art assessment

Key Stage 3 Art, Craft and Design Progression

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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.

Table Blooms

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;

  1. INCLUSIVITY for pupil’s of all abilities, to show them that you can be good at art regardless of traditional art ability.
  2. PERSONAL interpretation that allows pupils to investigate the visual world that appeals to them most and isn’t too teacher directed.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. EVALUATION as a constant, ongoing thinking process that informs every decision, and that other’s opinions can really help them to develop and grow.
  6. METACOGNITION as a means for pupils to confidently explore and identify personal preferences, develop understanding and complexity of thinking and approach.
  7. CREATIVITY as a diverse and valuable skill that can be applied in many different areas outside of art.
  8. IDEAS generation, from the use of direct purposeful solutions through to the understanding of deep, complex, metaphors and symbols.
  9. PRESENTATION as a personal and diverse process that can be tailored to suit learning styles.
  10. PROCESS when making as a complex, often unresolved, exploratory, non linear, experimental thinking journey that may or may not result in final outcomes.
  11. ANNOTATION as a means of adding something extra, for understanding, or for explaining choices, influences or how problems have been overcome.
  12. 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



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

Baseline testing – Benchmarking in Art

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Screenshot 2015-11-02 12.50.41

Download the test

Art teachers, like all teachers have to demonstrate that their students are making progression under their tutelage. This implies that you need to define a starting point for your students and this is good practice since you can’t teach anyone anything unless you identify what they know and can do already. Traditionally, art teachers use an introductory project, executed over the first term and assess that. The problem with this method is that your introductory project will inevitably vary from year to year and teacher to teacher and in doing so, so will your assessments. Also, school leaders often demand a much faster snapshot of pupil ability for their data records, so the teacher may not have the time for a full assessment to be made. Now, many teachers find the notion of testing students unsavoury, but I never told the pupils I was delivering a formal test, I simply did the exercises with them in class.

I developed this baseline test over several years, with many trials and errors, until I had one that was quick, effective and that could be done (and marked) in class with the minimal effort on my part. This test takes about an hour to perform and mark, but the additional homework activity is carried over to the following week.

Baseline testing in art Any baseline assessment you use should identify the pupils current starting point in the areas of the Programme of Study you are going to deliver. In the Uk, the curriculum expects its pupils to learn to

Improve their skills at making art 

Generate ideas for their art

Extend their knowledge of art and artists

Evaluate their own and other’s art.

So this implies that I need to measure the pupil’s starting point in these four areas. So I designed classroom exercises to identify the pupil’s:

  1. Basic drawing skills
  2. Level of imagination
  3. Literacy level
  4. Ability to find and interpret information independently.

Basic drawing skills

I ask the students to draw a cube from a given starting point. All pupils learn to draw 3D shapes from a young age (usually about seven years) so this shouldn’t pose a problem. However, in my many years as a teacher of maths, I noticed that many students struggle with spatial awareness and 3D problem solving. In addition, I noticed a direct correlation between this spatial problem and drawing ability because drawing depends on 3D spatial awareness. So I don’t need to spend time doing a full drawing exercise to draw something from observation and shade it, because I can establish drawing ability much more quickly and concisely through the rendering of 3D shapes. So i provide a simple diagram of the beginning of a cube and ask the students to complete it.

Screenshot 2015-11-02 12.50.22

Drawing test (ten minutes): Draw or show the arrow diagram below on the white board. Get the students to copy this onto A4 paper. Do not allow students to use rulers and leave space at the top of the paper for further drawing.

Task 1:. Turn this diagram into a 3D cube (10 minutes approx.) note: It is important that you don’t help the students to do this.


  • Advanced spatial awareness – potentially has exceptional drawing skills. Draws the cube quickly and/or with skill and accuracy, using perspec- tive different to the one suggested (might even ignore the whiteboard diagram)Screenshot 2015-11-02 13.26.16

  • Confident spatial awareness – High/average ability. Constructs a cube in the correct perspective, connects all or most corners correctly and lines are approximately parallel. Can draw lines freely without using a ruler.

     Screenshot 2015-11-02 13.26.25


  • Struggling with spatial awareness – Average/Lower ability. Numerous ef- forts to attempt the task fail to completely convince or there might even be an adaption of the task to suit an easier method, such as front view perspective where two 2D squares are overlapped and the corners are joined. A cube might have been completed, but the lines are not parallel and deviate considerably from the correct angles.

    Screenshot 2015-11-02 13.28.19


  • Weak spatial awareness – Low ability. Unable to complete the task with- out assistance.

Usually, about 5- 10% of eleven year old students draw the cube using advanced perspective, (less in Primary). The remaining students will usually be spilt between typical and struggling spatial awareness, depending on the ability of the class and a tiny proportion will be unable to do it. What this reveals is that those who draw the cube correctly will be able to access most or all of your curriculum and will generally do well in art. Those with spatial awareness problems by ten or eleven years old are usually going to struggle with realistic drawing and will need more specialist help. 

Level of Imagination – To look for this I developed variations on a traditional psychometric test, the paper clip game (another variation of this is a drawing of a assymetric shape on a piece of paper). Participants must think of as many uses for a paper clip as they can. In my variation, rather than simply rewarding the pupil’s ability to think of multiple responses, many of which might be vague, I extended the exercise to examine the pupils’ ability to apply their imagination to a drawing.

Imagination test part 1 – On the reverse side of the drawing, set the pupils the task to list as many objects they can think of that the cube could be turned into. Note: It is important that you don’t help the students to do this. For example: You could turn the cube into a TV, a House or Dice, (15 minutes).

Marking this section is always done as peer marking in lesson, where we swop answers and typical scores are usually similar to this:

  • 0-10 = below average imagination.
  • 10-20 = average imagination.
  • 20-30 = good imagination.
  • 30 or over = very good imagination.
  • 40 or over = exceptional imagination.

Eliminate any answers that are wrong, duplicated or completely random or unclear. These results give you a good idea about a person’s ability to think visually and the breadth of their visual literacy. The higher the score, the more visually literate they are. Quite astonishingly, very highly skillful artists often struggle with this task.

Imagination test part 2Imaginative realisation. Draw a new cube of any size onto a fresh sheet of paper or you can draw on top of the first cube drawing. Now, look at the list of objects you have just made. Create an imaginative picture from the most original and interesting object on your list. Create a whole scene, including background, there no rules to this except that you should be able to make out where the original cube was. For example: You might have written TV on your list, therefore you might create a picture of a TV in an interesting and unusual scene.

You begin to see patterns emerging when you look at whole samples. One idea might have ‘caught on’ and spread around the class or you see repetitions of X-Boxes, Playstation’s, CD players, Houses and vehicles. When you get original ideas they stand out. Clearly, some people might be weak at drawing but have original ideas and vice versa. Many of the most talented artists in my classes have very weak imaginations and this test brings this to light. When a student has added rich details, back- grounds, perhaps even colour and have cleverly adapted and manipulated the cube you should score highly.

It is fairly straightforward to separate the outcomes of this task into these ability strands:

  1. Highly Skillful and Imaginative. Creates a highly imaginative and skillful picture that is original and well executed. The picture makes use of space, considering background, detail and perspective.
  2. Confident level of skill and imagination. A good outcome has been pro- duced that adapts and manipulates the cube to suit the student’s inten- tions. There is evidence of consideration given to background and de- tail, though some of the quality of the execution might be a little lacking.
  3. Developing level of skill and imagination. The drawing is highly depend- ent on borrowed ideas or there might be a considerable lack of skill in outcomes or little evidence. There is evidence of a clear struggle to achieve the class standard.

In the imaginative realisation drawing you should give consideration to:

  • Adapting and manipulating the cube to conform to their own idea.
  • Using multiple and repeat cubes to create more complex ideas.
  • Consideration given to background to make the cube part of a scenic composition.
  • Creation of depth, perspective and spatial awareness.
  • Consideration of the whole drawing.

I usually mark this in class with the pupils in a discussion/peer/self informal manner. Then I would record only one mark in my marks book from an average of the two test scores as exceptional, high, middle, low, SEN.

Evaluation test – Literacy Level: This is easy because I simply ask the English depart- ment for the pupil’s reading age. This gives me vital information about the literacy level of the pupil (and the class) that tells me how able they are to access my teaching materials, how good their written and verbal responses will be and in short, how effective their evaluation skills are. I’ll record them again as; exceptionally high reading age, high reading age, normal average, low and very low SEN.

Knowledge test – Ability to find and interpret information independently: The pupils are given a question on the board which they must write down then complete at home. The question is: “Who is the mysterious stranger in the painting ‘the bar at the Folies-Bergére’ by Edouard Manet 1881”. Present your answers in the most creative manner you feel appropriate.

What I’m asking my students to do is to find out what this painting is (a quick browser search), read about it, identify that there are many different opinions on who he is but no one really knows and then present this answer creatively in their own manner. Yes they can ask their friend in form time but they’d still score low/no marks because the quality of their response is poor. The ability to do this is crucial to the type of work they will need for GCSE. You are testing their ability to work independently and form critical opinions about art. I mark mine as a simple; exceptional, high, middle, low, SEN and no mark.


So now you will have scores in four areas of making, ideas, knowledge and evaluation and it’s only taken one quite interesting lesson and we’ve marked it in class. I’ll get the homework scores the following week and add the reading ages later. You can see now that I have very informative data to inform my planning and teaching. I can see who is skilful but lacking in imagination and vice-versa, I know how literate my classes are and how independently they can find and interpret information. I know who is potentially Gifted and Talented and who is especially weak. 

 Screenshot 2015-11-02 13.49.37


Creating creative lessons and happy, independent students

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Creating Creative lessons and happy, independent students

by Paul Carney


                      When PLANNING AND PREPARING for creative lessons consider:

The creativity you want to tap into
Is it a new experience or a new way of seeing, is it relative to their interests or does it feed into their imagination? Is it to discover new forms of expression with new or familiar materials? Will they express opinions about the world they live in? How will they do that? How can you maximise the criteria of success so that the maximum number of students succeed? Make CREATIVITY your focal point NOT quality of outcomes.

You are restricting creativity if you write projects based on copying artists or movements
Whenever you deliver a project through a single artist or art movement you are narrowing the range of outcomes so that they all resemble each other. Nor should you begin a project by studying an artists work. The study of an artist should be purely to help solve a problem or look for possibilities. You may think the artist you have chosen for them to look at is very relevant to their learning needs, but they are bombarded with images every day. Chances are they will think your great artist is at best ok, but more often than not dull.  

Art isn’t a production line there shouldn’t be only one style of outcome
If all of the outcomes of your project look similar then it is likely that your students have merely followed a step-by-step learning route carefully laid down by you. You may have a high standard of outcomes and the students may have improved their skill, but this has come at great cost to you. Your students now feel that they need you to show them what to do and that they cannot learn things by themselves. They wait for you to show them what to do next. If you define the outcomes of the project too clearly you remove possibilities because the students will merely imitate what you have shown them. 

Teach skills for life not just learning in parrot fashion
If you only teach skills and techniques by teacher demonstration then the students feel that if they cannot mimic you they have failed. The internet is awash with web sites and videos on art techniques. So why not Flip the Classroom? If you show them how to teach themselves and they fail they will accept help more readily and feel less of a failure. Teach them that their failed efforts are important to learning.

Don’t do displays of grades or show samples of completed work, encourage possibilities
If you show samples of successful outcomes or exemplar project material on walls, then most students will copy what you have shown them and do no more. These lovely outcomes and displays actually restrict creativity and limit possibilities. The unknown may be daunting but this uncertainty is what will lead to creative outcomes. Don’t be frightened of it!

Encouraging enthusiasm is more important than insisting on quality
By holding your students back to complete each stage of a project to a high standard then you might as well destroy the project now, because your students will lose all of their enthusiasm. There is a balance here that the teacher needs to gauge using formative assessment. Not too fast that they haven’t thought it through, not too slow that the idea dies. You may lose this battle in terms of high outcomes, but with enthusiasm you will win the war. 

You’re not in a race, so there isn’t a single starting line
Good assessment involves knowing individual starting points. So if you don’t allow for different starting points then you are selling your students short. What do they know about this project before you begin? Where do the less able begin and is it the same place as the most able? Should they all be doing the same tasks at the same speed if the ability is so different? 

Grades are gross
Research has shown that teaching to grades means all you do is label and categorise your students. They see the grade then they stop wanting to learn. You may motivate the competitive, determined minority but you demotivate and kill the enthusiasm of the majority. By stipulating: ‘this is what you need to do to be successful’ or a get higher grade you risk turning them off with ‘I can’t do that!’ By reminding your students of their strengths and clearly identifying their starting point and a goal, they are free to enjoy their learning experience and focus on tangible goals not grades. E.g. “My goal is to create a detailed drawing and apply shading” not “I have to do a good drawing to get a good grade.” In the exam world you have to play a game of providing the grade targets the managers insist you give out whilst undermining their importance and relevance in the classroom. This sounds controversial, but labelling children like this leads to student anxiety, stress and demoralisation, rarely to aspirational ambition. Having a focus and set of standards is one thing, but you can do all of that more effectively without branding young people with a grade before they’ve even started.

Don’t use your student’s ability as an excuse for limiting creativity
You might feel that tightly controlling the outcomes is the best way for your student’s to make art and perhaps it is. You may feel that your students aren’t the sort of students who can work more freely and need structure. This is often true but you don’t have to spoon feed them either. How will they learn anything? Less able students often prefer to work in smaller, easily achievable stages. Short learning stages don’t necessarily mean being short changed on choice. More able students should be learning the techniques of the very highest standards. Questions can be easy or hard, therefor they can be differentiated. You may ask one student: ‘How can you make your shading appear more smooth and even?’ yet ask another ‘How can you shade large areas quickly and more easily without having to use a pencil point?’ These questions require very different skills sets and they take the teacher time to develop, but they are worth their weight in gold.

                                  When DELIVERING projects you should:

Remind your students of the creative thought process:

1. I’m excited about my idea

2. My idea isn’t going well

3. I hate my work

4. I’m proud of my work, I did ok.

5. Next time I need to….

1. Begin lessons and projects with questions
Good questions are very hard to write, but unlike schemes of work, once written they never get stale. They also remove the need for you to provide lots of reference material. No more printing out thirty copies of an artists work. Write questions that strike a chord with your audience, relate them to the interests of the group or issues that affect them. Pitch your questions just right, not too easy, not too difficult but ones that can’t be answered easily. Raise curiosity, allow thinking time, support the question with visual prompts and discussion. Give further questions that expand on the original, that provide focus and platforms for further development. Encourage diversity of response, show them that success can be attained in different ways, using a range of skills and outcomes. Eliminate the ‘do as I show you’ path to success. Teach your students that success can have many faces.

2. Open minds
Foster opportunities, encourage possibilities, germinate the seeds of interest whilst steering the group into recording their ideas and trains of thought as sketches, observations, photos or words. Don’t kill their excitement by demanding fully resolved ideas at this stage. If you make your students spend ages creating beautiful ideas pages they will almost certainly be bored with the idea. However do insist on ideas being fully thought out. Encourage identification of personal strengths and working to those strengths, developing on what they can do, rather than trying to learn things they can’t do. Students will develop if and when they have confidence to try something new. But give them that confidence first.
Student questions: how will I make it, what colour will it be, what materials will I need? what size will it be, do I need to find things for it? 

3. Get them to scrutinise the quality of the idea
Use peer assessment or circle time to challenge the ideas. Build confidence whilst ensuring the students have realistic expectations. 
Student questions: How original is it? How feasible is it to make? What is good, what could be improved? Should I revise my idea? What problems am I likely to encounter and how can I overcome them? Will this idea be too easy or too hard? 

4. Teach them where to find a helping hand
The primary focus of this stage is to get the students looking for ways to help them realise their idea more successfully. By focussing them into identifying what materials they want to work in, they can then find others who are experts using this material so that they can learn from them. This isn’t a single process, it can be revisited if the student is struggling at any stage.
Encourage the students to find artists that can support and strengthen their idea and do not to provide solutions for them. Be wary of providing the artists names because you are doing the thinking for your students and removing the ownership. Instead, direct them to a bank of sources, a place where you keep lots of relative source material. Only use this as a back up when you see failure to identify supporting sources or where you want them to expand on what they have. Don’t spend too long making your students create beautiful pages of artist study. Focus purely on what they need to support and develop their idea and no more. Anything less means your students won’t have learned what they need, anything more and it is counter productive to creativity.
Student questions: Who has done similar ideas before? Are there artists who work in a style or material I want to learn from? What sources or images do I need and where can I get them from? 

5. Give them a bank of skills and techniques to access whenever they need it
Have they correctly identified what they need to realise their idea? Do they know what they need to develop? Have they found the most effective and creative materials to realise their ideas?  Place the emphasis on the student looking for places where skills and techniques can be learned rather than providing them. There is a huge web of resources where students can learn new skills, share this knowledge with the group.
Student Questions: What skills and techniques will I need to realise this idea? Do I have the ability to realise the idea successfully? What will I need to learn or develop? Where can I learn these skills and techniques from? Is the teacher the only source for learning these skills? 

6. Let them get on with it
Don’t hold them back any longer or the idea will die. It is better to keep the idea alive and let them get on with it than holding them back with process that will destroy their enthusiasm. Agree to begin a first draft, trial maquette, test piece, or experimental section. 
Student questions: Evaluate. What is working, what problems need to be overcome? Do I need to revise the idea in light of the test piece? Do I need more source material or to develop my skills more?

7. Make it on your own
Each session should begin with 5 minutes planning and prep time. They must write down what they need for the lesson. You get what they need then after that the shop is shut, you will not provide them with anything else. They must not ask you for help in the making session either. No shouting out, no tugging at your clothes. If they want help they write their name on the board and wait until you can get to them. You will find making a lot less stressful! You will be freed up to give quality advice and support. .
Student questions: what is working well? What do three people in class think of my work? What advice have they given me to improve it?

8. Consider my success, learn to improve
What worked well in my final piece? What do others think of it? What can I learn from this to take into my next piece? Why should I be proud of what I’ve done? 

Hang on mate, there’s one thing you’ve glossed over here. You’ve told my students that they don’t have to have fully resolved ideas or neat pages of artists work. They won’t get the grade with this standard of work!
Well, your coursework only has to show samples of work doesn’t it? Can’t you do an artists study piece in isolation of this project? Couldn’t the student select an artist they admire at random and make a personal investigation into their work? As for ideas pages, I’m not a fan of working over completed work so you may need to prepare for this beforehand. Make some pages of prepared grounds such as spattered watercolour, coffee or charcoal. This will make weaker ideas look stronger. If you must work back into things then I suppose you must, you can always get your students to glue photographs or extra source material near the half drawn ideas.

Assessment PPI CLAIM

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Flipchart from a recent assessment training session
Flipchart from a recent assessment training session

I do a lot of training courses on assessment across the UK for both Primary and Secondary colleagues and I ALWAYS end up telling teachers that they are doing too much, too often, wearing themselves out and panicking the pupils.

Well it’s time teachers made a PPI CLAIM

P – Pupil friendly

P – Positive

I – Instructional

C – Class-based

L – Light

A – A lot less stressful for teacher!

I – Inspiring

M – Meaningful

Assessment is a classroom activity. The minute you take it out of the classroom it ceases to be meaningful, unless you use Reflective Time to allow students to study your comments and work to put right the comments you have made. Grading work is heinous because all they do is create a feeling of competition, and for most a deflated feeling. In subjects such as mathematics of course numerical comparisons will always be made; “I beat you on the test, I got ten out of ten!” etc. But even here, the emphasis should be on personal improvement and the awarding of grades and scores should be done private. Some competition is good, but only when you willingly enter into it. I would never read out a whole class of test scores because it has a detrimental effect on most.

What is worse than that though is Senior Leaders who, panicking under the strain of constant OFSTED changes inflict huge burdens on teachers to produce personal assessment for every pupil. They provide Target Tracking booklets, insist they have to be completed every two weeks with, effort grades, attainment grades, and written comments for WWW (What Went Well) and EBI (Even Better If.) If I teach six classes of 25 pupils a week in Secondary that’s 150 pupils. Even at a modest 5 minutes per pupil (that’s rushing it) that amounts to twelve and half hours extra work just to complete the Tracking Booklet!! It’s the same at Primary because they swop different classes for different subjects so it’s probably even longer.


What on earth is happening? This is a monumental burden to place on teachers and it’s both unfair and unnecessary. Assessment is not a judgement passed from Teacher to Pupil. Assessment is a process of self-awareness. It should be a classroom activity, it should be light and streamlined, positive and inspiring. I should create an environment where pupils can realise what they have learned, what progress they have made and what they need to do to get better. Self-assessment, peer assessment, small group assessment activities, teacher tutorials, verbal, formative, instructional but NEVER a pointless teacher burden of writing endless comments on a tracking sheet.

Besides which, why aren’t schools using those shiny iPads to make assessment easier? You can do most assessment on a smart phone these days, record yr voice, speak type etc. and email it to the pupil.

Check this video out of a ‘mock’ assessment I did on my phone using Claris Sketch. You can use ExplainEverything on iPhone

Make your assessment PPI CLAIM today

NSEAD assessment & progression without levels guidance

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NSEAD assessment & progression without levels guidance

NSEAD (National Society Education in Art & Design) has published assessment & progression guidance for art, craft and design for Year 1 to Year 9 to replace Levels. 

I am lucky enough to have worked on the document as part of the assessment expert group. It has taken us a long time to produce, and the leaders of the group; Dan China and Ged Gast have done a brilliant job.

You are free to download them and use them in your classroom. They will make assessing in a level-less world a breeze!!

Outstanding Assessment in Art 2014

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I’m running a course for Osiris Education on assessing without levels. It’s being held in Manchester, Birmingham and London in March. Click the link to get more details.