Teaching & Learning Articles
This page sets out some articles and general advice on the teaching of art and design that doesn't fit into my page headings. I have a WordPress blog and a Blog page here, where I post thoughts and ramblings on art education, but texts here are more formalised.
Potted History of Art Pedagogy
'Pedagogy, most commonly understood as the approach to teaching, is the theory and practice of learning, and how this process influences, and is influenced by, the social, political and psychological development of learners. Pedagogy, taken as an academic discipline, is the study of how knowledge and skills are imparted'. Wikipedia Why do I need to think about art Pedagogy? Up until recently, most teachers could do their job without getting overly involved in Pedagogy. You just turned up and did your job, working from text books or teaching prescribed content handed down from subject leaders. But things have changed considerably and Ofsted and the DfE are the ones forcing us to think harder about how we teach. This distinction is important because, as far as Ofsted are concerned, curriculum is what we teach and Pedagogy is how we teach. Now, I disagree with these simplistic distinctions I'll play along but for arguments sake. Where do traditional approaches to teaching art come from? The traditional, explicit, direct instruction approach has a long history in art and will always be the most effective way of teaching certain knowledge and skills. The Mastery model of novice, journeyman and master was how Leonardo Da Vinci and Michelangelo learned, among others. This model was then superseded by the Academies, who thought of art as being somewhat above the ‘lowly’ crafts guilds of the seventeenth century. In this model, artists learned their craft through practice, repetition, guided instruction and gradual relinquishing of control and autonomy over subject matter. This model prevailed, even teaching in the Bauhaus was predominantly rooted in the mastery model. You put your time in, learned your craft, and once you were able, you could express yourself skilfully. How are traditional, direct instruction based teaching approaches used in art? Traditional teaching approaches involve learning hard, substantive, theoretical knowledge and procedural skills, in a sequential manner. This is a really good thing in my opinion. I’ve read the so-called neuroscience behind it, and putting aside the fact that most neuroscience arguing for creative approaches is being ignored, it makes common sense. At least it does when learning factual knowledge anyway. I learn my times tables, then I can do more complex mathematics more easily. I learn basic algebra, then I can do equations etc. There will always be an element of this logic based, sequential progression across educational key stages. In key stage one art, I need exercises to develop my fine motor skills if I’m to be able to access the more complex learning in key stage two. In key stage three, I need to understand how to independently respond to lengthier externally set assignment questions in key stage four. In each of these phases, there will be elementary substantive knowledge I’ll need to learn and master. When I’m learning facts and information about art and artists through history, colour mixing, brush control, pencil shading, knowing and applying the formal elements all stand out as being areas where direct instruction is the most effective way to learn. The difficulty with making skills more explicit is that there are so many disciplines in art and design, and so many different approaches to making it. The most common approach is to aim for photo-realistic precision; accuracy of medium and skilful tonal rendering, but this is pigeon-holing art into one artistic style. Not all pupils can, or want to work in this way. Some pupils might be weak at photo-realism in drawing and painting, but great at clay, or textiles. Skills therefore, are subject to limitations of cognitive and physical growth, coupled with personal interest and natural ability. The rise of Constructivism Mastery learning fell out of favour in art schools after the Second World War, as more liberal, progressive approaches to learning (constructivism) were seen as being more in keeping with post-war optimism. Constructivism originated around the start of the twentieth century via John Dewey’s and Piaget's theories of education, which argued that knowledge wasn’t a static, fixed body of information to be taught by rote. He insisted students should be active in their learning, and that motivation played a crucial role in how they learn. At the same time, Maria Montessori began developing her own type of education based around similar ideals. There was an emphasis on involving the child’s natural interests, hands-on learning, real-world skills, forest learning, freedom within limits, and independence. Montessori believed that children who are free to choose and act freely within an environment prepared according to her model would act spontaneously for optimal development. After the Second World War, the art college model took off in Europe. Although progressive art colleges had existed prior to the war, such as Josef and Anni Albers’ Black Mountain Art College of North Carolina, it wasn’t until after the second world war that they took hold. In the 1940’s, Herbert Read’s book Education in Art argued that conventional education destroyed children’s natural creative abilities. In England, in the 1950s, Victor Pasmore and Harry Thubron’s Basic Course in Leeds and Newcastle put its emphasis was on process and ideas, rather than technique and end result. These approaches developed even further through art colleges such as CalArts in Los Angeles in the 1960s and Jospeh Beuys’ Düsseldorf school that taught Gerhard Richter. What is constructivist art teaching? Constructivist teaching techniques attempt to preserve the early ability to create art without fear or hesitation. They try to overcome logical cognitive growth in children’s brains that occur around the age of seven, by steering pupils away from focussing too much on quality of outcome, on judging themselves and being overly self-critical. Logic circuits tell us things are right and wrong, they make us anxious and make us afraid of getting this wrong. Constructivist teachers try to avoid defining creative outcomes or making expectations clear and explicit. They create learning opportunities that are starting points for the pupils’ own exploration. There is little in the way of explicit instruction; modelling is restricted and leans towards encouraging pupils to find out for themselves what happens. Well-designed constructivist art projects are ones that facilitate self-discovery and personal growth, as well as fostering and engendering stimulation. In short, you feel good after you’ve done a progressive project, because you’ve created something and it doesn’t matter how technically proficient it is. That may, or may not, come in time. What matters is that you value the process. These approaches have been heavily criticised by teachers of other subject areas, but I would argue, they can and do work very well in creative subjects. Constructivist pedagogies are at the heart of art Art teachers understand that there are few moments in an artists practice where they are completely satisfied with what they produce, so there are no end points of accomplishment. Secondly, there is no ‘best’ or ‘worst’ art; only the art we produce, and thirdly that motivation - the desire to want to keep making art, is crucial. When we focus on too much on technique and mastery, when we value quality of outcome over the impulse to create, we place some students at the top, but the majority underneath. This works in competitive sport, where winning is an ultimate ambition, but not in school-based art, where we would very much like everyone to participate. Surely, progressives would argue, school is a place to foster children’s creativity, to nurture their aspirations? Just as PE teachers now try to promote health for all by getting pupils to focus on their own general fitness, progressive teachers teach pupils that art is a subject of personal growth, not a competition. Curriculum Narrowing You can raise pupils’ level of technical skill by selecting a narrower range of experiences in which pupils can specialise and so attain a higher level of competence. I’ve seen it done and it works. Some of the levels of technical skill in drawing and painting that pupils achieve are quite incredible. But as I’ve said, while skill is an important aspect of making good art, it’s just quite difficult to define what we mean when we say something is skilful and in any case, which skills are important? In an ideal world, we would have the time to build priority skills to a high level and also have time for other art areas, but this isn’t possible. From age five to fourteen in the UK, pupils are lucky to get one hour art and design teaching time per week. Many don’t. Most pupils therefore, don’t achieve levels of accomplishment in art purely because they aren’t given sufficient time. It seems to make sense therefore, to do less to a higher standard. Through curriculum narrowing you can make superficial learning gains. Pupils appear to be much more highly able and the argument is that, once a pupil has higher levels of technical skill, then they will be able to be more creative, because they have the knowledge and skills to express themselves. As a creative expert, I completely disagree with that notion. We don't automatically become creative as more knowledge is added. Art is a subject geared predominantly to Project Based Learning; each term or half term is a lengthy project with a complex series of learning experiences built into them. The projects you design for your curriculum must motivate pupils, and so many of them don’t. That’s because, in too many instances, the outcome of the project can be predicted before it has even begun. Cubist portraits, Banksy Street Art, Still Life Flowers, Frida Khalo, Hokusai wave paintings, I could go on. Now there’s some great learning going on here. Nearly always, it’s knowledge and skills that are being taught. I’m learning about an artist and developing my making skills. But if it’s creativity you’re looking for, if it’s independent, motivated learners who make truly exciting art, then you’re missing some vital ingredients. What your projects are missing is pupil autonomy, personal choice, challenge and freedom. Creativity, as I’ve said in many occasions, is knowledge in action. It’s doing stuff with the things we know. It’s playing with knowledge, inventing things with it, building on it, prodding, testing and poking it to see ‘what happens if…’ There aren’t many subjects in the school where pupils can be given the freedom to decide on their own learning, but art and design is one of them. It’s not either or. It’s both Direct instruction sounds easiest, so why do we need any other teaching approach? We use two quite opposing methods of teaching art and design at different times and for different reasons; Traditional: teacher-led, direct instruction approaches are used most often to transmit knowledge and skills from teacher to pupil. Progressive: teacher as facilitator approaches develop the pupils’ unique creative voice. Creativity is nurtured from experiences the teacher designs. Each of these approaches has strengths and weaknesses in the art room. Progressive teaching approaches nurture the creative predisposition we are born with. Traditional approaches foster the development of skill and knowledge more effectively. Some art disciplines are still quite rooted in the mastery model. Ones that lean towards crafts such as ceramics, photography, printmaking or textiles, are still largely learned by absorbing a large amount of foundation knowledge and by following an expert tutor, before going off and doing your own thing. But Fine Art, and more general creativity, are areas of art where mastery has less of a role. Summary I think I’ve illustrated that the pedagogy of art and design has a long history and is quite complex. Traditional, direct instruction methods were the standard way of teaching art for centuries until constructivism originated around the 19th century. It dominated art education for most of the 20th century, but in recent years, traditional forms of teaching have resurfaced. As Ofsted say, there is no single correct way to teach the subject and teaching art is not easy. However, I think if you try to remember that when you’re imparting artist knowledge or a particular skill or technique, you’d more likely use a direct instruction, follow-me approach. When you want pupils to be creative and to employ that knowledge, then opt for a constructivist, all inclusive approach. That way I think you’ll do well.
Fine Motor Skills
A cursory study of most primary and secondary progression plans or curriculum maps, shows the compartmentalisation of practical art skills into separate domains such as drawing, painting, sculpture, printmaking and so on, which belie the complex nature of how we make progress. Practical skills aren't distinct and separate, but are dependent on the same, or similar aspects of fine motor skills. What are fine motor skills? Fine-motor skills are movements that require coordination of the fingers, hands, and wrists to complete everyday tasks. Children develop fine motor skills over time, by practicing and being taught. Fine-motor skills require manual dexterity and start to develop in babies and young children, usually improving as children mature. Typically, fine motor skills involve: * Pinching between thumb and fingers * Holding - grasping, gripping, stirring, banging, stacking etc. * Hand-eye coordination, including visual-spatial skills * Awareness and planning * Dexterity and muscle strength As any Early Years teacher will tell you, fine motor skills are needed for a wide range of tasks such manipulating blocks and shapes, cutting, painting or making patterns, writing, drawing, even reading, language and literacy - because learning is a whole sensory experience. In this way, Fine motor skills are a strong predictor of later achievement. Fine motor skills develop from an early age of course, but it’s wrong to believe that FMS are only the concern of the EYFS teacher because they are relevant for children of all ages, even adults. They also underpin large areas of ability in art. They are vital to progression in all practical skills domains, whether that’s drawing, painting, printmaking, crafts or sculpture. Most school-based art and design practical activities are centred around fine motor skills. It isn’t a level playing field Well developed fine motor skills are the difference between being able to make a mark that properly represents our cognitive objectives, and making ones that end up in frustration and scrunched up pieces of paper. Some art teachers attempt to resolve this frustration by widening the goal posts, to make all drawn marks valid, and that’s often a good strategy, but it is usually like trying to put spilt milk back in the bottle. The irritation is manifest as soon as the badly executed line is drawn, and many children lose faith in their ability. Children that have experienced lots of craft activities at home, are neurotypical and who have full functional movements, tend to do well. Those that have motor difficulties or impairments, or who have not been given opportunities like this from an early age will struggle to realise their cognitive intentions. They might know what they want to achieve, but not be able to realise their intentions as well as they would like. Or, they simply might not have any relative prior experiences, and so not understand what is being asked of them. Additionally, they might not feel emotionally secure when they are learning or need more time and practice. Ability in art then, at least when it comes to practical skills, is closely related to fine motor skills; which are in turn related to physical and mental ability, nurture, patience and repeated practice. The same fine motor skills underpin a diverse range of skills Fine motor skills are diverse, and so the same core skill is employed in different ways, at different times, using different materials. For example, to be able to shade tonally, some component skills are required. You have to first be able to shade uniformly and evenly, then shade neatly to the edges of shapes. Then you develop the ability to shade gradients, controlling the pressure of the media and finally, you need to understand how light affect objects and so model 3D forms. Now these skills can take years to develop, even whole key stages,but the mistake some schools make is that they compartmentalise them into drawing with a pencil and paper, when in fact, these same skill of applying uniform shading and working neatly to edges when they are using charcoal, or chalk pastel, even paint! In fact, shading with a pencil, especially a HB pencil, is much harder than shading with many other art materials, so it’s better to teach the skill through the easier mediums first. Girls develop fine motor skills earlier than boys but boys develop gross motor skills earlier It’s also worth bearing in mind that as early as pre-school, girls advance their fine motor skills faster than boys. They mature more quickly than boys at this age, and are more advanced in balance and motor dexterity, but boys develop gross motor skills faster from the age of five. This goes some way to explaining why girls tend to do better in the subject than boys. One solution to this disparity is to create an intervention programme of fine motor skills development that encompasses every age group, at regular intervals, using repeated practice. One hour a week usually goes a long way to helping those who need support catch up with their more proficient peers. Another solution is to devote an equal amount of art curriculum time to gross motor skills, which boys favour. Gross motor skills are movement and coordination of the arms, legs, and other large body parts, used in running, crawling and swimming etc. Given the right opportunities however, sculpture is a great place to develop gross motor skills. Through sculpture we can bend wire, or cut, shape and form wood, or carve soap or modelling materials on larger scales. We could make kinetic sculptures, or make sculptures that involve our whole bodies and senses. The more ways you can involve whole arm and body movements, the more you will involve gross motor skills which will level the gender playing field. Simply getting the pupils to stand up while working is also a great way to do that because pupils will automatically incorporate whole body actions to work. Ways in which you might develop fine motor skills in children: 1. Drawing - straight lines, perpendicular (crossed) lines, curved and diagonal lines, and circles. X-shapes are said to be the hardest to draw because they require us to make diametrically opposing, symmetrical marks. There is no requirement to draw things - representations, or objects. We can develop motor-physical skills by drawing abstract, non-representational marks, shapes or patterns. 2. Tracing - geometric shapes, images and patterns. Clearly this skill is an extension of skill one, but there are key differences. In this proficiency, children are trying to match prior intentions, to mimic, and imitate lines, shapes and patterns with accuracy. 3. Coordination - cutting shapes and patterns, weaving, sewing, threading, colouring, arranging, building towers and shapes with blocks, matching & sorting. This is a broad ability that can be learned and developed through a diverse range of creative activities. Do an internet search for fine motor skills and you’ll get a huge variety of hits with ideas for developing coordination. To do this well, children utilise visual-spatial skill, and depth perception, with intricate hand movements and hand-eye coordination. 4. Manipulation - modelling with plasticine or clay. Again, this is a very creative skill with many possible solutions. It involves grip, holding ability, pinching skills, kneading, rolling, pressing, and squashing to realise cognitive intentions and so is very reliant on imagination, hand-eye coordination, visual-spatial awareness and concentration. 5. Expression - drawing, painting, inventing, designing, imagining. This is a highly imaginative skill where the ability to visually describe our inner thoughts is important. It’s reliant on teachers instigating creative tasks. The strategies are applicable at all ages and stages of development but should increase in difficulty incrementally. I think you could quite easily put a fine motor skills programme together using this as a guide. I don’t think it would have to be separate or bolt-on, unless it was being used as a specific catch-up programme. All of these five motor skills areas can be incorporated into art activities in every year group, in just about every term quite easily, without compromising the kinds of art activities you currently do. The justification in doing this is that you’d be ensuring that the skills they need in their art and design lessons, and for their language and mathematical ability, are being developed. Alas, what I haven’t got is a scale of performance to be able to measure attainment. I think schools would need to do that in their own practical setting. Summary Fine motor skills underpin most of the tasks and activities we do and so aren’t incidental. Art is important. When we want pupils to develop their painting, drawing or sculpture skills, we shouldn’t see them as distinct, separate processes to be learned in isolation from each other, but rather as parts of a whole learning process that is entwined and related. Research * Fine motor skills; everything you need to know by Kirsten Gasnick https://www.verywellhealth.com/fine-motor-skills-overview-examples-and-improvement-5226046#:~:text=Examples%20of%20fine-motor%20skills%20include%3A%201%20Brushing%20your,7%20Typing%208%20Turning%20a%20key%20More%20items * Background evidence on fine motor skills https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fine_motor_skill?wprov=sfti1 * Gender differences in fine/gross motor skills https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9541226/ * Analysis of fine motor skill development in children https://www.researchgate.net/publication/370591703_Analysis_of_Early_Childhood_Fine_Motor_Skills_Through_the_Application_of_Learning_Media * Physical-Motoric Development of Children 4-5 Years in Permendikbud no. 137 of 2014 (study of the concept of child development) on the Indonesian National Standard for Early Childhood Education https://www.academia.edu/38153209/Perkembangan_Fisik_Motorik_Anak_4_5_Tahun_Pada_Permendikbud_no_137_Tahun_2014_kajian_konsep_perkembangan_anak_ * Fine motor skills and early comprehension of the world: Two new school readiness indicators. Developmental Psychology, Grissmer, D., Grimm, K. J., Aiyer, S. M., Murrah, W. M., & Steele, J. S. (2010). https://doi.org/10.1037/a0020104
Teaching pupils with SEND in art & design
Anyone working in education will be aware of the term SEN or SEND which is an an acronym for Special Education Needs or Disabilities. Special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) can affect a child or young person's ability to learn. Some children and young people need special or different arrangements. This might be for a short time, or sometimes it might be for the whole of their school life. Some children may have SEN because of a medical condition or a disability such as Down’s Syndrome, Asperger’s Syndrome or Autism Spectrum Disorder for example. Other children may have SEN without a diagnosis or a disability. Specific Learning Difficulties do not affect a person’s general intelligence. The vast majority of individuals living with a learning difficulty lead an independent life but might struggle with basic reading, writing, or maths skills, for example. They may find it difficult to understand information or they’ll process, store, or analyse it in an entirely different way. Just because a person struggles in one area of learning does not mean they are in any way deficient in all areas, and so a learning difficulty should not be a barrier. It is essential that we, as educators, focus on the abilities of young people with SEND’s, rather than using derogatory labels and setting lower expectations. How do Special Education Needs affect learning? SEND and Additional Needs are terms that cover a wide range of need across various areas of a child’s life in relation to the following four areas: Communicating and interacting Children may have speech, language and communication difficulties which make it difficult for them to make sense of language, or how understand how to communicate effectively and appropriately with others. Cognition and learning Children may: •learn at a slower pace than others their age •have difficulty in understanding parts of the curriculum •have difficulties with organisation and memory skills •have a specific difficulty affecting one particular part of their learning performance such as in literacy or numeracy Social, emotional and mental health difficulties Children may: •have difficulty managing their relationships with other people •are withdrawn •behave in ways that may hinder their and other children's learning •behave in ways that have an impact on their health and wellbeing Sensory and/or physical needs Children may: •have a vision impairment and/or hearing impairments •have a physical need that means they must have additional ongoing support and equipment Anti-Ableism The standard definition of special education needs or disabilities state that SEND pupils have a significantly greater difficulty in learning than the majority of others of the same age. But these definitions don’t make it clear what these difficulties are. SEND is a huge spectrum and it doesn’t follow that people with additional needs in some areas of learning are inferior in all of them. For example, some people with autism have a greater capacity for arithmetic skills and number sense. And, autism is linked to intense focus and excellent pattern recognition. People with other diagnosed conditions might easily excel in one area of learning whilst struggling with others. So, these narrow definitions of special education needs and disabilities are problematic, because they provide negative labels, and stereotype young people. And, if our intention is to improve education for SEND children in our schools, then we have to break down the barriers that hold them back. The word neurodiversity is often used in the context of autism spectrum disorder, ADHD or various learning disabilities. Neurodiversity describes the idea that people experience and interact with the world around them in many different ways; and so there isn’t a "right" or “wrong” way of thinking, learning, or behaving. In the neurodivergent model, special education needs and disabilities are differences not deficits. We see this in the superb work; Great Britain from a Wheelchair by Paul Kenny in 1994. A map of Great Britain has been assembled from two ex-NHS wheelchair parts. The piece challenges assumptions of disabled people as ‘pitiable objects’, or people who are invisible in society. Another sculpture by Tony Heaton for the Baltic Gallery Gateshead, filled a lift with empty wheelchairs, forcing people to use their privilege to climb the stairs, thereby inverting an issue able-bodied people take for granted every day. This is where anti-ableist pedagogy comes to the fore. It makes learners active participants in a person-centred framework. The arts have the flexibility to do this; perhaps much more so than most curriculum areas. We can form learning around the learner’s specific needs and to what they find engaging and motivating. Anti-ableism can liberate learners with SEND. It can empower them and break down the concept of normalcy. Using artists such as Yinka Shonibare, Nnena Kalu and Linda Bell as starting points for projects can produce non-hierarchal, equitable art and promote positive identities. Surely, this aspirational thinking is what we want for pupils who may find some aspects of life and learning more difficult. Teaching pupils with SEND Most children with SEND will be able to participate in an ordinary setting and make progress through high quality provision, referred to as Quality First Teaching (QFT) which includes effective differentiation. ‘Quality First Teaching’ means appropriately planned, quality experiences and provision, built on observations of children’s starting points and interests in order to develop their learning. Sensitive interactions are essential to support this. However, children with SEN educated in mainstream schools generally have very poor outcomes, including those with less severe needs. The reasons behind this are varied and complex, but a key factor is how much support they receive from school. Where funding is limited, it makes sense to ensure that teachers are as knowledgeable as possible about the most effective strategies for teaching pupils with SEND. Crisis of Confidence Despite all your efforts, learning skills in this way results in some pupils adopting them more quickly, and those with additional needs can suffer a crisis of confidence that they aren’t good enough. It’s easy to compare ourselves to others. If you’re struggling and you see someone who is doing it effortlessly, it compounds your frustrations and leaves you feeling inadequate. These feelings are compounded even further when pupils with additional needs compare themselves to an expert demonstration. If they look at the teacher’s example and think; ‘mine isn’t anywhere near as good as that,’ they can easily think they’ve failed. So be very careful that your demonstration isn’t so skilful that it puts pupils off. It’s good practice to get the pupils who have struggled initially into a small group and do a repeat demonstration with them, constantly reinforcing the stages of learning the skill and repeating it over and over. It’s important also, to contextualise the learner’s current ability to their starting point. Make it clear to them how much progress they are making, highlight their personal development and make it clear that they aren’t competing with any other learners in the group. This mindset is hard to break, because almost all of their experiences of school are based on ‘being the best’, getting top marks, finishing first and being rewarded for exemplary performance. It’s no wonder then that those who struggle to keep up with the pace of the lesson feel inferior. They need to know then, that this isn’t a competition, it isn’t a race, there are no prizes for finishing first, there is no best work, or worst work, just your own work; and that sometimes we perform well and other times we don’t. Those that appear to have natural ability and excel at a particular skill have usually practiced a lot because they enjoy it. These messages need to be repeated in almost every art lesson, every week and in every year group, because they quickly compound themselves into lifelong negative schemas. It’s important therefore, to clarify to learners that skills take time, patience and practice to learn. SEND pupils may want to give up, they may become very negative, even unruly, and so you’ll need to try to create a whole class positive mindset, a sense of belief that everyone can learn this, that high achievement is within their grasp with effort. Supporting learners with communication and interaction Evaluate the text-based materials you are distributing to students. I’ve seen countless numbers of assessment sheets and handouts in secondary art departments that are completely unsuitable because their literacy level is way too high. You must check the reading age of everything you give out or expect pupils to read and that includes your board presentations. Then you must know the reading age of every pupil in the class and ensure your teaching materials correspond. If they don’t correspond- change them. Honestly, I see so many elaborate, sophisticated assessment rubrics jam-packed with information about different levels of performance and I think; ‘This is really good. What a shame the pupils won’t be able to read it.’ That said, text shouldn’t always be too easy. You have to get the level of difficulty between legibility and challenge just right. So, if you’re creating resources for an 11-year old reader, make sure you know what texts at this age look like. Devise the text in such a way that it is predominantly suitable, with some additional challenging words that will be unfamiliar. Where there is a huge gap between your lowest and highest readers, you may need to provide alternative easier and harder texts. Consider your own use of language. I’m guilty of this. I’m an artist. I go to galleries, I discuss art to high levels with like-minded professionals. I love my subject and so I can so easily go off on a passionate lecture about a piece of art we are studying. But you can’t do this if half the class haven’t a clue what you’re talking about; if the language your using is too sophisticated and complex. In art, we aren’t discussing tangible, quantifiable things. We are discussing the nature of emotional, ephemeral instincts and intuitions. They are harder to pinpoint and articulate, especially if you struggle with language already. So, consider how new vocabulary will build and sequence over time, which includes lessons, terms and key stages. Developing creative and critical thinking skills to pupils with SEND It isn’t just reading or researching artists where you’d need to provide support for pupils with additional needs. You’d need to do it when generating ideas too. It’s common practice for teachers to scaffold projects every step of the way then, when it comes to the ideas stage, they just set a task to; ‘come up with four ideas’. This is poor teaching in my opinion. For example, if I’m doing a mask project and pupils have done some lovely research in sketchbooks about masks from around the world, you can’t simply set a task to come up with four ideas of your own, because you haven’t demonstrated how they can do that. They will simply copy a mask verbatim, or they’ll draw one from memory, using crude symbols. To do this task well, they need to be shown how they might utilise the research they’ve done, how they can pick out key features of several different masks from their research and combine them into new forms. This is the whole purpose of the research and it’s important they understand that developing ideas comes out of reformulating the things we’ve seen. For those with additional needs, it might be that you demonstrate how to do this and have them copy a worked example. I would take them through a demonstration of how to analyse a set of images I’ve collected, to extract features I like in sequence; such as face shape, eye, nose and mouth type, then encourage them to extract and combine alternative features in different ways to produce different designs. You are now supporting the ideas phase, not simply giving a task they aren’t equipped to respond to. The skill comes out of offering creative choice within a scaffolded framework. Once pupils can do this automatically themselves, it cultivates self-confidence and can have profound effects on learners. Creating an inclusive art room Disorganised, messy classrooms, where resources and equipment are difficult to find will present additional challenges for learners with physical and sensory issues, as well as for those with self-regulating behaviours. It’s important therefore, to carefully consider the room layout and the location of classroom materials. It’s not only a good idea to label things clearly, but to also take pupils through where things are, and also which materials they are able to access themselves. For example, where are paintbrushes kept? Are they free to get one if they need one? What are your expectations about looking after them? Are they free to get their sketchbook out to record an idea they’ve had? These things may seem trivial to us, but they can cause anxiety to SEND pupils who worry about rules and regulations. Consider the practical layout of the room and seating. Could you create a space for learners with a physical disability to work? Perhaps you could create a resource base with adapted resources and aids to support pupils who struggle with fine motor skills or who have auditory or visual needs. Working in silence is a common expectation in many classrooms, even in art, but consider how this affects learners ability to voice their needs or work in pairs or groups. Then again, some pupils need calm, quiet environments, so there isn’t a one-size fits all approach. It’s vital therefore, to talk to SENCo’s, parents and pupils so that you are fully informed and able create the most suitable learning spaces you can. Why not get pupils to design and draw their ideal reading space? My students were regularly involved in designing their learning environment. One school I’ve visited created a bat cave from an old office and pupils would read by torchlight under a canopy of model bats. One final piece of advice here is to try to limit unexpected events by pre-teaching sensitive pupils and forewarning them of what’s to come. Write things down for them and put them somewhere where parents and carers can see them, so they know what’s coming next. This will help those who may struggle to engage, in that they are prepared for the next learning experience. Secondary Support Strategies Supporting learners with communication and literacy difficulties •Check the reading age of the texts you are using. You can do this in Microsoft Word now. To do this, ensure ‘readability statistics’ is checked in Word spelling preferences. Then select Review then Spelling and Grammar to get the Flesch-Kinkaid reading age. The higher the score up to 100 the easier it is to read. •Use phonetics to break down difficult words. Highlight them and read them together as a class. For example, ‘Technique’ is a hard word to read phonetically. Using the English Alphabetic Code we can break it down into ‘Tech’ where the ‘CH’ is making a ‘K’ sound as in Chameleon; the ‘i’ is making the long ‘ee’ sound as in sardines, and the ‘Que’ is making a ’K’ sound as in plaque. •Create a Dyslexia friendly classroom by improving the visual clarity of information: Simplify it. Remove any clutter or irrelevant information. Break it down. Divide information into sections and stages. Good use of layout. Use a legible font with good letter spacing, set and aligned well. Don’t cram too much on a page. Use of colour. Colour can help separate information into sections, but too many colours, or overly garish colours can distract. Visit the British Dyslexia Association’s website and download their style guide. •Dual coding theory states that one can use both visual and verbal data to represent information. Provide alternative ways of presenting information. There are so many ways to present information - written text, audio only, visuals and pictures, video, computer generated or animated. As well as you presenting it, could other pupils present it? Might it be recorded for repeated playback? •Drawing. Get pupils decoding complex text by drawing each word or phrase using non-skilled techniques. Robust research in 2018 by Fernandez, Wammes and Meade has shown non-skilled drawing to be the most effective way to remember. Drawing gives us more time to process and absorb new information and provides strong visual associations to things that help us remember. It’s so effective, I wrote a book on it – Drawing to Learn Anything. Supporting cognition & Learning •Give more time. Don’t pace your lesson to the quickest 5%. It’s so easy for the teacher to spot when someone has finished, then move on to the next thing. Remember, whenever you do that, you’re preventing your slower pupils from properly learning a new concept. So slow down and give pupils time. •Use as many mnemonic devices as you can. Some will be familiar to you such as mind maps, quizzes or spaced retrieval practice, but again, use drawing. •Provide additional one-to-one support in the hand-over of knowledge using the ‘I Do, We Do, You Do’ approach. •Collaborative learning. Pupils learn from each other, sometimes as an alternative to learning from a teacher. Supporting learners with social and emotional difficulties •Provide a secure environment with calm, consistent classroom expectations and routines. •Avoid sudden change to routines that might cause anxiety, such as changing seating plans or altering the layout of the room. •Be mindful of potential clashes or disruptive interactions in practical tasks. When there is lots of movement around the room, some pupils can use this as an opportunity to disrupt. Maybe have a safe space where sensitive pupils can get on quietly without interruption. •Get to know your pupils who struggle emotionally, build a trusting relationship. Let them know you care and they can count on you. Devise subtle ways they can signal to you when they are in distress or need some time out. •To engage learners, who struggle to focus, capture their interest early and arouse their curiosity using novel, new and imaginative starting points. Natural forms is a common art room project, but it doesn’t have to be still life fruit and vegetables or pine cones. It might be microscopic organisms, insects, dissected organs or wet fish. It might even be living creatures if you can do it safely enough. •Create open projects with the flexibility to relate the theme to their own interests, rather than focussing on a restrictive range of artists and outcomes. Does every student have to study Frida Khalo? Can you provide a range of alternative artists on the same theme for pupils to select? Providing choice really motivates learners. •Make links to industry and real practice where possible. Boys especially, are highly motivated when they can see a real-world application of the skill you’re teaching, so even if you’re just doing a shading demonstration - show examples of professionals who use this skill such as tattoo artists, fashion or car designers. •Link commercial products to artistic influences. Show examples of how current contemporary designers are influenced by historical artists. I’ve lost count of the number of products I’ve seen that have been influenced by Mondrian or Pop art. Contextualising art in this way increases it’s value in the eyes of pupils. In short, it gains street cred. Supporting learners with physical disabilities •Familiarise yourself with the learners needs prior to the lesson. You’ll no doubt get a list of SEND students from your SENCO at the start of Autumn term, but in my experience this wasn’t always ready in advance of the first lesson. However, you should expect to be notified of any any students with physical disabilities in meeting before the term begins, so make sure you find out as much as possible. Wheelchair users may need to have access areas and ramps, others may need hand or wrist supports or drawing boards. •Focus on adapting what you already have, rather than devising new content. As I’ve mentioned earlier, your goal is to enable learners to achieve the mainstream objectives; so you shouldn’t have to plan multiple lessons in the same space. •Talk to the pupil. They know their needs better than anyone, and until you know them better, you should begin by trusting what they say about their ability. I’ve always found people with physical disabilities to be incredibly determined and resilient. •Plan for a range of art activities that utilise both fine and gross motor skills in a variety of media. Think of fine motor skills as being activities that come from the wrist or fingers such as detail drawing, sewing or cutting. Gross motor skills come from the shoulder, arm or whole body and might be painting at an easel or making a sculpture. •Speak to the SENCo, parent and pupil about any equipment they may need or use, such as adaptive or assistive grip aids for pencils and brushes. •Consider how pupils will be able to access your demonstrations. It may that they’ll need one-to-one demos, or be able to watch them via a visualiser or recording. •Finally, create a curriculum that is inclusive. Ensure it is diverse and that it is representative of artists that have overcome physical disabilities such as Stephen Wiltshire or Yinka Shonibare. Supporting learners with sensory needs •Provide clear verbal and auditory descriptions of teaching resources and artist images. Ensure any hearing devices are functional and that the student is seated in an optimal position to hear your instructions. Sadly, it’s all too common for pupils with hearing difficulties to be placed in a seating plan at the back of the room. If you are showing film or video, ensure subtitles are clearly displayed and check with the pupil that they are comfortable with the information being shown to them. •Support students who have low vision or blindness by adding scents and textures to paint and materials. Use a Flexi-lamp to provide additional lighting when needed. Put materials out on trays with strong, contrasting colours, highlight outlines of images with a black Sharpie pen, create tactile borders to images using a dimensional pen. Students with colour blindness may or may not be diagnosed. If you notice these signs in one of your students, encourage their parent or guardian to have their vision tested for diagnosis. In class, use bright lighting, employ peers to help identify colours, especially in works of art and clearly label important tools and equipment such as paint colours. •Some pupils are physical, tactile learners. They prefer to make with their hands where possible and look for constant physical stimulation. Try to plan lessons to accommodate their needs, drawing from observation using physical drawing techniques. Planning an inclusive curriculum Art and design is a form of visual expression that can raise self-confidence and give learners the opportunity to develop and communicate their personal ideas, and observations. Art and design themes can provide opportunities for pupils to express their thoughts and opinions about the wider world in ways that other subject areas cannot. Curriculum planning should be ambitious and clearly identify what children will learn; but it must also consider how to make art and design accessible and inclusive for all learners. The National Curriculum doesn’t define art and design content, nor does it describe how to teach it. It is left for schools to decide themselves what the nature and theme of art and design curriculum activities will be. What all this means is that schools are free to design activities that are relevant to their pupils and cater for their needs and disabilities. Projects you plan should be representative and aspirational. They should make pupils see that anyone of any gender, colour, physical need, race or background can achieve the highest levels. Young people will always have dreams. Pupils with SEND are no different. A good art and design curriculum can help people formulate those dreams and make them seem more real. Art and design can be a platform to express opinions about the world they live in, articulate their fears and hopes. If art and design is solely about increasing skills, getting better at shading or learning about a narrow range of artists who died long ago, then it’s unlikely to reach the minds of the young people in your care. Summary Teaching pupils with additional needs and disabilities is a specialist area, one that requires greater knowledge and understanding on your part. You shouldn’t go into any classroom without some training and guidance in how to do that. Nor should you feel isolated and alone in teaching pupils with complex needs. There must be a strong network of support in the school that you can tap into. I’d summarise the teaching of SEND pupils into these five areas: Communicate - find out what pupils, parents & other agencies expect of you Anticipate - think and plan ahead for their learning needs Provide - ensure they have the materials they need at the time they need it Support - be observant and mindful of them as they go through the learning process Check - you are both comfortable and secure that the lesson has been effective You’ll do most of these as part of your daily practice anyway, but I think it’s helpful to be aware of the processes you’ll go through. I wish you well in your teaching of SEND pupils, and I hope this training will give you greater confidence and support in this extremely rewarding area of your practice. Looking back on my career, I can honestly say that some of my proudest moments are from teaching pupils who needed that little bit more from me.
Artistic Development in Children
One man may sketch something with his pen on half a sheet of paper in one day, or may cut it into a tiny piece of wood with his little iron, and it turns out to be better and more artistic than another’s work at which its author labours with the utmost diligence for a whole year”. Albrecht Durer We cannot define progression until we answer the question What Is Art? Professor Anna M. Kindler’s work in the 1990’s and 2000’s on artistic development in children has been extremely influential to me. I won’t try to summarise all her extensive research, but she states that you cannot define progression in art until you answer the question ‘what is art?’ This is not an easy question to answer but she outlines several education-based definitions of art: Art can be anything definition Visual art might be described as any form of human pictorial activity, but this makes the definition of artistic development both impossible and unnecessary. Art is creative expression (my addition) Again, this is very difficult to evaluate or quantify since it is highly subjective. What can be said however, is that expression as a form of exploration, risk taking, personal style and playfulness is a vital component in creativity and making art. We might not be able to clearly define what it looks like, but we can see evidence of these behaviours being undertaken. Art is pictorial representation The key problem with pictorial representation is that the world of art has long abandoned visual realism as a likely endpoint in the development of artistry. It also focuses on two-dimensional representation and, essentially, a graphic vocabulary, paying little attention to any other attributes – such as quality of thought, for example, that arguably is not inconsequential in artistic creativity. These limitations make pictorial development theory not very useful for the purposes of helping us capture the complex nature of artistic development. Art that functions within domain boundaries Artistic development can be related to the attributes and features which characterize artistic production of recognized artists and the expectations of the conventions of the artistic domain. Art critics, art historians, museum and gallery curators subscribe to this view. My additional text: Issues around these conventions centre on recent searching questions we have made around a lack of diversity and inclusivity in our cultural heritage. Has our very definition of artistic development been skewed by capitalism and elitist, biased notions of excellence? Many art movements certainly thought so. School Art? (My heading) Art as a form of visual activity that conforms to some broad criteria of quality – with the notion of artistic development being the ability to create (art) that demonstrate progress along selected dimensions. Whatever the definition, it is important to understand the long history of research into child development in art. Progression in art has been a subject of psychologists and artists for at least a hundred years or more. For the first half of the 20th century, psychologists focussed on how the cognitive growth and development of the human mind can be explained through drawing. The stages model of progression Pictorial development – the Stages model In the first half of the 20th Century, children’s drawings were studied for their illumination of the development of the minds of children, from a ‘primitive’ state to intellectual enlightenment. Many studies were undertaken by psychologists and thinkers such as John Dewey, Kerschensteiner, Luquet, Lowenfeld and Piaget. Victor Lowenfeld’s 5 stages of artistic development perhaps summarise this thinking best: * 1. Scribble Stage- (1-3 years old) At this age there is no connection made between the marks and representation during most of the scribble stage. This stage is mostly about the enjoyment of purely making marks. * 2. Preschematic Stage-(3-4 years old) Children begin to make connections between the shapes that they draw and the world around them. * 3. The Schematic Stage-(5-6 years old) Drawings are means of communication and narratives, but there is a lack of knowledge about perspective, scale, proportion etc. * 4. The Dawning Realism-(7-9 years old) Children become more critical of their work. They are more conscious of achieving precision, order and structure in their drawings and compare themselves to their peers. * 5. The Pseudo-Naturalistic Stage-(10-13 years old) Children at this stage of artistic development are very critical of themselves as there is an expectation to attain high levels of pictorial execution. Aesthetic development In the later parts of the 20th Century, the development of children’s drawings were viewed through different lenses by child psychologists and artists such as Vygotsky, Bourdieu, Arnhem, Anna Kindler and John Willats. In this period, constructivism dominated educational thinking and approaches to cognitive development attempted to be more inclusive and all encompassing, looking at the wider scope of artistic development, rather than just pictorial development. I’ve read most of of these approaches but find them of limited use as working models for school-based art progression. I therefore have incorporated only those I found of most relevance. U-curve model In the 90’s, Howard Gardner, Jessica Davis & Ellen Winner took a more aesthetic approach to artistic development. They used a set of criteria to determine the quality of artistic production of self-portraits that were assessed by expert judges based on Goodman’s aesthetic protocol. (Goodman, 1968). This protocol very clearly reflected an aesthetic value system corresponding to the modernist artistic heritage and related pictorial development to symbolic systems. U-Curve progression Davis then did a series of controlled experiments on the drawings of hundreds of people from kindergarten, to primary, secondary, students and adults, including professional artists. What she discovered was that aesthetic aspects of art progressed in a U-curve, where children aged around 5 years had high levels of aesthetic attainment, similar to those of professional artists. They also found that attainment dipped considerably until the age of eleven, where it plateaued for most, but accelerated for a talented minority who gained greater artistic capacity. The U-curve model argues that artistic development does not proceed in a linear fashion and it does not necessarily involve improvement over time. The U-curve model was heavily criticised, other researchers found it difficult to replicate when the artistic input included non-western sources. It was also pointed out that the framework for judging ‘artistic merit’ was very selective and modernist in approach. In my opinion, none of these criticisms detract from the findings of the robust research undertaken by Davis. In much the same way as we can argue that Lowenfeld’s step model represents only one strand of artistic progression, so the U-Curve model only represents the aesthetic element of art progression When taken together, they form a pattern of artistic progression that I have experienced in 25 years of teaching art and that was substantiated by Ofsted’s Making a Mark report of 2011 by Ian Middleton, that outlined a decline in many aspects of artistic development from Year 1 to Year 9. Conclusions and implications of the research The Lowenfeld steps progression model of pictorial development is a recognised, established and well researched model of how drawing develops in western children. It tells us that children go through a fairly well established series of stages of pictorial development, before hitting a realism plateau around the age of nine or ten, and that most adults do not proceed beyond this phase. Implications of Steps and U-Curve progression Gardner, Winner and Davis’ U-Curve models posits that aesthetic, artistic development wanes from around the age of five to age eleven, then rises again for some, but not for most. From this we can conclude that as children age, the cultural value we place on pictorial accuracy hinders artistic, aesthetic, creativity. This is not a product of school education, since most young children do not receive art instruction from specialists, but rather a society wide cultural norm. As Goodman’s Aesthetic Protocol states and Rudolf Arnhem outlines in his 1973 book ‘Art and Visual Perception, a Psychology of the creative eye’, children acquire a pictorial symbolic schema from cultural references they are exposed to from birth. In short, children learn, from us, that lines must form pictures and that these pictures have order, precision and meaning attached to them. We could teach children that drawing objects or emotions in more symbolic, abstract ways is the norm, as other cultures such as Aboriginal cultures do. Our culture has developed systems of Cartesian perspective and illusions for modelling form on a two-dimensional surface, all of which are highly complex and difficult to learn. Kindler’s systems model In the 1990’s and 2000’s, Professor Anna Kindler proposed an alternative theory of artistic development based on a systems approach that recognizes the dynamic interplay between the three key variables: the individual, the educational field and the domain, in conceptualizing artistic growth. Kindler was critical of past approaches to artistic development that were based in psychology. She made rigorous studies of a wide range of contemporary Chinese artists who worked in traditional, sculptural and contemporary forms to identify the nature of their artistic development and identify, from their own experience, features and attributes that made their artistic success possible. She identified three dimensions of artistic development: * Visual imagination/sensitivity – the ability to carefully and imaginatively attend to the natural and human made environment is foundational to creative performance in visual arts, no matter what form it may take. * Understanding of the pictorial medium/technical proficiency – not in any specific artistic style (realism, expressionism, etc.) but rather development in any pictorial repertoire. * Cognitive discernment/artistic thinking – the ability to discern between the trivial and the extraordinary, to understand deeper meanings behind art. Kindler’s Systems model Kindler said it is vital to ascertain what exactly the children are learning, and establish how the art activities and the teacher’s role contribute to the achievement of worthwhile educational outcomes. Kindler: There is not a single endpoint for graphic development, nor is “expression” the sole possible communicative intent behind drawing; rather, neophyte graphic artists can pursue a multiplicity of goals and intention. A Prism Progression model Prism progression focusses on 4 areas of artistic growth Artistic Self In my Prism model a fourth area for art progression would involve a focus for the development of the artistic self. Being self-aware, children would be able to articulate their likes and dislikes, tastes & preferences, in addition to exercising control and autonomy in the creative directions they wish to take, under guidance from the teacher. The three attainment areas of skills proficiency, conceptual knowledge & understanding and expression would combine in greater or lesser amounts depending on the educational intentions. It is perfectly plausible to envisage instances where any of these could be taught in isolation, but I think a balance of these in curriculum planning would ensure that art progression provides a breadth of experience. Skills Proficiency We can relate Kindler’s systems model to current educational practice, where knowledge and skills based progression form the technical proficiency dimension. Most schools have a model of skills development in place and this would be slotted into this position in my model. Note however, that Kindler strongly emphasises student autonomy in the development of media. She does not advocate development in any specific pictorial repertoire (such as optical realism, expressionism, etc.) but rather to a level of mastery of any pictorial repertoire – both traditional and non-traditional modes of representation. Her findings pointed to the significance of the artists’ profound understanding of the full potential of the medium, his or her “control” in its use, and the impact that it has on unleashing one’s creative ideas. Creativity Encompassing both Kindler’s visual acuity and sensitivity dimension and Rudolf Arnhem’s Gestalt-centric ‘Art & Visual Perception’, creativity should address imagining, making meaning, expression, visual observation and perception and the ability to think and communicate in visual terms. It should cover the creative application of visual language in practice, making sensory interactions with the environment, building the capacity to imagine, invent, problem solve and observe with clarity. It should also comprise the growth of artistic intuition & instincts. Essentially therefore, this attainment area attempts to address the need for open-ended, creative art activities, rather than prescriptive, closed outcomes that all look identical. To this end, I think imagination is of profound importance. Imagination has, in recent times, been placed under the umbrella term ‘generating ideas’ which provide a focus and purpose, but I think also narrows the role of our imagination to being a device for coming up with ideas for (usually teacher-led) projects. Imagination is a much broader, more useful description of what we should aim for in art education in my opinion, especially if we encompass Kindler’s visual imagination and sensitivity descriptions. This is adapted from Wikipedia: * Imagination is the ability to produce and simulate novel objects, sensations, and ideas in the mind without any immediate input of the senses. * Imagination is the forming of experiences in one’s mind, which can be re-creations of past experiences such as vivid memories with imagined changes, or they can be completely invented and possibly fantastic scenes. * Imagination helps make knowledge applicable in solving problems and is fundamental to integrating experience and the learning process. * Imagination involves thinking about possibilities. * Involuntary imagination involves day-dreaming or dreaming. * Imagination can also be expressed through narratives, fantasy or play. Knowledge & Understanding – Key Concepts What Kindler calls Cognitive discernment/artistic thinking, is something I think relates strongly to prior attainment targets of old that we called knowledge and understanding, but are now more fashionably called Key Concepts. Key Concepts are the underlying meanings and principles behind culturally significant art. I’ve done some work on this, because they aren’t actually formulated anywhere as far as I can see. However, there are some key concepts I think that would be beyond dispute, such as formal elements or abstraction. I would welcome discussion on this issue. My key concepts are; formal elements in both theory and practice, choice of media, design, making & craft, knowledge of artists’ intentions and art movements, creativity, inclusion, reflection, diversity, observation and themes in art. For a more detailed description of Key Concepts, visit www.paulcarneyarts.com References Art in early Childhood, an essay by Anna Kindler http://www.artinearlychildhood.org/artec/images/article/ARTEC_2010_Research_Journal_1_Article_1.pdf Child development in art by Anna Kindler https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/0937652776/ref=x_gr_w_bb_sout?ie=UTF8&tag=x_gr_w_bb_sout_uk-21&linkCode=as2&camp=1634&creative=6738 Creative and mental growth Viktor Lowenfeld https://www.amazon.co.uk/Creative-Mental-Growth-Viktor-Lowenfeld/dp/0023721103 From the U-Curve to Dragons: Culture and Understanding of Artistic Development Anna M. Kindler https://www.jstor.org/stable/20716006
Higher Learning Potential in Art & Design
What is Higher Learning Potential? Education has a long history of attempting to define and identify pupils who were deemed to have ability higher than their peers, and so require modified, or more challenging forms of learning. Many of us will remember the Gifted and Talented programmes that ended around 2013, with limited results. The term gifted and talented was replaced by Ofsted in 2014 with the descriptor ‘More Able’ which it still uses to this day. However, Potential Plus UK use the term High Learning Potential (HLP) instead of 'more able' or 'most able'. In their experience, these terms have accrued a social stigma, or bias - it’s assumed these pupils’ future prospects are unequivocally bright and free from obstacles; that they are top of their class, successful and not in need of further support or assistance. The reality, Potential Plus say, is a little more complex. Many children who have high learning potential also have specific weaknesses or a special educational need (thus being Dual or Multiple Exceptional or DME) that needs to be identified and supported. Potential Plus maintain that a lack of an appropriate education for high learning potential children can lead to: loss of motivation, underachievement, disaffection, rebellion and anger, poor social adjustment, poor self esteem, blending in with the crowd, anxiety and depression. HLP children require their individual potential and talents to be recognised, nurtured, supported and challenged in order for them to feel fulfilled, and to develop good self-esteem. What is HLP in art and design? A 1993 study conducted by Marion Porath and Patricia Kennedy Arlin, investigated the ways in which pupils with High Learning Potential are the same as or different from their average peers. Their studies indicated that HLP students most strongly displayed a flexible and elaborate use of spatial-structure, but that other artistic abilities appeared to be more varied, showing individual differences. In fact, many other age-related artistic trends were similar to those of children with average ability. It seems as though advanced artistic ability is encapsulated - that is, that cognitive development follows a typical course, but the means to express themselves artistically within that developmental range is greater. Representing spatial-structure is an important aspect of artistic and cognitive growth. It describes the nature of pictorial structure - the way that children at different ages organise elements in their drawings, and their ability to accurately render dimensions, scale and proportion. Children demonstrate progressively more sophisticated capability in representing spatial structure, moving from depictions of single objects at age four, to simple two-dimensional scenes at age six, to a basic understanding of three-dimensional depiction at age eight, and finally to coherent three-dimensional representations at age ten. At adolescence, the three-dimensional scene becomes the primary unit for the subsequent stage of drawing development. Pupils with High Artistic Potential display spatial-structure in their drawings around two years higher than the norm, though this is seen more frequently around the age of four than in later years. Their use of colour is not significantly different to the average for their age group, though there is usually an increased ability in the use of line and shape, originality in composition, and accomplished technique such as tonal development, representation of movement and visual maturity. However, HLP pupils can demonstrate their artistic talents in different ways, and it is important to realize that not every product they produce will be outstanding. Produced by Al Hurwitz in 1983, The Gifted and Talented in Art: A Guide to Program Planning defines two sets of characteristics associated with High Learning Potential in art: behavioural traits and characteristics of their artwork. HLP in art; behaviours to look for: •Early Evidence - Pupils with High Artistic Potential usually begin young. •Highly skilful drawing - Drawing dominates for several reasons: the accessibility of the media, and because it can convey detailed information about a subject more easily than with other media. •Rapidity of Development - Pupils with High Artistic Potential often traverse the stages of visual development at an accelerated pace. •Extended Concentration - Pupils with High Artistic Potential stay with an art project longer than other children, and they see more possibilities in the task they have selected or been assigned. •Self-Directedness - Pupils with High Artistic Potential often have the drive to work on their own. •Possible Inconsistency with Creative Behavior - Although risk-taking is a characteristic typically associated with creative people, gifted students are often hesitant to experiment in a new area if they have achieved a certain level of mastery in an idiom. •Fluency of Idea and Expression - From middle primary age on, visual and conceptual fluency is a particularly significant characteristic because it is closest to the behavior of a trained artist. •Calculating Capacity - This term, coined by Howard Gardner, is a superior ability to utilize past information in new contexts. For instance, a visually gifted child who has achieved a certain level of mastery in figure drawing can use that ability to render figures in other situations. In addition to observing behaviours in the classroom, there are characteristics or qualities of pupil’s artwork that describe high learning potential in art and design. Characteristics of HLP Artwork •High Technical Skill - Children with HLP in art develop the ability to depict people and other subjects realistically at an earlier age than other children. •Compositional Control - The elements of composition, color, space and movement are handled with greater sensitivity by visually gifted students. •Complexity and Elaboration - The HLP child’s work is more complex and elaborate than other children’s. These manifest themselves as sensitivity to detail, the use of memory and more inventive outcomes. •Sophisticated control of Art Media - The HLP child is more likely to explore and experiment with media, and achieve technical control, which results in a more elegant finished product. This is especially noticeable from upper primary age on. •Random Improvisation - Doodling and improvising with the effects of lines, shapes, and patterns are a favorite activity of the HLP child. They use their ability to invent, depict, and describe to create meaning. I think these definitions are useful for defining pupils with High Learning Potential in art, and they are great to have in department policy documents to evidence that you know how to identify pupils with greater ability in the subject. But to be honest, all these lists are telling you is something you probably knew already and can see with your own eyes. Pupils with HLP in art show greater skill and dexterity beyond their years. They like to do what they can do and don’t like working outside of their comfort zone. There are other aspects HLP in art which I’ll discuss later, but first of all, I’d like to discuss how you might teach HLP pupils in art at any educational phase. Section 4: Teaching pupils with High Learning Potential in art and design IEP’s Firstly, I think it’s essential to have an Individualised Education Plan, or IEP for your HLP pupils. This should identify their unique needs, behaviours and abilities. Remember, many HLP pupils will also have specific weaknesses or a special educational need (thus being Dual or Multiple Exceptional or DME) that needs to be identified and supported. It’s difficult for me to address these hugely diverse and complex needs in this short training video, so I will refer you to Potential Plus UK and recommend you read ‘The School Handbook for Dual and Multiple Exceptionality’, which is part of the nasen Spotlight series. Nasen, is the leading organisation representing SEN professionals, so your SENCO might have a copy you can read. Or perhaps, you might work in collaboration with your SENCO to produce the IEP. Curriculum Planning In relation to teaching art and design to HLP pupils, I think your second port of call is your curriculum planning. Every art activity you plan should be multi-layered. That is, they should contain activities that are then supported or extended. This is differentiation of course, but it’s important to know that differentiation is not teaching multiple, different activities at the same time. It’s about ensuring the activity you’ve planned can be accessed by all, regardless of ability and yet is still able to challenge and stretch the more able. This is not always easy to do. It depends on the activity you’re doing, but it must be considered and catered for in your planning. For example, let’s say you are doing an art project based on Plants, the Jungle or Rainforests. You’ve planned a series of activities across a half term; you first get the pupils to study the work of the indigenous Amazonian artist Abel Rodriguez. You want them to make drawings, sketches and studies of his beautiful artwork in their sketchbooks, adding notes about his use of the formal elements of colour and line, and their thoughts and feelings about his work. Of course, you’ll provide them with printed images of his art to work from and a range of art materials such as pencils, felt pens, wax crayons and maybe some ink or paint. You might even provide them with success criteria such as; pupil will be making good progress if they produce four studies of Rodriguez’s work in a variety of art media, and add notes describing the colours and lines he has used. But it isn’t enough to then simply let them get on with it, because some will struggle to do this and others will find it too easy. In short, it isn’t differentiated in the planning. How specifically, will you support those that might find reproducing Rodriguez’s work difficult? How will you provide challenge for the minority that find it too easy? To offer support, you might crop certain, more simplistic examples of his work, enlarge them on a photocopier and let them trace or copy them. You might get them making their annotated notes on separate pieces of lined writing paper that they stick into their books, rather than struggling to write neatly on drawing paper. You might even allow them to type and print their notes, but you should certainly provide writing frames and suggested words to help support their writing. To extend and challenge the task, you don’t want to simply expect more work. They haven’t got any more time than anyone else, so this is unfair. What you want to do is to ask for greater depth. You’re looking for higher quality, more detail or more skilful use of media of course; but try nudging them out of their comfort zones. Ask them to use materials they’re unsure of in addition to the ones they know. Maybe alter the scale of the study, so they work bigger on different surfaces, using a range of media. They can always fold it and stick it in their sketchbooks later. There are so many ways you can challenge pupils by altering the media. When it comes to the annotation, they may or may not have higher ability to correspond with their artistic ability, but if they do, ensure you provide them with higher level examples of what more skilful annotation looks like. Again, this isn’t about writing more; it’s about writing with more depth and skill. Challenge Providing challenge is easier to do when you are teaching skills such as drawing, painting, sculpture or printmaking because you would usually expect higher levels of outcome. There is an element of differentiation by outcome at play here; the more able should work to a higher level when working to their strengths, in areas they know. But you could also challenge them by: •Getting them to work outside their comfort zone in unfamiliar ways so they grow as artists. For example; if a pupil has high ability when drawing with outlines, challenge them to shade tonally, perhaps even showing them how Seurat drew with no outlines at all, entirely using tonal marks. If they are confident with clay, get them working with wire. If they say they only like drawing certain subjects, get them to draw them using media they don’t usually use, such as drawing Manga characters with a stick and ink to lessen the control. •Allow greater flexibility of choice, but still remain within the task. You may want them to draw a Still Life, but do they all have to draw it using a pencil on A4 paper? Could some draw it with charcoal or chalk pastel on sugar paper? Could some use wax crayon and ink? •Increase challenge, but not too much so it’s too hard. If you expect too much, especially if you simply demand greater quantity, then pupils will be discouraged. •Setting unique goals with deeper expectations - for example; work on different scales, apply tonal shading in the painting, use unfamiliar modelling techniques in the sculpture; essentially, make it harder, demand more depth, and increase challenge. One way of doing this more easily is to take elements from your progression guides that are one or two years above their chronological age. If it’s written well, it should provide you with enough content to satisfy the needs of the more able pupils and appease inspectors, who want you to demonstrate how you’ve challenged them. This will work fine of course, until you get to year 9, because you’ll run out of progression guidance. Now, Secondary colleagues are subject specialists of course and so you should have no problem writing curriculum content that challenges your pupils with Higher Learning Potential. Clearly, you want to look to examples of attainment in or around Year 10, which may be adapted from GCSE assessment advice found in the exam specification. Perhaps descriptors in the mid-attainment grade range might suit year 9 pupils with greater ability. For me though, the place to look for challenge is in the Subject Content guidance for the specification. Sections 3.1 Knowledge and Understanding and 3.2 Skills, give you some great areas for challenging HLP pupils in Year 9. Here are extracts I’ve highlighted: •Students should be encouraged to progressively develop their own strengths and interests in the subject and, increasingly, follow their own lines of enquiry. •Students must develop … sustained practical application of skills to realise personal intentions. •Realise personal intentions through sustained application of the creative process. I hope you can see there is a strong emphasis on students being able to realise personal intentions and work independently. Why not have them develop an outline for a Personal Project on a theme they devise, in conjunction with you, where you stipulate the success criteria? This will develop their strengths and interests in the subject and teach them how to follow their own lines of enquiry. Maybe they could do a mini-project on a chosen vocational area of practice in the creative and cultural industries? Perhaps they could do an in-depth study of a chosen artist or movement, or maybe they might work on developing a specific skill to a higher level? All these areas will lead to higher attainment in the next educational phase because they are skills specifically identified by the exam boards as leading to exceptional performance. You may be tempted to nudge them into early exam entry of course but I’d be wary of doing that. What I would advise is to use this time to develop their critical thinking skills, their ability to answer complex problems or work from starting points. This will develop and broaden their experiences, thoughts, ideas, of things they’ve seen and been exposed to. Things they care about and are inspired by. Essentially, this is the fuel for their next educational phase, and if GCSE art is chosen, then they will be more equipped to do it well. So I would use the time to give them greater choice of subject matter, perhaps even being involved in writing their own scheme of work, so long as it meets your curriculum requirements, why not? If art is about taking risks, then you should take some well thought out ones too. Key stage 3 is not merely a steppingstone to an exam in key stage 4. It’s an educational phase in its own right and it should be treated as such. Section 5: Artistic Thinking Skills So long as we are dealing with concrete skills we are on safer ground. Pupils with High Learning Potential display greater fine motor skills, increased dexterity and aptitude for producing tangible art forms we can see and measure more easily. Their increased ability is visible. Despite the skills of artistic outcomes being more visible, we cannot simply define ability in art and design by productivity. Art isn’t only what the hand can do automatically, it’s what the brain instructs it to produce. Art isn’t only skill, it’s about ideas. Our jobs as teachers of art, isn’t only to raise levels of skill; we must also ensure children develop the capacity to formulate, mould and shape their ideas for the things they want to express visually. Pupils who have well developed imaginations and who think creatively, divergently and with some originality therefore, can also be described as having High Learning Potential in art and design. High Learning Potential and imagination in art Imagination is the ability to form mental images, analogies, or narratives of something that is not perceived through our senses. Imagination allows us to construct potential scenarios that do not exist. It is utilises our memories and past experiences and gives us the ability to make new meanings and see things from other points of view that are not always visible or real. The most common assessments of creativity used in education are the Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking. Although the Torrance Test is roughly half a century old, it is still in current use and remains the most popular creativity assessment around the world. The full test has a complex marking system and has two parts; a verbal component and a visual component, but these are not independent of each other, and the results do not correlate. In key stage three I’d use a variation on an artist's work I think is brilliant and that is the artist Christoph Niemann. He takes everyday objects such as shells or pen tops and transforms them into highly imaginative drawings, by utilising and manipulating the form of the object itself. You might photograph some interesting objects then photocopy them. Keys are good for this, as are shells, screws, leaves or curtain hooks; anything with an interesting shape. Give out the photocopies then ask them to produce the most imaginative, original picture they can; providing as much detail as they can and trying to create a whole picture, rather than a simple solution. That way we are looking for complexity and depth, as well as imagination and originality. We’d group and peer assess these in class to establish how well pupils had met the criteria for divergent, imaginative thinking, coupled with complexity, to meeting, exceeding or developing criteria. In the Torrance Test example image, we can see how a starting point of a simple circle might lead to either a drawing of Mickey Mouse, or a long chain of circles. Clearly, Mickey Mouse is more creative and imaginative than just repeating the circle over and over. It’s subjective of course, but you are looking for originality and divergent thinking here. People tend to resort to familiar things and faces are used most often because they are so firmly embedded in our consciousness. So, drawing a King cartoon character is much more imaginative than drawing a face; even if the face is drawn more skilfully. This simple assessment would give me an indication of pupil’s imaginative ability. If some results were particularly high, I’d repeat the test at a later date with a different object and look for further signs in their classroom work that this was an established trend - that this imaginative capacity wasn’t just a one off. If I was satisfied that I had a true, divergent thinker on my hands then I could be confident that I someone with High Learning Potential for imagination in art. Creative teaching Recognising this imaginative capacity is one thing of course; doing something with it is another. Lessons in school are notoriously seeped in Substantive Knowledge. They are, quite rightly, mostly about teaching facts and information, rather than being imaginative. So, let’s look at how we might teach more creatively in art, and in doing so, provide pupils with High Learning Potential some opportunities to express their imaginative capacity. Creativity is taught by designing more open ended art activities that have some creative choice over the outcomes. Open ended projects will lead to more dynamic outcomes; one’s where pupils might respond more imaginatively, or in more depth, or by synthesising unusual materials or techniques, or by referencing more complex, intellectual sources, or by use of metaphor, analogy or symbolism, or by employing unique, divergent solutions to problems. A good art project has knowledge and skills embedded, but some flexibility in its application. For example, you can teach pupils how to shade a ball, but then you can give them creative freedom to apply that skill in creative, imaginative & personal ways. At a simple level, you’d maybe offer a choice of materials to pupils. You might offer them the choice of drawing with a soft pencil or a graphite stick, chalk pastel or oil pastel, a marker pen, or Indian ink. You might then increase the range of choices; ink, pastel, or paint. Drawing, sculpture, or digital. Realistic, abstract, or three-dimensional. You might incorporate choice in other ways, such as the subject matter, the type of surface they work on, the scale and size of the piece, or even the colours or patterns they apply. You might be teaching them how to draw an animal, then when they have learned your lesson, give them the choice to decorate or colour it in ways of their own choosing. By making this simple adaptation to your planning you can not only develop knowledge and skills, but also your pupils’ creativity too. If, on the other hand, pupils are simply following step-by-step recipes on how to make art, and learning factual knowledge by rote, you will produce pupils who know more and can do more, but have less understanding and capability of how to reassemble that knowledge into new forms. Section 6: High Learning Potential for art criticism There is finally, one more aspect to High Learning Potential in art and design that we have to consider, and that is a critical understanding of art. Just as there are highly skilful or highly imaginative artists, there are also some who can verbally relate what they see in art that goes beyond that of their classmates. Their artistic perceptions are sharper, they assimilate art vocabulary more easily, and they can describe what they see or quickly recognize visual phenomena once they are pointed out. They can make significant connections between the meaning of a work, the intention of the artist, and formal elements. Such children can reveal insights into art that are fresh, unexpected, and illuminating. Of course, these skills are not learned in isolation. They are linked strongly with pupils literacy skills, but I always found that there were pupils identified with weaker written English skills who excelled in group discussions about art. In my art lessons, I would have regular discussions about art and artists, lasting ten or fifteen minutes, where we would critique a famous work of art for no other reason than to teach children the pleasure of looking at art. During these discussions, I’d introduce concepts such as use of language, the formal elements, or symbolism for example, but the main focus of such discussions was simply to get them to talk about art and express their opinions of it. Pupils with High Learning Potential for art criticism deserve just as much recognition as those with high technical ability. This ability can lead to exam qualifications in art history, or to rich oral presenting skills. The Articulation Prize by the Roche Educational is one such example, where children take part in presenting to groups about art images they enjoy. It is immensely rewarding. Summary In the course of this presentation we have established that pupils with Higher Learning Potential have not always been taught well in schools. We know that they remain a high Ofsted priority, and are a part of the Pupil Premium budget, yet leading organisations continue to call for greater provision for them, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds. We know now that our use of terminology in describing such pupils has a stigmatised history and so are best using the term HLP High Learning Potential or DME Dual or Multiple Exceptional. We can better identify high learning potential in art and have identified three forms of it; exceptional skill, highly imaginative or outstanding critics of art. Now that we understand the different ways pupils can excel in art and design, we can use this knowledge, not only to improve provision for the more able, but to create aspirational learning for all pupils, and so everyone might improve. I hope also, that I’ve given you some support; not only in being able to confidently identify HLP pupils in art, but also in understanding how to teach them more effectively. This isn’t easy. You have a lot to do and don’t have the time to do it, but I think it’s important that those pupils who do have additional needs are supported as best we can. Ultimately, it all comes down to priorities but I do think that nurturing the next Picasso should be one of them.
Literacy in Art & Design
Reading is a complex and difficult process that is usually broken down into its component parts of reading comprehension, decoding, word reading, fluency, vocabulary, grammar, etc. A good starting point for understanding reading development is to use the EEF’s Simple View of Reading which highlights that successful reading is a product of two complex, but separable processes; word reading and comprehension. That is, pupils have to be able to decode what the text says, then make inferences and meanings from it. • Word reading is the ability to recognise, decode and understand the meaning of individual written words. For example, a pupil with poor word reading may struggle to understand complex subject vocabulary. • Language comprehension is a multidimensional process that is used to access the underlying meaning of spoken and written language. This involves the integration of multiple sources of knowledge and skills, including knowledge of word meanings and syntax, and making inferences (e.g., drawing on background knowledge as we listen and read). It is common for pupils to be able to read what text says, but lack the comprehension skills to understand it. There are many ways to teach this and this is where the expertise of specialist English teachers comes in to play. Direct instruction, where the teacher guides pupils through the text is probably the most used method, but peer discussions, visual aids and even non-skilled drawing can all help with comprehension. As counterintuitive as it may seem, it doesn’t always follow that reading challenging text more slowly is the best approach. A study by the University of Sussex in 2019 with 20 English teachers in the south east of England who all received specialist training, found that simply reading challenging, complex novels aloud and at a fast pace in each lesson repositioned ‘poorer readers’ as ’good’ readers. The method provided a more coherent faster read, and better supported poorer readers by explicitly teaching inference. It diagnosed students’ ‘sticking places’ mid-text and created socially cohesive guided reading groups that further supported weaker readers but also stretched the average/good readers. It’s a good idea to show your English subject leads samples of the kinds of text you use in each year, to ensure they are appropriate. If they don’t have time to appraise these for you, then ask to see examples of texts they use in each year. To teach year seven well for example, you need to be familiar with the standard of reading material for an eleven year old and I’m not sure all art teachers know this. If you use too much sophisticated, complex subject terminology that is way above their reading ability, you risk alienating many of your cohort. You should have an art book reading list that contains a range stimulating books children can read on the lives of famous artists, or art activities they can do at home for example. Buy them for your department and try to build in some art reading time, perhaps in wet breaks or lunch clubs. Perhaps the school library might acquire them for you too! Either way, reading for pleasure is the gateway to improving your pupil’s literacy and is therefore a significant tool for increasing engagement and development in art and design. I was surprised by the amount of children’s books there are these days on the lives of artists. The vocabulary, reading, writing and communication conventions in art There is much more to reading in art than meets the eye that I don’t think is properly recognised. For example, research by GL Assessment analysed the reading abilities of 370,000 GCSE students, and discovered that doing well in creative subjects such as art, drama, music, etc. has very strong correlations to a student’s reading ability, which emphasises how ‘text heavy’ and challenging art is too. I’ve done my own informal research into literacy in art and design with some surprising results. By using an online tool for measuring reading scores, I was able to measure the reading age of one of the questions from the GCSE 2018 externally set assignment. Read the text then answer the question; ‘Explore appropriate sources and develop a personal response to Human figure’. Photo gcse art question The scores were fairly alarming and said that this one question had a reading age of 17 to 18 year olds. When you compare this to the GCSE English Literature paper, the difference is stark. Most questions in the Language and Literature papers are short questions with low reading scores, the larger passages of text are usually reserved for sample source texts that need to be read to answer the questions. This is one such sample text from the 2019 English Language paper; Photo James Cracknell text By my estimations, the reading age of this English paper text was 12 to 13 years, at least two years lower than the expected reading age for GCSE students. The art and design controlled assignment question was five years higher than this, at least two years higher than the expected reading age for this level. In practice, this means that only 1 in 5 of your GCSE students will be able to independently read and understand the art exam question. I sent these findings to AQA a couple of years ago and they responded to say that their assignment questions are rigorously scrutinised before going out, and so I think it highlights an important issue for us in art; the levels of literacy needed to be successful in the subject are higher than average. Now the pass rate for GCSE art and design is exceptionally high, so clearly teachers are overcoming this hurdle. I would argue however, that from my experience, the hurdle is being overcome with a huge helping hand from subject teachers, because art controlled assignment papers are carried out under classroom conditions over many weeks, meaning teachers can legitimately guide students through the process. Nevertheless, more able, and more literate students will find it much easier to understand and answer the set questions, than those with lower literacy levels. I honestly believe that literacy levels are as important to examination success in art and design as technical skills are. That’s why my baseline measures of art ability upon entry in year 7, always recorded reading ages, and I always monitored them through the key stage. Writing in art Writing is a mandatory part of GCSE Art & Design Assessment Objective 3; Record ideas, observations and insights relevant to intentions as work progresses. It says that students must record their ideas, observations and insights both visually and through written annotation using appropriate specialist vocabulary, as work progresses. Annotation might relate to initial thoughts, practical considerations, the communication of intentions, responses to sources, critical reflection on personal work and self-evaluation. What is interesting however, is that it states annotations can be and hand written or digital, so there’s no need to force everyone to hand write notes if they would rather type them. This should help students with weaker handwriting. One of the most significant mistakes I see students making in coursework is that they spend far too much time copying or writing long paragraphs of text to accompany an artist source they are referring to. The purpose of annotation in this context is to make connections between knowledge, understanding and skills when engaging with artist sources. Students need to be taught that you aren’t interested in them providing generic facts about an artists life and work, only what it is about the source that interests them and how and why they might apply that to their own work. So much time is wasted in this single area and it’s common to see students sketchbooks filled with long, pointless biographical writing about artists. The techniques and purposes of annotation have to be taught as early as possible, so let’s look at how you might do that. Firstly, we should provide examples of best practice annotations, through teacher or past-pupil examples. There are many that are provided on art and design examination board websites. Then we could walk them through modelled examples and even provide writing frames, with appropriate word banks of subject terminology. By the time, they reach key stage 4, pupils should know and understand how to apply meaningful, concise and relevant annotated notes to explain their thoughts and feelings about their work. I produced a guide to annotation in art a while ago that I think highlights the salient points about the skill. In it, I emphasise the need for the students to use annotation; concisely, to use descriptive language, to explain how it might influence their ideas, to label sources, to explain things we can’t easily represent with images, not to plagiarise or spend too much time decorating pages instead of creating content. If you have a basic knowledge of how writing is taught in English, you will be able to make connections with it and so strengthen their written art knowledge. For example, students in key stage 3 English are taught how to take notes for talk and presentations. This skill is relevant to the one they use to make annotations for their art. They also learn how to write non-narrative texts, including arguments and letters. It would be a great idea therefore, to have art pupils write a letter to an artist of their choice or perhaps having them write a review of a painting or exhibition. They might also write an article for a newspaper on a piece of art they like. Maybe they could work with a friend to write and record an art podcast about their favourite images. Now I know lesson time is limited, so maybe this could be homework based or extra-curricular. Many of our pupils might be budding art critics and we owe it to them to provide opportunities for them to flourish. There are art history GCSE’s of course, if you can accommodate them, and the Roche Court Educational Trust have an annual art based public speaking initiative called Articulation for students aged 14 - 23. I’ve had the pleasure of watching the finalists speak and they are simply brilliant and outstanding. Perhaps your students might simply make an art history presentation in an assembly or to their classmates. By doing this, they will be developing their knowledge of vocabulary, grammar and text structure, and be considering how their writing reflects the audiences and purposes for which it was intended; all of which is in the English National Curriculum. How to implement literacy strategies and techniques within art lessons to help pupils talk, read, and write When it comes to developing oracy skills in art, many students are not confident speaking publicly, and so may struggle to perform presentations live. As a stutterer, I know how intimidating this can be, but pupils need a safe environment where they can develop these important, lifelong skills. Students may also feel unconfident about the standard of their work compared to others, so make sure you go through things with them and suggest improvements. In English lessons, pupils learn to speak confidently and effectively, through giving speeches and making presentations, they learn to debate and participate in structured discussions, perform play scripts and do drama. These skills link very nicely with content in art, where pupils take part in discussions about artists work and have assessment critiques. These are all important speaking and listening skills we can develop further through art. Subject Terminology Like all subjects, art and design has its own distinct subject terminology which must be mastered if students are to make proper progress. It is common to see word banks displayed on art room walls and I always had my pupils create a small, hand-made dictionary of key words and phrases that they built up over the key stage. As well as learning the technical names of materials, processes and techniques, our subject vocabulary includes the formal elements of art and design, in which pupils acquire a knowledge of constructing sentences and phrases from both looking at the works of other artists, and when using art materials to create their own artwork. This language of art is manifest in both oral discussions and written annotations that explain the thoughts, feelings and ideas pupils have when developing ideas in their sketchbooks. It’s a complex thing to learn and more often than not, it’s pupils with higher levels of literacy in English lessons that do better at expressing their thoughts about the art they make and see. A really great idea, is to show pupils examples of artists’ gallery descriptions of their work. Most artists write short statements about their work when they exhibit and, if you can get hold of them, they provide compelling examples of the relationship between image and text in art and design. Some artists are almost poetic, others are factual. Some are deep and introspective, others minimal. I have many books of artists’ writing about the meaning of their own work, my favourite one is by Henry Moore, and it is a revelation to link their narrative description to the art itself. It would be a great art activity to do this in class I think. You would do well to talk to English teachers and ask them how they address the key stage three and four English curriculum requirements to write to describe, narrate, explain, instruct, give and respond to information, and argue. If you can connect the knowledge you require of students to the knowledge they are learning in English you will have more success, just ensure that what you are teaching is at the same level as theirs. There is much debate around whether writing in art and design should follow the same conventions of spelling and grammar taught in English. There have been times when I’ve thought that spelling and grammar isn’t as relevant as doing the art, but being outside of the classroom has taught me that it is really important to provide consistency and support in these areas if pupils are to properly learn them. If we don’t support these vital areas of literacy, then we are teaching double standards; we are saying there are times when spelling and grammar don’t matter and they do. It’s worth saying to pupils that it doesn’t carry or lose any extra marks in art, but I think it’s important to be holistic, whole school teachers with common objectives. Knowledge Organisers EEF research shows that secondary pupils vary widely in their literacy abilities, and the level in a single class can move from younger primary to adult levels. And it isn’t always the case that pupils will have strengths or weaknesses in the same areas. For example, some children will show difficulty with comprehending text but not decoding it. I think it’s really important therefore to analyse all of the text based teaching materials you give out to pupils for its reading age. You can do this quite easily in Microsoft Office these days, or use an online text analyser such as Readable, but it’s so important to do this because you can quite easily fall into the trap of using slides and handouts that can only be read and comprehended by a minority of pupils. I see this a lot when I look at examples of knowledge organisers school use and the assessment rubrics they give to children to stick in their sketchbooks. These can be very intimidating for a significant proportion of your class. I regularly advise secondary schools that the handouts they are giving year seven’s have a reading age of 14 plus. You cannot swamp pupils with so much technical information and subject vocabulary that they switch off and lose interest before you’ve even begun teaching it. A single knowledge organiser might be more convenient for you to create, but it is usually better to break the knowledge down into small chunks and give it out as and when it is needed, which avoids cognitive overload. Besides which, getting pupils to write the knowledge down themselves and illustrate it with simple sketches is far more effective for encoding and recall than giving out a photocopied sheet that pupils don’t read. Visual Literacy Visual literacy is described as the ability to read, interpret and make meaning from images, in the form of photos, graphs, charts, maps, diagrams and illustrations. The term was used informally for decades before being defined in 1969 by John Debes, co-founder of the International Visual Literacy Association. In 2004, they defined visual literacy as "understanding how people perceive objects, interpret what they see, and what they learn from them." However, the meaning of the term has been debated since it’s inception and has various definitions in art history, criticism, philosophy, information design and graphic design. We are all exposed to a huge amount of visual information every day. Images entertain, influence, manipulate and persuade us. In addition to the meaning making derived from written or oral human language commonly taught in schools, many educators are recognizing the importance of helping students develop visual literacies in order communicate effectively in the world. The University of Birmingham states that images must be evaluated in a similar way to written texts. We have all become accustomed to fake news and photoshopped imagery, and so, like text, images can be used accurately, deliberately, misleadingly or carelessly. Multiple people can view the same scene or image, yet interpret it in different ways. It is important that we teach students how to reflect critically on images that they come across in the same way they would with written text. We need to equip young people with the skills to question why the author of a document has chosen particular images and why they react to them in the way they do. Through the teaching of visual literacy, we can show students how to critically read images, and in doing so, can increase their critical thinking skills also. Visual literacy is not incidental, or an outlier, it is essential for students to become citizens who understand the role images play in modern communication. In addition to interpreting visual images, we need to also understand the role images play in memory and learning. Human long-term memory is capable of storing a massive number of detailed images. Research by by Brady, Konkle, Alvarez and Oliva in 2008 showed that the human brain can successfully maintain detailed representations of thousand of images over many hours. They found that, whilst the brain can easily miss important visual information in a casual scene, such as a subtle change of colour or the inclusion of an additional figure, under conditions where we attempt to visually encode such details, we are capable of remembering large stores of information. These results have implications for cognitive load models and pose a challenge to models of memory storage and retrieval, which must be able to account for such a large and detailed visual storage capacity. In layman’s terms, we remember pictures much more easily and effectively than we do text, so why aren’t we making more of it? The American Association of College and Research libraries say that a visually literate individual is able to: * Determine the nature and extent of the visual materials needed * Find and access needed images and visual media effectively and efficiently * Interpret and analyze the meanings of images and visual media * Evaluate images and their sources * Use images and visual media effectively * Design and create meaningful images and visual media * Understand many of the ethical, legal, social, and economic issues surrounding the creation and use of images and visual media.
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As an NSEAD registered art consultant, I offer a friendly, professional art consultancy service to schools, from early years right through to Secondary GCSE. I've worked with infant schools to improve art assessment, delivered primary school CPD on skills and progression, worked with Subject Leaders to raise attainment and done whole school, secondary art department audits including formal lesson observations and department reviews. My over-arching strategy is to support the professional development of hard working professionals with positive and constructive advice for improvement.
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