Project Exemplars

I’ve been considering the best way to creating a portfolio of art teaching exemplars and how these could be organised. Usually what I would do is create a step-by-step project and this develops over the course of delivering a series of lessons, so that there is a final exemplar, but with all stages in between.

This could then be used as part of my portfolio of lessons units, which I can build upon and also as an internal school and department resource. It would be useful to add in pupil exemplars for different grading benchmarks or for additional development stages to be easily added on or where different development variations can be explored.

Making exemplars in school tends to get a bit messy (for me anyway) as I’m often doing them as I go along taking weekly breaks, particularly for BGE where they are only getting 1-2 periods of core Art & Design per week. These might be spaced out over multiple classes as well, with demonstrations being created before or shown during classes. It can be difficult finding or prioritising time to properly archiving projects, before having to move on to something new with a class or classes.

The stages of project development tend to be project planning & development, Learning Intentions & Social Goals, Physical Exemplar, Final Outcomes and Archived Exemplars. There is less focus for me in organising and archiving my projects and this is probably where the greatest opportunity to showcase teaching practice and outcomes, as well as providing internal project resources that would be useful for inspection or in showing how the BGE curriculum is implemented flexibly in Art & Design based on artist teacher practice based enquiry.

I’d like to develop:
– an ongoing hardcopy binder of exemplars that I can re-categorise as I go along.
– a one page project overview for each.
– Step by step project photos.
– digital pdf and physical copies of lesson sequences with exemplars.
– pupil exemplars at different ability levels (1, 2, 3 & 4).

So for example, I have the following completed projects to organise or update:
– Repeat pattern design
– Pop-up design
– Clay tiles
– Figure drawing
– Landscape painting
– Butterfly printmaking
– Stencil design
– Painting analysis
– Art vocabulary mark making
– Colour theory quiz

In progress or unfinished projects:
– Temporary tattoos
– Animal masks
– Design a fish
– Coiled pots
– Self-portraiture
– Still life

Photography:
– Ink drop photos
– Light painting
– Principles of photography
– Portraiture & self-portraiture

Current project examples:
– Stencils
– Clay Tile

Updated example projects:
to follow

Influence of pupil practice on teacher pedagogy and practice

It’s interesting how the pupil / teacher relationship can be balanced or unbalanced in one direction or the other and the way that pupils may influence teacher practice and the projects being completed in class.

For example, a search of photography terms may result in a pupil looking first at timelapse and then moving on to photography timeslices. A discussion with the teacher in turn may spark insight for a teacher’s teaching practice, in-class exemplars or their own personal practice. This happened last week with a pupil who is particularly reflective, but doesn’t necessarily appreciate the positive impact he has on others around him or the way he might spark the imagination of others and his own imagination.

Getting that level of engagement and balance right seems to lead to better engagement is class. Again, where pupils are given the option to paint in a process-led way, they may come up with ideas and outcomes that they had otherwise been limited in creating. To an extent you can follow a class’ lead then by giving them a little more freedom and by nurturing a culture of trust in the classroom.

Pupils were working on a tattoo design creating abstract, painted colour backgrounds and enjoying experimenting with colour, wetness and painted media in a way they haven’t been able to build up their skill before. That in turn, inspired me as their teacher and allowed a basis for their project to be restricted visually with design development led by the pupils themselves. Again, this seemed to lead to better engagement overall, at least on an anecdotal class level.

Sometimes the balance can seem one sided, either where the pupils behaviour defines what the class can engage in, or where the teacher’s lesson or project is deemed uninspiring by pupils. As a teacher you can feel like you are on to a losing battle and this can begin to create a negative relationship with a class. Process as well as subject and content can be used as  way to engage pupils, but there is also the argument that any process ought to be skills driven.

It’s not just about creating opportunities for a socially constructivist classroom where possible, but about getting to a point where there is a process-based back and forth between pupils and teachers and their work can impact on each other’s practice.

Critical studies

Over the last term I’ve been focused on teaching S4 & S5 at NPA, National and higher level. I am area cover for Clydesdale, but have remained in my base school and I’ve been helping to cover the head of faculties’ teaching commitments.

Pupils have been working on their practical folios in art & design and I’ve also been teaching photography at NPA level. They spend 5 periods a week in class, which equates to just over 4 hours a week or half a day, as well as studying 5 other subjects. The higher exam has changed quite a lot this year and that’s meant I’ve developed revised study and revision notes, attempting to respond to pupils’ level of ability in writing critically – to make a point, explain where in a piece of art or design this occurs and to justify and explain why that’s relevant enough to get them a mark. Many pupils were writing biographically or descriptively only, but not critically using analysis, reaching conclusions or being concise enough in their answers.

In the short term that’s one period a week on critical studies, with me rolling out notes and responsive scaffolding as we go through. The term ‘you can lead a horse to water’ applies. You see the kids eyes glaze over and the discussions where you ask them to go through a piece of work with you prompting them for answers seems to work best. There’s additional support needs to consider where pupils might need a scribe in class as well as in an exam to make notes. The easiest, most accessible way then was to type up notes or ‘the answers’ so all pupils have access in a readable and legible way. That involves doing so much of the work for the pupils and trying to ensure you’re not going beyond their comprehension levels.

It will be interesting to compare prelim results to the previous year and on an anecdotal basis to see which pupils there has been any impact for. The pupils you would expect to do well, tend to excel as they are keen to apply and improve based on feedback. There is such a big gap to fill in literacy and art vocabulary, particularly for pupils in S4. I’ve also introduced the use of Google classroom, though pupils aren’t predisposed to use it, particularly those in S5. Assignments aren’t necessarily handed in that way for commenting, if handed in at all. Photos of artwork put up with as assignments to mark complete if downloaded, seem ignored or pupils are loathe to put any onus on themselves. Then there is the fact any exam answers are hand written anyway, which is a different skill to typing & editing.

As an art teacher you spend so long at the critical level expected of S3-6, then switching back to masters level or indeed finding time for your own practical work, becomes difficult as you spend so much time teaching and often thinking for others, or modelling the very work and responses you would like them to emulate and incorporate. I guess the difference is the little differences you might make to them and how that ultimately increased individual and collective attainment. It feels very anecdotal when you are dealing with 3 sets of 10 pupils, but even then trying to define and respond to their learning needs, while encouraging engagement. Saying that, at least I’m in a school where a printing budget isn’t a barrier to educational accessibility.

The other thing I’ve started to realise is that rather than there being a disconnect between a creative teacher’s personal practice and discourse, there should be more of a responsive relationship back and forth between practice and pedagogy. The identity as an art teacher and as an artist or designer can and probably should be more symbiotic, rather than separated entities or egos.