Practitioner Enquiry – Colour Theory & Visual Elements

Description: 140 S2-S3 BGE pupils took part in a series of colour theory and the visual elements lessons. The intent was to see the impact working individually, in groups or in cooperative groups had on learning outcomes and retention of learning through a process of formative assessment and review, concluded with a final summative test.

Qualitative and Quantitative Approach: Art and design relies heavily on a formative approach, being a highly subjective subject with a high degree and variety of creative differentiation based on capped ability (ie. pupils and students peak in art and design at different SCQF levels). In senior phase, critical and historical studies accounts for 20-40% of final grading (N5 20%, Higher 27%, Advanced Higher 40%), with design and expressive portfolios accounting for the remainder. Art and design theory is an area of the curriculum that is more suited for quantitative and summative assessment. At BGE level, this means introducing areas such as colour theory, the visual elements and art and design vocabulary as related to EXA 3-07 ‘I can respond to the work of artists and designers by discussing my thoughts and feelings. I can give and accept constructive comment on my own and others’ work’ and the benchmark ‘shows understanding of how visual elements and visual concepts can be combined, for example, to create mood and atmosphere’. I aimed to evaluate an area that was curricularly relevant, at the appropriate BGE level, using a balance of formative and summative assessment, while providing a learning scaffold and a potential basis for transition to EXA 4-07a ‘I can analyse art and design techniques, processes and concepts, make informed judgements and express considered opinions on my own and others’ work.’.

Method: The lessons were taught on a formative basis over 3-5 lessons, marking progress made at the end of each lesson. Pupils were given an A3 worksheet to complete which included a section on colour theory and a section on the visual elements. Each section accounted for 20 in-class marks, with each question showing the marks available. Pupils were given the opportunity to review and revise their work or finish anything incomplete during lessons. Pupils worked either individually, in groups, or in collaborative groups. For S2 classes only, colour theory and visual elements lessons followed on from a series of art and design vocabulary lessons and resources, either working individually or cooperatively. Scores were reviewed and marked at the end of each lesson and scored feedback provided. Because of the individualised nature of the worksheet, the difference between group work and cooperative work was not explicit, other than 2x S2 cooperative classes (34 pupils) and 3x S2 individual classes (52 pupils) having prior scaffolding on art and design vocabulary, critical analysis and mark-making. The S3 pupils were added as a comparative control, with 1x S3 class working individually (19 pupils) due to behaviour constraints and 2x S3 classes working in groups (35 pupils). This was partly due to timetabling and overall project planning as an added factor.

The colour theory section comprised of colouring a colour wheel split into 12 sections, providing visual examples of complementary colours (opposite colours on the colour wheel) and analogous colours (similar colours), describing warm or cold colours and showing examples of hue (pure colour), tint (adding white), tone (adding grey) and shade (adding black). For those that advanced further, as an extension task and for additional points, pupils could also include split complementary colours (the two colours adjacent to the complimentary colour). The visual elements section explored the visual elements (line, tone, colour, shape, form, pattern and texture) and drawing basic 3D forms (sphere, cylinder, cube, cuboid, prism and pyramid).

Pupil Feedback: Pupils received formative feedback through the scoring of their in-class work during and after lessons. This encouraged pupils to correct and update their work for any work not yet completed or any mistakes made, while also highlighting productivity and progress. Different pupils worked at different paces, completing work at varying times, based on varied effort, differentiation of ability or differing levels of attention to detail. The final summative test feedback was delayed over the Easter holidays and due to timetable changes, so feedback was outstanding for the final summative test of 6 out of 8 classes.

Pupils were given a feedback form to fill in based on the first lesson, allowing them to self-reflect and provide feedback. This allowed them to specify on a scale of 1-6  (6 being highest) subject confidence / insight, art vocabulary knowledge, creativity / imagination, work quality, responsible learner, working on task, participating, working hard / well, motivation / effort, achievement, engagement / interest, being positive, teamwork, helping others, attentive / focused and behaviour / respect. Averages for pupils working individually or in cooperative groupings gave marginally higher feedback overall than those working in groups, with any particularly low feedback either working individually or in groups. Pupil feedback is highly subjective, however, as is pupils’ perception of their progress. Confidence and pupil perception of effort can vary from a teacher’s perspective or comparatively from pupil to pupil. Pupils also gave ‘2 stars and a wish’ style feedback of what they enjoyed about the lesson or what could be improved (Harris, 2007). Feedback from pupils reinforced the benefits of promoting a social constructivist approach (Powell & Kalina, 2009), where 5% of pupils specifically commented positively about working with their peers and 7% who were working individually, requested group work or indicated group work would be more beneficial and engaging. 11% of pupils commented positively on material choice, with this being strongly correlated to the cooperative pupils given the opportunity to explore a wider range of materials. 5% commented negatively requesting more exciting materials. 20% of pupils commented positively on the lesson tasks, with 14% providing negative feedback for task improvement. Again, there was a correlation between negative feedback being linked to a more individualised working approach and positive feedback towards group and cooperative work.

Analysis and Conclusion: As you would expect, there was a strong correlation between the level of effort and final grade achieved. This correlation applied most strongly to pupils working cooperatively, then pupils in groups, who were both more likely to gain a higher grading than those working individually. Within groupings, the level of effort increased overall in cooperative groupings. For pupils working individually there was a greater spread of high and low effort pupils, which reflected in their attainment. This correlates with previous research on differentiation, whereby higher attaining pupils being mixed with lower attaining pupils provides benefits for all, whereas streaming benefits individuals who are more likely or more predisposed to attain (Ireson & Hallam, 2010).

Additional considerations that may impact results include pupil absence, pupil and class behaviour, class dynamics, balancing formative and summative assessment and the level of interactionist classroom management (Martin and Baldwin, 1993). The final test was completed by submitting a google form where pupils submitted their answers, which were then reviewed. Out of 140 pupils, 1 asked permission and then used google to check and verify her answers. There had been no suggestion or indication that pupils could not do this. They were not explicitly told not to, other than being told they could not vocally discuss their answers with each other during the final test. This was an interesting creative initiative by the pupil when considering Bloom’s digital taxonomy (Churches, 2010) and the idea that information is at our fingertips, therefore we should question which information or knowledge we ought to know by rote, rather than by reference. The biggest variable, with the greatest impact was pupil effort irrespective of groupings, however, there was a correlation indicating that cooperative groupings motivated pupils more highly in general. Effort, in turn, relates to motivation on the part of the pupil and is impacted by classroom management on the part of the teacher.

The focus of the lesson sequence was on formative assessment of BGE curriculum content that lent itself best to a concluding and comparative summative assessment in order to provide quantitative data. This corresponds similarly to portfolio development at senior level, where pupils are reviewed formatively on a period by period basis and internal summative assessments and estimates are made before submission to SQA for summative grading. As an art and design practitioner and teacher, my qualitative gut feeling and professional opinion is that practice-based research would be more beneficial for practitioner enquiry over a longer duration or variety of creative formative projects and exemplars through arts-based research (Leavy, 2017). As much as the graphic designer in me enjoys the visual communication of a spreadsheet and graph, there is nothing particularly expressive or creative about either. A summative approach that incorporates formative development provides an overview of general trends, where we can drill down evidentially on a pupil by pupil basis, based on individual or common learner needs (Gilchrist, 2018). However, I would expect to find more opportunity for process-based, procedural learning and creative output with practice-based practitioner enquiry and arts-based research. This could relate to teacher creative practice, pupils’ practice and output or an approach that links together teacher and pupil creative practice, formatively and reciprocally.

A formative-led, summative approach works as an evidential indicator. However, we must not lose track of pupils’ creative output, outcomes, process based learning or ‘aha moments’. These higher order learning moments can’t easily be recorded or shared summatively or when we view pupils and their outcomes as data, rather than using creative outcomes evidently in a qualitative way. In an art and design context, we run the risk of undermining creative learning and output of both teachers and pupils by relying on rote based quantitative data and analysis rather than qualitative and formative feedback of learning and progress. Teacher professional enquiry can better provide a growth mindset ethos that promotes pupil consolidation, by using a formative approach within an adaptive practice-led context. The difficulty is that there is a proportion of the art and design curriculum built on rote learning, visual and written literacy (including IDL) and curricular knowledge, that goes beyond generalised 3rd and 4th level Es & Os or benchmarks. To support learning, we must balance formative and summative assessment for learning approaches, ensuring positive impact based on learners’ needs. We must do so without negatively impacting process based learning or altering teaching due to a demand for data, particularly if this compromises learning impact and the demands and requirements of the art and design curriculum.

 

Colour mixing & theory

I’ve been working on practitioner enquiry during the last term at school, which involved teaching pupils colour theory through a worksheet format, then marking the work and allowing them to consolidate any gaps in knowledge. They then moved on to the visual elements and did a summative multiple choice test on colour theory and the visual elements. The main factor that changed was the extent to which pupils were working in cooperative group, regular groups or individually.

My own exploration of colour theory is a bit more in-depth and it’s still looking at basics like hues, tints, tones and shade by looking at the various combinations of mixes available in a broad palette of oil colours. These are 4 out of 10 colour combinations of reds, blues, greens, yellows and purples. For some reason oranges have been consumed within the other colours, which may be down to personal preference on my part.

Oils are a more unfamiliar medium to me, though I am bridging the comfort gap by also working in oils sticks, which feel more like drawing than painting and I’ve used acrylic and gouache quite a lot in the past.

Exemplars

One thing with teaching BGE only one period a week (rather than two) is that projects can drag on a bit. That’s without considering the compromises and contradictions of BGE preparing pupils for National levels and the difference in playing field at that level when pupils experiences of and time doing Art & Design can vary so much. These are some exemplars from last term where I tend to take photos at various stages to be able to do a step by step for lesson sequences. These are all mid-project.

With teacher exemplars, what I find interesting is the amount of pupils who will try to copy exactly the way something has been executed. Whether that’s actually taking a still life drawing I have done and working on top of it, or wanting to copy and trace exactly the way a flower has been drawn. For simpler lessons, I will sometimes start an exemplar and give it to a less able pupil as a way to be more inclusive and as a way to start them off.

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