around certain words that I’d selected with interesting interplay
Now study what you have made. What stands out for you? Which word relationships are the most powerful and why? Discuss your thoughts in a small group or with a partner.
Now you should select a word or words to create a piece art in any style you wish. You might use paper techniques to depict your words (perhaps shine a torch on what you make for added dramatic lighting) or you might produce a drawing from memory in charcoal on large sugar paper. It’s up to you, what materials are available or what your artistic stregths are. I’d just keep the materials restricted at first. You can work representationally, abstract or through shape, pattern, texture, graphics, digital, photography. I chose to represent something that meant a great deal to me as a kid and still does as an adult. Me and my mates always tried to make our own goals as kids. I decided to add my word play memories as the net. It was great learning. The people created entirely abstract art, some produced patterns of flowers and one girl made a kitchen!!!
I made my goal from drinking straws and coloured paper.

Assessment in Art CPD courses

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I have a couple of teacher training courses coming up for Osiris on Assessment in art:

18th November in Manchester
2nd December in London

Full details here

I try to ensure that the assessment techniques I demonstrate are practical, classroom based, easy on the teacher but informative for the pupil.
I was lucky enough to work with the NSEAD advisory group that worked on the art subject competencies.

I can promise you a great day that you should get a lot out of!

Progression in Art & Design using revised Blooms

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Bloom’s Taxonomy is probably the most used taxonomy of learning in the world. It’s success is phenomenal and primarily due to it’s simplicity, relevancy and progressive, logical approach. However, Bloom himself said that his research was the most used yet least read research ever. He admitted it wasn’t complete and in truth, the almost fanatical zeal with which teachers use it belies the fact that they only usually use one area of its whole approach. Teachers who still use only the six strands of the single cognitive domain will find only limited success with it because it is lacking in key other learning domains.

Revised Blooms

Bloom’s model was revised in 2001 by a group of educational experts spearheaded by David Krathwohl (who worked on the original version) and Lorin Anderson. The revised version is simpler than Bloom’s three domains of learning and the cognitive domain is modified:

  1. Knowledge becomes REMEMBERING (recognise, remember, recall)
  2. Comprehension becomes UNDERSTANDING (illustrate, explain, trans- late, compare)
  3. Application becomes the verb APPLY (Carry out, execute, use, implement)
  4. Analysis becomes the verb ANALYSE (select, organise, deconstruct, discover, focus)
  5. Synthesis becomes EVALUATING (check, decide, test, monitor, make choices, modelling, appraising, critiquing)
  6. Evaluation becomes CREATING (design, make, construct, generate, produce)

This cognitive stage (which is where most schools stop using Bloom’s) is, in the new model, under-pinned by four different types of knowledge; factual, conceptual, procedural, metacognitive. The four stages increase in complexity from concrete factual knowledge to abstract metacognitive knowledge.

Four types of Knowledge

  • Factual Knowledge – what you need to know to do the task, terminology, details, facts.
  • Conceptual Knowledge – knowing how things work, so you can re- assemble them into different orders, principles, theories, behaviours.
  • Procedural Knowledge – the skills and techniques of doing things.
  • Metacognitive Knowledge – being aware of one’s learning abilities, past experiences and general cognition, understanding, strategy.

The four types of knowledge underpin all learning and if correctly applied there will be twenty-four separate and distinct learning objectives, six for each of the knowledge strands. I’ve created a table from these twenty-four learning areas so that you can readily interpret them and use them in your teaching. The learning objectives increase in complexity and demand from the concrete thinking skill of ‘Factual Remembering’ (in the top left corner) to the abstract thinking skill of ‘Metacognitive Creating’ (in the bottom right).

Revised Blooms Table for Art & Design by Paul Carney
Revised Blooms Table for Art & Design by Paul Carney

Download it here: Revised Bloom table Art & Design

The table has learning objectives that develop in complexity, cover the full range of art learning skills and which you can modify and adapt to schemes of work over the course of a few years. I think it could be simplified and used in Key Stage 1 where it will guide teachers to deliver important skills in practical subjects. It could certainly be integrated into Primary art, technology and with some revision, science too. And remember, I’ve adapted this to suit art (from a science model) so it could easily be adapted back again for other subjects.

Using this model I can easily see if a pupil has strengths or weaknesses in any of the four knowledge domains and much they have progress they make in the six learning strands. What’s important to bear in mind for the teacher is that just because the six learning strands increase in complexity it doesn’t mean that they are placed in sequential order. For example, you might teach procedural analysis before procedural application, i.e. you might try out techniques before you apply them. Besides, some creative tasks are so complex that they require the application of multiple facets of the learning model. What is interesting is that the model says that trying out different techniques is harder than applying them. I think this is correct because experimentation is very challenging.

Primary Elementary Art Progression using the table

I’ll show you an example of how these learning areas relate to aspects of the NSEAD progression model and how they relate to GCSE so you can be certain that by using it you are covering the requirements of the curriculum. In the table below you can see that the NSEAD’s Year 2 Making skills target is: ‘deliberately choose to use particular techniques for a given purpose.’ This target is exactly the same as metacognitive application in the revised Bloom’s model I’ve developed. Also: ‘develop and exercise some care and control over the range of materials they use’ is procedural understanding in the Bloom’s model.

Relating Primary NSEAD targets to my revised Blooms model
Relating Primary NSEAD targets to my revised Blooms model

Secondary Middle, High Progression using the table

You can track the whole NSEAD progression model and the curriculum (what there is of it) to this model. But it goes one step further, because for those of you teaching GCSE art, the model also ensures you are teaching your students the essential components for exam success, because Assessment Objective 1 demands the ability to develop conceptual work using factual creativity, assessment objective 2 is looking for your pupil’s ability to conceptually create using procedural analysis and assessment objective 3 is really just metacognitive evaluation for procedural application.

Relating GCSE targets to my revised Blooms model
Relating GCSE targets to my revised Blooms model

So with the Bloom’s revised model you are covering the essential components of art education from the very beginning years to the final years, with one simple and focussing set of learning objectives.

What’s more you can group objectives together into projects as you move along the diagonal to unsure continuity and progression. In this way, you will be able to pick out selected targets that you feel you need to focus on and group them together. Here, I’ve grouped targets along diagonals because this is where linear progression exists, but there’s no reason why you can’t select targets at levels of varying difficulty according to your student’s ability.

grouping targets

I think what I’ve produced here is concise, relevant and logical. I hope I’ve interpreted the work of the Revised Blooms model into one that you can adapt and adopt to suit your own school. It shouldn’t matter which key stage or age group you work in, the skills are the same, the table can still be applied.

Paul Nov 2015