Saturday, 3 August 2013

Redefining the opportunities brought by the new subject of Computing in art, craft and design

Digital technologies continue to proliferate, bringing increasingly powerful and creative opportunity to support the production of high quality outcomes for presentation, exhibition, broadcast, projection and viewing on screen and handheld devices. With the recent increase in flexible computer controlled manufacturing equipment, this now places incredible design and production technologies within easy reach of the classroom.

There is a changing perception of these technologies, initiated by the return to computing as a higher-level activity and as a subject replacing ICT in the curriculum. This article identifies how computing is distinct from and additional to existing digital media processes within art, craft and design.
The ubiquitous nature of smartphone, tablet and mobile digital technologies make these ideal both as a means of viewing creative outcomes and also increasingly as the tool for creating new digital products and outcomes. Mobile technologies and the web provide students with a means to disseminate their work either as an online exhibition, or the device itself may increasingly become the means for the creation of these new graphical design products, as web design, digital games or interactive apps.
We cannot underestimate either the interest or abilities young people have in digital processes, their use of these technologies as both producers and consumers of entertainment and of learning products. Neither should we underestimate the fascination of both young boys and girls in these technologies and the particular interest shown by many boys in mastering these creative tools.
These ‘digital natives’ willingly commit time and energy to achieving high standards of design. Their growing interest in and mastery of programming indicates the potential for future careers in the creative, media and design industries. These tools are a route into these industries as consumers, but also as producers and practitioners. Film, TV and media content increasingly is delivered in this way, on-demand and directly to personal devices. The future of these developments must feature in those subjects that play a creative or technical role in all aspects of content creation. This is absolutely true in art and design, which has arguably the most diverse and potentially productive future career opportunities, when compared with all other national curriculum subjects.
Two of the most interesting and surprising developments of computer aided design and manufacture (CAD CAM) in recent years have been the development of laser cutting, etching and 3D printing technologies. Previously, the cost, reliability and production times have made these unsuitable as classroom tools. These issues are resolved and costs are falling rapidly as speed and quality increases. Design and Technology is rapidly embracing these tools in schools and they are as common in colleges of art and design as they are within engineering and manufacturing contexts. Art and design teachers should take a good look at these technologies and encourage schools to see these as essential in both curriculum areas.
The opportunities to create individual works to a very high quality in craft, design or fine art contexts will enable students to fully realise the products of their imagination, blending traditional media with computer managed manufacturing processes. Creative processes might include laser cutting complex shapes in paper, card or fabric for graphics or textiles projects; cutting sheet wood, cardboard and plastics to create sculpture maquettes; laser etching lino, woodblocks or acrylic sheet for mono-printing and intaglio; etching a detailed design into a ceramic tile, board, plastic or glass surface; 3D laser-scanning natural forms to create a 3D animation or alternatively, develop as a sculpture, three-dimensionally printed in resin with complex internal and external forms.
Luizardo by Nick Ervinck
From: 3D printed sculptures from the studio of Nick Ervinck

In the beginning by Nicola Anthony

From: Word Sculptures within her website

Agrieborzi by Nick Ervinck
From: 3D printed sculptures from the studio of Nick Ervinck
Sculpture by Stephanie Lambert
From: Art steps into the 3D printing arena
To realise these developments, I am suggesting that there are now three aspects of digital learning in art, craft and design. Firstly, the design and creation of lens, light based and interactive outcomes for web, screen, projected and printed products, Secondly, the production of physical and tactile outcomes using computer aided design and manufacture (CAD-CAM) and/or programming to control real and virtual systems. Thirdly, critical studies of the impact on society and the spiritual, moral, social and cultural implications of this technology.
1.    The design and creation of lens, light based and interactive outcomes for web, screen, projected and printed products include:
  1. Digital photography - image making, image manipulation and Photomontage;
  2. Digital production techniques, digital Collage (eCollage), creating new images from photographic, scanned, drawn or other diverse sources;
  3. Digital Graphic Design and the use of image, lettering, font design and text for commercial contexts to advertise and communicate graphically as well as games design, interactive media and web graphics;
  4. Digital cartoons and digital graphical novels or storyboards;
  5. Animation using 2D and 3D animation tools (e.g. hand-drawn, Flash, Pixelation, Rotoscoping, Stop-frame and Claymation, 3D software animation, Motion Capture and Tweening);
  6. Film, TV and live/studio created digital recording and capture, to create screen or projected narratives and expressive outcomes;
  7. Digital Installation art that use digitally created and/or digitally delivered content (from any of the above processes);
2.    The production of physical and tactile outcomes using computer aided design and manufacture (CAD-CAM) and/or programming to control real and virtual systems include:
  1. Computer coding to create animations, digital projection, games, web graphics, multi-modal products, interactive screen technologies and APPs;
  2. 3D laser scanning and the manipulation of virtual 3D forms using software and supported by e.g. Haptic[i] design tools prior to either image output to screen, projection, print or product;
  3. Computer Aided Design and Computer Aided Manufacture CAD CAM – e.g. 3D printing, laser cutting and engraving;
  4. Robot assisted painting – using computer programming to control art making devices that generate virtual and tactile outcomes or products;
  5. Computer programed and/or interactive art installation.
3.    Critical studies of the impact on society and the spiritual, moral, social and cultural implications of this technology.
  1. Educating young people in the media forms itself as intelligent, thoughtful and discriminating consumers and producers.
We are truly a visual society and these technologies provide the principal means of experiencing entertainment. Learning benefits from the use of these multimedia and production technologies. Our enjoyment and understanding of society and culture often comes from the viewing of film, media, television, gaming and the appreciation of well-designed products. As consumers, young people are already discriminating and selective. Art and design also has a role in teaching young people more about these media and product creation technologies. Enabling them to become intelligent, thoughtful and discriminating consumers and informing the products of their own creativity.

The production of high quality outcomes at near professional standards will only be limited by several factors in schools. Access, availability, cost of resources, or the personal interest and commitment to CPD that prepares teachers sufficiently to plan and use these technologies.

The involvement of industry professionals, artists, makers and designers is also of importance in maintaining the cutting edge nature of such creative activity. We must respect and learn from the past and the rich heritage of world cultures. But without fully embracing the technologies that design and create the moment and the products of future society, our subject will lose relevance and cease to have meaning to the very people who are our creative future.

Ged Gast May 2013

[i] Haptic Design Tools use a form of tactile feedback technology, applying forces and vibrations to enable the user to virtually touch, feel and manipulate what is on screen to stretch, squash, pinch and press a virtual form into shape.

Where are we now?

A personal viewpoint from the chalk face.

The climate and context for art and design is changing rapidly. Not just in the UK, but on the world stage as well. In this paper, I will set out what I believe are the forces and perceptions driving this change and what Impact this is having on art and design education.

If we start from the perception society has towards the subject, we may recognise a number of key beliefs. Namely, that the arts are important, but not essential. We know that we are successful in the arts and our artists and designers are world class. We know that because they are successful and defined as celebrities. They are celebrated in the media and through exhibitions in our galleries and on TV. But despite this, the visual arts are increasingly seen as more important to establishing a rich leisure experience for later life, than as a future career.

We know that the UK has produced many of the greatest visual artists, craftspeople and designers over the last 120 Years. Much of this built on successful outcomes of the industrial revolution, Victorian innovation and outcomes of technological development and 1960s creativity. UK designers have been at the forefront of engineering and design innovation, although in retrospect we may judge much of this historical legacy to be at the expense of other nations and members of the Commonwealth or former Empire. Similarly the output from UK creative designers has shaped the current form of graphical design, broadcast media and advertising throughout the world. The same is also true of web and games design. All of which are products of our incredible (although rather undefinable) art college system. Or is it incredible?

Presently, the political climate has subtly changed again and in a recession, people stick to what they know will bring prosperity and success. There is less stomach for the creative economy and the kind of risky development this might require. When parents are thinking about a career for their children, they are not thinking of a career in the creative and media industries other than perhaps the performing arts, fuelled as it is at the moment by the 'X factor' culture of success without a qualification or years of hard work. There is no belief in the 10,000 hour rule for hard work and success, such as we find in sports and classical art forms. The visual arts remain largely misunderstood and continue to be perceived as a career route into the fine arts, with all the associations that come with starving in an artist's garret.

The visual arts are not well understood by society in general and this perception is driven by two fundamental misconceptions. The first misconception comes from the secondary school context, where careers in the creative and design industries are mistakenly seen as a progression from DT rather than art and design. Some of this undoubtedly comes from the subject referring to itself as Art. This may seem pedantic, but the meaning is all in the name. Unfortunately, as a subject, DT has done little to correct this misconception and even promotes subjects such as Graphical Products as 'Graphics' misleading students into thinking this provides a direct route into graphic design, which is not really true. We all know, entry to graphic ensign is overwhelmingly via A level art and design, through a college of art and design. The same is also true for Textiles Technology. Please don't get me wrong. I like these subjects, they are good courses but are being misrepresented and at times, not taught fully in keeping with the true spirit and principle underpinning Design Technology. Hence many students lose their career pathway.

I am going to be slightly contentious here. But would suggest the some of this misconception is a product of the art and design college system itself, which looks forward and rarely back towards the schools where their future students learnt their basic skills. The Foundation course hurdle may itself also be a further part of this problem, separating art and design colleges in the minds of the public, from the schools that feed them students, in ways that progression from other A levels directly into University courses does not. I am not suggesting we should remove the Foundation course. As a consequence of what is happening in schools, it has become even more necessary. However, much more could be done to make the link explicit between art and design in schools and the pathways through into Design in further and higher education. We need to reinstate this link in the minds of educationalists and of society.

The other misconception comes from society and the media, who always seem to portray the visual arts through the fine arts, focusing on the latest 'wacky' exhibition or waste of money purchase by an art gallery. This is not helped in the minds of the public when portrayed as an elitist subject out of touch with society, spoken by a news presenter, clearly out of their depth with such a topic. But then, is this really news?

The situation in schools also shares some of these characteristics, propagated by a belief that we are so deficient in our teaching of the basics, that we must stop everything else and just focus on this, until we can hold our head up high in world league tables. This perception is widely acknowledged as our number one educational priority. It ignores the cultural context of other countries. It ignores the differences on subject emphasis and educational values placed on different education systems around the world. It ignores the very strength that has made our education system one of the exemplars of the world; not always in all of our schools, but certainly our education vision, the quality of educational thinking and teacher guidance. Teachers from around the world want to work in UK schools, to learn the pedagogy and then return to their own country, taking back these principles of outstanding practice they have gained while working here.

The problem with this situation, is that we have lost sight of what we have. We are so busy focusing on actions around our perceived deficiencies, we are doing too little to retain our strengths. We are throwing the baby out with the proverbial bathwater.

In art and design at the moment, we have primary teachers with less training in the visual arts than any time in the last 60 years. The average training time in teaching art and design is currently about 3.5 hours in total as part of a 3 year degree or 1 year Graduate programme. This just isn't enough to prepare anyone to teach a subject in which they have too little skills, experience or confidence.

In secondary schools, we are seeing a reduction in numbers opting for art and design for two reasons. Firstly, schools have reduced the options and offer, to limit the numbers who can take art and design and increase the number who take EBacc subjects. This may enhance their Ofsted report, but shows contempt for the interests and career aspirations of our society and young people themselves. Secondly, numbers are reducing because society is sending out messages telling young people that the arts don't matter, they are not a route to success or a prosperous career.

None of this is helped by the consequences of these actions and misconceptions. These actions not only reduce the offer or availability of such courses to students, but the reduction in teacher numbers is reducing the breadth of skills and specialist experience within the schools themselves.

What is often not understood, is that art and design is a very diverse subject made up from hundreds of specialised courses in higher education that cover all the crafts, all areas of design, digital and media industry courses, as well as fine arts, film, TV, advertising, architecture and many more. Teachers of art and design are therefore bound to be specialists and the fewer teachers there are in a school, the more limited the specialist experience amongst the teaching team. As art and design departments are made smaller, the breadth of the team also narrows. When you add this situation to the reduction by 50% of course places in Universities offering post graduate education training in art and design, we can see a dangerous pattern emerging. Then add in a new draft curriculum that fails to set out the true breadth of the subject, or fails to address the contemporary curriculum, associated specialist areas of study and progression pathways, or fails to celebrate the wealth of creative and cultural diversity we have enjoyed for 20 years; then you have a toxic mix that will rapidly erode the quality of this subject and employment pathways.

And how will this impact on our art and design colleges? The UK has proudly boasted that it has many of the best colleges of art and design in the world for most of the last 50 years. This was achieved largely at a time when the rest of the world did not themselves offer such courses. In the last decade, countries like China, India and emerging nations, all cultures without a strong recent visual design heritage have recognised the value of a creative economy and invested in the development of higher education programmes. Just at a time when our present Government seems oblivious to the value of the creative, media and design industries, or to the creative, cultural and economic health of the nation. But just maybe, they are not unaware. Maybe their priorities have just changed. If our creative, media and design industry companies are happy to recruit from abroad, this will not impact on the prosperity of these industries one jot. But it will slowly reduce the demand for places and the number of art and design colleges across the country. They may think that there may be some merit in losing the weaker performing colleges, particularly as this coincides with what is happening in schools through the reduction of students able to access an art and design option, or two arts options as a consequence of the EBacc and a society that devalues the arts.

Is this all happening because of a belief that the visual arts are not a way into a prosperous career? Do we still think our artists, craftspeople and designers are starving in garrets? The truth is, that for many creative and media industry graduates, their salaries may not compete with the financial industries or business. But these creative people are happy, fulfilled and productive, working within world class industries. The Government may think that they are not successful in gaining employment compared to other graduates. But Higher Education records show this is not true. In 2012, Arts and Design graduates were more successful than medicine, or technology and engineering graduates. In fact, in sheer numbers of graduates moving into work in the relevant industries, they outperformed nearly every other group. The problem is, they mostly move into small companies or are self-employed until they establish themselves within their industry.

All of this is immensely worrying.

It worries me that society doesn't care where its designers come from and the cultural characteristics of our society are being changed.

It worries me that our creative, media and design industries feel no commitment to our own education system and the health of our once world class art and design college system.

It worries me that society no longer recognises that art and design has long been one of the jewels in the crown of the UK education system, but is now misunderstood and devalued by society.

It worries me that school senior leaders don't have the expectations for our subject they once had. They want examination results, they want the value added scores and targets to be met, but they don't seem to care about the real cost to our society of closing down the breadth of curriculum and the richness of learning opportunities we have historically provided for our brightest, most creative, sometimes more difficult and risk-taking young people. We celebrate their achievements in the papers and on our screens when they are successful, but we are increasingly blind to the dwindling numbers of young people from our schools at the heart of the creative, media and design industries. These are exactly those individuals, who need the opportunity through our education system to become the next generation of creative individuals who will light up our world and continue to make this country a creative world leader. If we ask, "who will be the next generation of young creatives who will shape our world"?  We now increasingly will have to say that they will probably come from overseas.



Ged Gast. 2013

Sunday, 20 May 2012

The Art, Craft and Design Curriculum – understanding where Design has gone and what do we do about it.

Art, Craft and Design Curriculum - think piece 3

I remember when my boss at the time asked me to explain to him what Design was. We spent two days together just talking about the various characteristics of design and in these discussions we mapped out what design encompassed in art and design, and what it could be within the realm of applied technology. It was 1989 and my boss had just been appointed as the first national subject officer for Technology. He was joining the National Curriculum Council (NCC) to write the first subject Order for Technology. As a computer scientist he would admit that he didn't know much about design, but he had been told that this new subject to be created in the new national curriculum would bring together Computer Studies, Craft, Design Technology (CDT), Home Economics, Needlework and Technical Drawing, along with elements of engineering and manufacturing, but embracing at that the new technologies could offer. This new subject was forged following the period where the 'white heat of technology' was rapidly changing our industries and our classrooms. The subject was Technology and was created to update the constituent subjects so that they could exploit these developing technologies prevalent as new computer technologies brought manufacturing and control possibilities into the classroom.

We were joined in these discussions at various times by another colleague who was the Adviser for CDT who also shaped another vision for design in relation to CDT and this wider range of the new Technology subjects. I remember these discussions as very positive and highly amicable. We understood how design could really make these subjects function together with the shared purpose they needed. We started to consider how we could map out the way in which Art and Design and CDT could complement each other.

It was Margaret Thatcher who really wanted to create a subject called Technology, during her period as Education Minister and was then able to achieve this when Prime Minister, through the creation of a National Curriculum. She also believed this new subject or group of subjects needed to include design. She was right in this, but unfortunately, ministers have never really understood what design is. They still don't understand the scope of design, in much the same way that they don't understand creativity. Of course, we all know that there are implicit connections between them. Design is after all a process of creative activity.

The problem, however, was that the first Technology subject Order  was published 2 years ahead of the Art, Craft and Design subject Order. In this 2 year period, the new Technology group of subjects had redefined the constituent subjects with a broader definition of design than had perhaps been intended. Remember, it needed design, to make the group of subjects share a process and enable them to function together. To giver shared meaning and purpose to many of the activities. In these first years, they were usually taught as a carousel of experiences, where a model of the design process was used to provide a structure for their programmes of study and as learning model of a process of actions they could all share. Increasingly, this led to limitations on creativity. As we all know, as soon as you set down your creative process as a ‘straight jacket’ of actions and steps, you lose much of the creative flexibility that Creativity needs to flourish.

Very quickly, concerns were beginning to be expressed by those teachers who could see the move away from ‘craft’ skills as losing something that had been implicit and of real value to the engagement of young people in the subject. Namely a commitment to developing mastery of a skill, that goes back to the work of the Guilds in European culture. Also The Engineering Council grew increasingly worried that these new subjects were reducing the skill set needed by young people who progressed through on pathways to engineering qualifications and careers in the manufacturing industries. They complained of a curriculum over emphasising paper and card prototyping, without experience and skill gained in the skilful handing and consideration of real problems manipulating metals, plastics, wood and other materials. These concerns have grown over time and resulted in several changes to The Technology Order, at one point changing it to Design Technology (DT as it is now known) but resulting in a move (as some would see it ) as further from developing good engineers and designers, and from the science of materials technology. The creation of specialist vocational courses in Engineering and Manufacturing have helped address these concerns over the last decade, but the current costs and difficulty in providing such courses in schools, along with changes to vocational funding and value have resulted in the reduction of provision and a likely return to a curriculum diet of traditional GCSE and A Level qualifications.

More recently, concerns by Chefs such as Jamie Oliver and Gary Rhodes, have challenged the value of Food Technology, and suggested that the focus on design has also reduced the opportunity for cooking. Many modern chefs have suggested that the former Home Economics course was a better preparation for life and an understanding of how to feed ourselves, than the current course provides.

This brings us to the difficult issue of the impact on art and design from DT. This has increased over the years as DT subjects referred to themselves in short hand names that seemed to cover the same areas of experience that several art and design courses also used, in Graphics, and Textiles. When created, Technology and then DT was originally mandatory at Key Stage 4, resulting in all students having to take at least one GCSE, leading schools to see the place of design as sitting within DT. As Art and Design has always been a discretionary subject, Headteachers and Principals have in general, not wanted to offer Art and Design courses at GCSE that seemed to repeat or overlap with what DT already offered. Surprisingly, this has continued, despite the fact that for most of this period, the majority of teachers with Design qualifications have been working in the Art and Design departments, whilst the majority of those teachers without such design qualification, were being employed to teach DT courses. Needless to say, in many schools, results were not what was expected and were often less than the GCSE results achieved by Art and Design Teachers offering the art and design equivalent course. Over the last decade, design specialists have moved into DT departments, many with a background of Art and Design, but who could see that career opportunities in art and design were often less than a growing DT Faculty could offer.

It is still not understood by senior leadership teams (and government ministers) that DT does not prepare students for careers in the vast majority of the design industries. To become a designer, you still need to study in a college of Art and Design and to gain access, you usually need a Level 3 qualifications in art and design. Hence, studying Graphical Products at GCSE and A Level does not prepare you for entry to a degree in Graphic Design and the same is true of Textile Technology which does not prepare you for a degree in Fashion and Textiles, but it does prepare you for a degree in Textile Design and Manufacturing.

Students are being misled by teachers who refer to these courses in their shorthand form of Graphics and Textiles. They are neither. Art and Design has equivalent GCSE and A level versions of these courses, but schools too rarely allow these teachers to offer these, even when they are the only teachers in the school, with a specialist degree in the subject!

Things are changing though and DT faces being redefined as a Basic subject, becoming optional at Key Stages 3 and 4. Given the cost of resourcing and maintaining these subjects, schools may well be happy to make cuts and limit the breadth of the DT options.

DATA would like the help of art and design to argue in support of the place of Design in the Curriculum. It may seem petty, but I don't ever remember a time when DT argued for the place of Design in Art and Design. Throughout all the years of the National Curriculum, when Art and Design was being cut back, when schools were removing GCSE Graphic Design and replacing it with Graphical Products, the same for Textiles and Three Dimensional Design, I never once heard a voice raised by DT teachers or DATA to suggest we put some clear blue water between both subjects to enable both to define and keep their place within the curriculum.

Throughout the last 20 years since Art and Design has been a subject in the National Curriculum, we have seen across the country a gradual reduction in the perception of the value of art, craft and design. In this period, we have seen the loss of kilns and sculpture equipment, the loss of print and textile facilities, the subject reduced to being defined as Art. We have also seen some boys being switched off by the subject, a reduction in staffing so that almost all teachers in schools now have a background in Fine Art and many do not have the range of technical skills required to teach courses that young people need to develop their art, craft and design skills, knowledge and understanding. All of which will not enable young people to make good informed choices, nor will it prepare them in a way that will enable them to pursue a career in the creative, media and design industries of the future.

Despite all of this, I do want to help Design Technology. This is because I believe it is a subject vital to the future of society and is a significant player in transforming society and improving the quality of life through design. But I recognise this is a different design to the design we teach in art, craft and design. We need both, but for complementary and different reasons. We just need to articulate and promote the case for both and by defining these, separate some understanding for beleaguered school leadership teams and politicians, so that they too can understand and support the value of both areas of learning.

Ged Gast May 2012

Do we need a Bauhaus Art and Design Curriculum?

Art, Craft and Design Curriculum - think piece 4

I was really excited to visit the exhibition Bauhaus:art as life, currently showing at the Barbican in London. This explores the full history of the Bauhaus and the emergence of Modernism and the International Style, using a fantastic collection of work that illustrates the full range of their areas of activity. I had never previously realised the extent of their origin as an arts and crafts school at the original Weimar site.  This exhibition brings together the largest collection of original works and products seen in the UK for 40 years and represents the output of all the major tutors (key figures from the early 20th century) as well as work by students, photos and teaching materials from the basic design and colour courses for examples.

Click here to link to the Barbican website and see the exhibition
Click here to see shots of the exhibition in deZeen web magazine

The Bauhaus is so significant in establishing what we now recognise as Modernism and the International Style, as a consequence the work in the exhibition seems as fresh and modern today as when it was created. The exhibition also resonated with me in a way that is difficult to explain. Despite being over 90 years since the Bauhaus was closed by the Nazis party, so much still looks 'modern' with a relevance to contemporary art, craft and design of today and surprisingly also with current international politics.

Three things interested me from the perspective of an arts educator. These are:
1.    The curriculum that evolved at the Bauhaus - What can we learn from this about what we do today in teaching art, craft and design?

2.    The political situation that gave rise to the Bauhaus - does a time of austerity lead to creative flowering? And, does a right wing Government wish to squash creativity?
3.    Can this exhibition help me to resolve in my own mind what I mean by Design and the place of Art and Craft in relation to this?

These are three big issues at the moment in my own mind, partly because we are troubled by the lack of a focus on Craft and Design within the 'Art' curriculum, and also because many are worried by the consequences of a growing engagement with Conceptual Art within our art and design curriculum. The loss of fundamental skills and knowledge should concern us all, for without these, young people do not have the means to engage critically with these polarised views, or to develop control of the actions they choose to take in their own creative activity. That is not to say at all, that we should not explore conceptualism, but we must do so critically and from an intellectually and technically skilled perspective.
The Bauhaus Preliminary Curriculum

Firstly, the curriculum of the Bauhaus reminds us of the importance of breadth of experience and it values the knowledge that underpins these skills. Whether this is the technical and emotional characteristics of colour theory, or the ways in which a dot and line communicate meaning and carry expressive characteristics (look at the preliminary course and basic design course materials developed by Johannes Itten, Paul Klee, Wassily Kandinsky, George Muche, Oskar Schlemmer, Josef Albers and László Moholy-Nagy, to name but a few). Over the history of the Bauhaus, these curriculum materials were influenced by the English Arts and Crafts Movement, German Expressionism, Constructivism, De Stijl and gave rise to almost everything we know about design, architecture and what we may loosely define as 'Modernism'.
Elements from the Bauhaus Preliminary Curriculum

When we look at the curriculum materials developed as part of the Preliminary Course that every Bauhaus students would take (despite their specialism), we recognise many of the elements of our own Foundation course experience. I suspect we would all subscribe to the value of a diagnostic experience and of a course where we learnt the principles and gained some mastery of the 'artistic elements'. But is this what we are teaching in school today? I see a lot of projects and schemes about portraits, landscapes, graffiti, Aboriginal symbols, Magical Worlds and so on. All very worthy and designed to engage boys, motivate interest, reference a culture etc... But are we 'teaching' something that develops a skill, coupled with intelligent understanding, so that this knowledge and skill can be applied and developed in other contexts? Are we developing knowledge

that can be applied critically and with skill?

Secondly, we seem to be living in extreme political times. Partly driven by the world recession and massive growth in the emerging nations, we see polarisation in the politics of the far left and far right in response to financial migrations and world tensions. It seems to me, that this shares many of the characteristics of the time between the first and second World Wars. This is the period that gave rise to the Bauhaus and where 'artists' played a significant role in the development of culture and society. The history of the Victorian era to the present day is well documented with the impact of artists and craftspeople/ designers/engineers.
Dessau Bauhaus designed by Walter Gropius
Much of design as we know it today began in the Bauhaus. This exhibition also reminds us that design was born from the crafts, through a desire to create high quality, cost effective, mass produced artefacts that would improve the quality of the lives of individuals. They did in fact create some of this (although we also know to our cost if we have sat for more than an hour on any modern tubular steel framed chair in a meeting), that modern society has downgraded some of their products to cut costs. But, they also produced very high quality life improving artefacts, although some of which could only be afforded by the very rich. At the same time they also moved forward our understanding of mass production, they lay the foundations for modern print technologies, typography, graphic design and advertising, as well as setting the standard for many aspects of modern architecture and interior design.

And what of the politics of the time and the present day? It is interesting that right wing Government feels threatened by a flowering of creativity and by an organisation with such a clear vision for socitety and the future. The Bauhaus can teach us much about vision for our subject and a belief in the power of the arts to transform society. On a more humble level, it provides a model and an example curriculum for each subject leader of art and design to define their vision for the subject, and for that vision to be wide ranging and aspirational.

But do we teach young people in schools about this?
Do we explore the social, cultural and political context and impact of such developments? If not, why not?

Thirdly, so many young people today seem to think art and design is about being an artist for your own sake, pursuing a personal creative vision. This partly hedonistic approach may have some personal values, but when should we balance this with the vision and values employed by other movements and developments across the history and world scope of our subject. When should we develop an understanding of the impact of the crafts, of the world of design and the arts on societies, cultures and the world. This surely cannot be left until students are on an A level or Degree course before it is taught or at least referenced in our curriculum. If we want intelligent young people to 'opt' for art and design, then they have to learn that the subject has meaning, purpose and value to society. That it has the power to transform and improve lives. This is surely part of the value and importance of creativity.
Bauhaus Craft and Design Examples

This is not an attempt to blame Fine Art, after all, my own degree is in fine art. Instead it is a request that all art teachers, regardless of their backgrounds and specialisms, remember that we are representatives and custodians of an enormous and significant historical, creative, cultural, social, political, technological and transformational heritage and we all have a duty to engage all young people in the 'Bigger Picture' of our creative heritage. Yes, we must look also at other cultures, but we should not under-represent our western heritage. Many young people today may know more about Aboriginal art and culture, or the Impressionists, than they do about the history of Craft and Design.

In all likelihood, many of the young people in our classrooms and studios will work in some aspect of the design, creative and media industries in the future. Very few will become 'artists', but all will be consumers. We have a responsibility to create intelligent, educated, cultured, critical and sophisticated consumers, some of whom will also have the great privilege to play a significant role in contributing to the creative works of our world by improving and transforming the quality of other people’s lives.

Ged Gast May 2012

Saturday, 28 April 2012

The tricky problem of criteria based assessment in art and design

As a result of a conversation this morning, I have started to rethink my understanding of how art and design teachers make judgements and how they might guide students in their successful interpretation of assessment criteria. I have also reflected on the perception of relative values made by subject specialists about the arts and the visual arts in particular. It would help if I briefly explain the context to this development in my thinking.

The discussion explored how assessments should be made of creative outcomes from AS students taking the Extended Project qualification. Within this, they sustain a period of independent 'project' based study, producing a record of this process and an outcome that can be selected from one of a number of forms. These might include the production of an artefact or the creation of a performance. The problem being discussed will be familiar to teachers of art and design and relates to the perception of judgements in art and design as subjective, as opposed to objective using Criteria Referencing, followed by national Norm Referencing. The example in question, challenges our perception of how we assess an artefact that has been presented as a painting or set of paintings, particularly when the student is a science and maths major, but has chosen to complete their research into velocity through the form of a painting? And this artefact was a representational painting as well! How then should a student present their research into such an abstract concept as velocity, using scientific knowledge through the form of a representational painting, without having the painting skills to achieve this? And should their work then be assessed as art or science?

Our expectation is that the criteria for assessment are provided by the examination board. However, the criteria do not enable the teachers to achieve accuracy, because in this example, the science teacher assessed the research and painted outcomes as an 'A' grade, having been easily impressed by the quality of the painting; yet when shown to the colleague art and design subject leader, he thought the 'artefact' paintings would merit only a D grade when compared to similar outcomes by other AS level art and design students. Dilemma!

 Clearly in this example, the science teacher does not have the relevant experience in art and design to assess the outcomes in line with other AS level examples and may be easily impressed by the breadth and detail of the independent research carried out by the student leading to a final outcome that appeared to them (in their experience) to be well painted. The view of the art and design specialist, was that this was clearly the work of a non-specialist and lacked the sophistication necessary to gain a higher grade. However, the art and design specialist also did not see within the research, the kind of focus they would recognise by an creative specialist. Instead they saw scientific information about velocity, annotated with naive illustrations of running horses (the interest of the student and final subject matter she used to represent her ideas about velocity). 

This started me thinking about how we make assessments in art and design and to question whether we make students suitably metacognitive about their processes and their learning. I began to question whether in art and design we are at times too 'intuitive' about our expectations regarding these processes? I also question whether by increasing a reflection on how we are thinking (to gain a deeper learning about our thinking) this may in some way limit the creativity, or by slowing the process, we may loose something from the momentum that will then adversely impact on the energy within the ideas or form of expression? I also wondered about the creative process itself and considered how wedded we are in the arts to style and the contemporary iterations of style, that make us interpret this science students' work as naive, and consequently judge it as having less creative and skill value. I also reflected on whether the student had used their scientific experience in investigating the properties of velocity along with the properties of painting media and the way that they might be affected by speed and velocity, from a more abstract perspective.  Would this not have resulted in a more purposeful research? Had an investigation into paint with different viscosities been subjected to wind or thrown at a canvas in different ways, would this have yielded more visible information about velocity, than a controlled painting ever could? This would have enablied the student to produce non-representational works that better represent the concept of velocity.

As a specialist Engaged in similar study, I might consider the works of the Futurists or American abstract expressionist action painters who represent speed and action within their works using very specific drip, dribble and paint throwing techniques. This might help me shape my ideas and inform my research, but we are not describing an art and design specialist, but a science students who likes art. She did not research these movements and I suspect they might not be to her taste. She chose the style of art that she enjoys as the form with which to represent her ideas about velocity. So, is our assessment of her outcomes based on our perceptions of her artistic skill? Or her research, independent development skills, or an assessment of her taste? Do we assess her understanding of creative influences or her ability to complete an assignment completely independently, making suitable choices about her chosen medium?

 The truth is, these judgements reside with the assessor and their 'interpretation' of the criteria. Unfortunately, the criteria for the Extended Project lack the detail necessary to direct our thinking to the conceptual elements of the project and purely describe differences in the representation of the processes carried out by the student. These are open to interpretation and here lies the problem for moderation and consistency.

We might ask whether science teachers should avoid encouraging science students to complete artistic artefacts as an outcome? But I think not. We might also question whether it is right to seek parity of assessment between the creative outcomes of an Extended Project artefact and an artefact produced in an AS level art and design exam? Equally, I think not.

 To resolve this conundrum we must examine the way we make judgements and arrive at an assessment of merit and a definition of what constitutes an expectation for the level of that merit ( the grade). Each art and design teacher develops their 'experience' informing their ability to assess and their accuracy in assessing over many years and in doing is they build a form of 'mental database' that adds a memory of visual examples to the criteria they know. By teaching these criteria to students in helping them reflect on their actions, they reinforce the accuracy and clarity of these assessments. The students learn this through the specialist courses and use their metacognition and reflection to help them improve, make progress and take action towards their target grade. Non specialist teachers will not have this experience or knowledge and in the example I cite, the science teacher uses a separate set of experiences which perhaps set higher expectations on aspects of the research and written elements than the art and design specialist would value.

This helps us understand differences in the perceptions of value between subjects and the view held by academics that these processes in art and design are somehow not academic, but instead, practical. This may reduce them to the value of a repetitive skill, or manufacturing process rather than the highly complex, high level creative form of thinking and actions that are really taking place. But without the necessary experience, they will not know this. The value of art and design for example, is therefore difficult to perceive within the evidence of the processes and though a judgement of the artefact that is produced. Except for those of us who are specialist or practitioners. We are able to 'measure' this using our 'mental database' and years of experience. The non specialist cannot see this or share in our experience, they either trust our judgement or they don't.

The common perception of contemporary art seems to undermine this trust, as many non-specialists will just not appreciate what we value. They will want something representational where they can see evidence of the skill to be explicit. They find it harder to measure the quality of thinking and creativity that seems somehow imbued within the work as intangible. They do not have the experience or our criteria referenced mental database to help them both recognise these characteristics, and assess them with a measurable value.

 What then might we conclude from this? We can see that perceptions of value are different between subjects and that subject specialists are more exacting in their expectations of standards than non-specialists. This is because our expectations are higher and we use our 'mental database' of experience to help us define our grade related expectations.

We can see that it is helpful if examination boards define these expectations more clearly with assessment criteria that set out the standards more exactly, in ways that transcend subject specialism. More importantly, it is essential that we gain a better consensus about assessing process and defining some shared understanding of what quality thinking looks like when presented as evidence. By doing so, we may eliminate the perception of an academic/practical divide and ensure we respect and correctly guide our students in the selection of relevant learning processes, where they may gain experience equally applicable across subject specialisms.

Understanding how we think and learn is certainly important to making progress in any subject, and improves our ability to complete similar processes in the future. We know that we get better at doing things, when we reflect on how we did it and how we learned. This metacognition results in improved practices and should also result in improved grades. This must inform the views of an art and design teacher assessing an artefact produced by a science student, or the views of a science teacher assessing a creative outcome. Both must be brought closer together if we are to improve learning for all and help our students make good choices in the future.

Saturday, 21 April 2012

A case for Intervention Strategies in Art and Design

Differentiation by outcome
Intervention may seem an unfamiliar term to art and design teachers.  This may stem from a fundamental belief in differentiation by outcome (each student will achieve the best and most personal outcome that they are capable of, demonstrated by an assessment at the end of the project/activity).  This is largely historical and a product of two aspects of the subject.  The first is a belief in each student’s potential to achieve with the support and guidance of the teacher/artist (the old ‘apprentice’ model).  The second is a belief that each student originates creatively to realise their own ideas through personal creativity and expression.  To help them achieve the best outcome, they incorporate the advice of the teacher into their actions (again a historical model).  Whilst I do not entirely refute some value in these beliefs for FE and HE students engaged in extended personally driven study, they are largely out of step with assessment for learning approaches and certainly unsustainable within a school based, learning focused model.  With this approach, the weakest will underachieve and we could argue that the most able will not reach their full potential.

Differentiation by task
In reality, art and design teachers most often practice differentiation by task, as they constantly modify expectations and outcomes through discussion with individuals and groups. Because this is a natural and intuitive model for those who are ‘art school trained’, many do not realise the extent to which they implement this as their dominant model. This approach can be manageable with examination classes but can become difficult with the numbers in a key stage 3 class and across a cohort. For example, within an examination group of 20, a teacher can set a broad project and work with groups and then each individual student to direct, model and suggest lines of investigation and research.  This approach develops personal responses and individual development, resulting in original outcomes that will engage and motivate the student. However, teachers will need to find ways to record and track these discussions, particularly if they want to maintain a focus on improvement and ensure good progress. (see Unit 6 Module 6.2 Securing progression in art and design, Appendix 6.2 C.1 Curricular target setting in art and design – from the subject development materials, released as part of the National Strategy Assessment for learning Pack) downloadable from:

Differentiation by criteria and outcomes (Assessment for Learning)
Art and design teachers are very familiar with using criteria referencing as a means to determine standards.  GCSE Boards publish Assessment Objectives and these are set out to specify the expectation of each mark awarded, before being converted into a grade award by the Board following moderation.  So these criteria statements determine what students have to do, in order to achieve a mark or grade.  The same is true in the classroom.  When art and design teachers write and share lesson outcome statements and success criteria at the start of the lesson, then students are very clear about what is expected of them by the end of the lesson or a sequence of lessons.  Increasingly, teachers are setting these out in a differentiated form using ‘All, Most and Somestatement stems, to target expectations at particular groups or specific students and to give some challenge to those who may exceed their normal expectation or predicted grade. This is particularly effective at boosting achievement in small manageable steps across a course.

What then do I mean by Intervention?
Intervention in art and design requires a different way of thinking about achievement and about the expectations we, as teachers, hold for different students.  This is made a little ‘fuzzy’ as a concept in our subject, precisely because in art and design, we hold personal creativity in such high esteem and our desire to stimulate creativity can dominate our objectivity in defining specific, measurable learning outcomes.  Let me explain it this way.  If I plan a very traditional still-life drawing project for a group of Year 9 students to improve their drawing competence, then I know that the quality of outcomes will have enormous range, certainly including evidence between Levels 4 to 6 and possibly as broad as Levels 3 to 7. As part of our teaching to produce a still-life drawing, we will certainly show students examples by artists, possibly other students and probably encourage creative independence in the use of the media.  So the Key Concepts of Creativity, Critical and Cultural understanding may well be part of the planned development and assessment processes, alongside the development of improved Competence in drawing skills.  We certainly also have some students who even at this stage in their art and design education will complain loudly “I can’t draw!” And there will be others who genuinely will struggle, having failed to act on their teachers guidance to visually measure, compose their layout carefully, fill the paper or use their choice of drawing media to record a full tonal range using marks and shading techniques such as hatching and cross-hatching. 

If we differentiate by outcome then each will be assessed against the specific success criteria or a set of differentiated criteria, with the award of a suitable grade or Level at the end of a project.  The focus in this context is on guiding students as best we can and only then measuring their achievement when the work is completed.  In order to improve, students must act on the ongoing guidance given by their teacher and may really only fully understand how successful they have been when the work is finished and assessed.  This means that to progress, they have to understand, apply and put into action what they learn in one project, within each of the following projects.  The problem with this approach is that teacher feedback is not continually criteria referenced to help them maximize their grade in that same project.  Hence, any formative feedback only becomes qualified in relation to a summative grade or level.  Teachers have to work hard in this approach to provide high quality individual guidance, but it relies on students following all guidance on trust, recognising the quality of guidance from their teacher only after the assessment. The other problem with this approach is that it undermines independence and can limit a student developing their own creativity.

Assessment for Learning encourages us to use formative feedback to gather information from students about their learning, regularly, throughout, or at key points in the stages of an activity.  This way we can help students take the next step, knowing the criteria for success, they decide what to do next and how well to do it.  If they still struggle, we intervene.  An intervention may be as simple as some verbal guidance (reminding the student of guidance previously given), it may be a little drawing demonstration on some spare paper (so they can place this in their sketchpad and use this to refer to), or it may direct their attention to an example of work by other students or an artist.  We make these small interventions all the time when guiding students. 

Assessment for learning also encourages us to pause at points in the lesson and observe all students working, to reflect on how well they are progressing and consider whether we need make further interventions.  This might include, either selecting a group of students who need gathering together for a further demonstration or providing guidance to clarify something they have not fully understood.  Questioning is a further form of formative assessment and feedback, enabling teachers to check what is known and how well it is understood.  By probing, teachers challenge assumptions and can test the depth of understanding, followed by modifying the level of challenge in line with needs.

What do we do then? When despite our best efforts some students are clearly underperforming and still do not meet expectations? If at the end of these ‘in lesson’ small and medium interventions, these students proclaim “I still can’t draw” or “I’m useless at designing and developing ideas”.  What then do we do next? 
Differentiation by outcome may have led us to form a view that some students, just don’t get it.  So they leave the lesson without having met the expectation and we try again in the next lesson, or move on to another project, accepting that these students cannot draw as well as others. Perhaps they never achieve the expected outcome.  No surprise then that in frustration and with low self esteem they say “I can’t draw”.

What if we held a different expectation?
What if we thought that ‘if a student has decent gross and fine motor skills, if they could draw graphs in maths, write in English, control a pen or pencil to make notes, act thoughtfully and are well organised’, should they not be capable of controlling drawing media and applying the principles of, for example, line, shape, mark, shade and tone in the way that it is being taught?

The question is, how do we Intervene in a meaningful and impactful way?

If we consider the situation from the perspective of the student (learner), should we not expect to have success when well taught?  And should we not also expect them all to be able to achieve?  Clearly, such students need larger scale interventions, something that provides them with:
      more time to learn and apply guidance from the teacher;

      more one to one guidance from a teacher, artist or perhaps even another student;

      less stress in the learning situation;

      confidence building activities that improve their self-esteem;

      an opportunity to try alternative approaches and gain confidence through small successes.

The problem is: Do we believe in intervention?
Although art and design teachers are well versed in the alternative approaches to drawing that engage learners, they may not choose to employ such strategies and we rarely see these being taught to a class. The views teachers hold on what is right, run deep within us, often stemming from our own artistic training.  The problem is that we as teachers are successful products of the system. Was this because we found our own way to draw, our own personal creativity and were successful?  And is there a correct way to teach art and design?

In her book Children’s Drawings, Maureen Cox seeks to debunk the concept of ‘innate creativity’ developed over the early decades of the twentieth century, at which time many thought it ‘should not be inhibited or corrupted by formal teaching of adult artistic conventions’. She quotes Viktor Löwenfeld (1957), appealing to teachers: ‘Don’t impose your own images on a child. Never give the work of one child as an example to another. Never let a child copy anything’. By the mid eighties, the fallacy of this belief was being exposed and the understanding that we cannot protect children from images that may influence (environment), will be balanced by the work of the teacher, instructing and mediating this experience. However, the belief in the sanctity of an individuals’ creativity has not entirely vanished at the beginning of the twenty first century.  Coupled with this, there is a curious disrespect of formalised teaching methods exemplified by the ‘How to Draw’ books we find in the leisure section of bookshops.  Perhaps this is a product of the background of many current teachers of art and design, who were themselves trained during the ‘conceptual art’ decades, which celebrated personal creativity and the primacy of ‘concept over skill’ towards the end of the twentieth century.

Maureen Cox explains that this dichotomy between formal and conceptual approaches has not been too much of a problem, until children’s willingness and enjoyment to draw begins to fail, when in Years 5 and 6 ‘they become dissatisfied with their work and they substitute rather detailed fussy drawings for their former bold and more confident efforts’. We see this problem exacerbated in Key Stage 3 where we expect to build on basic drawing skills and help students to develop control of their skills under specialist guidance in the creation of more complex works. When the skills and understanding are not in place, we have little time to go back and correct the misconceptions, or teach the skills that are not in place.  It is easy to see therefore the problem we are faced with.  We often see some amazingly creative work in primary art and design and extremely varied standards in secondary classrooms, where the focus is on applying skills and techniques with some control and to convey meaning. Without a sound grasp of basic skills in drawing and designing, it is hard to see how students can continue to feel confident as they are asked to expose their creativity in the harsh competitive and comparative climate of early adolescence.

Other educationalists have addressed these problems from different perspectives. Those working in the field of educational psychology have explored this alongside broader aspects of how we learn best. Carol S. Dweck investigates research on: is artistic ability a gift?, in evidence from US research referenced in Mindset – The new psychology of success; Both Howard Gardner and David Perkins in their work as co-directors of Project Zero have examined this from different perspectives exploring formal and non-formal models of creative and skills development (see Gardner: Art Education and Human Development) and the importance of learning to think through looking, explored by Perkins in The Intelligent Eye.  This importance of looking also sits at the heart of the model for improving skills as set out by Betty Edwards in her book: Drawing on the right side of the brain and also specifically through critical response and development  in the UK by Rod Taylor in Educating for Art.  There are also many books available on ‘Improving your drawing’ and most instruct by breaking down a specific task into series of smaller steps i.e. ‘chunking learning’.  We know this is of value when you wish to achieve specific outcomes, and measureable improvement in learning, but this is rarely seen as a common model in the UK art and design curriculum.  Why is that?

Is then the dominant model of teaching art and design in Britain, as follows: The teacher provides opportunity for learning with sequences of activity with personal support, designed to lead to a successful outcome.  The students who are successful or respond well to the guidance achieve well and all others fall by the wayside?

Art teachers do not always structure further opportunities to follow up with these students who fall by the wayside, or establish after school events, with an expectation of ultimate success. Instead, we seem torn between our valuing of personal creativity and skill, and yet technical achievement is a part of the measure for examination success at GCSE art and design, particularly in achieving the C grade. Does this then make a case for a more formalised model of intervention?

Why do we need Intervention?
The need for intervention is evident either through the lack of progress being made by a student or group of students in a class.  Teachers who are making regular and effective use of data will have their perceptions from the classroom confirmed.  The evidence provided by data in the arts will, however, usually only demonstrates a case for intervention after at least half a term and more usually beyond a term.  Detailed teacher assessments are made only over these timescales and as a part of a pupil self-assessment, peer or summative teacher assessment.  

Taken from the National Secondary Strategy

First indications of the need for a Tier 1 intervention in art and design are more usually evident by student attitude and in response to disruptive behaviour, loss of self-confidence “I can’t draw”, or progress much less than planned by the teacher or than their peers.  They may also demonstrate behaviours such as time wasting strategies and frustration evident in their inability to meet the prescribed standard or their own standard, particularly where they are more able or talented in other subjects.  Throughout this guidance paper, drawing is used as the key indicator and context for modelled solutions, although the principle applies equally in any aspect of art and design making. 

Cohort level Intervention (Tier 1: – Core Instruction)
Cohort level interventions should be identified in response to the subject curricular targets, based on cohort data and from performance in lessons and on-going assessments.  Typically, an art and design department may judge a Year 8 cohort as being particularly weak, in for example, observational drawing skills including proportion, perspective and tone. Equally they may judge a Year 9 cohort as having poor design skills.  (see Unit 6 Module 6.2 Securing progression in art and design, Appendix 6.2 C.1 Curricular target setting in art and design – from the subject development materials, released as part of the National Strategy Assessment for learning Pack) downloadable from:

In both cases, these need some unpicking of the detail and specific weaknesses, in order to define and layer some clear and SMART curricular targets such as for the Year 9 example:
    Increase the teaching of stages in the design process in all Y 9 projects, including use of thumbnail studies to explore different compositions, annotated pages and evidence of investigation/experimentation.

    All projects to have sketchbook evidence of a sequence of 4+ pages of good quality Creativity, Competence and Cultural understanding (minimum L5) development.

    Improve research skills to require study or artists/designers and their work to show evidence of analysis, reflection and identification of what is relevant and what has been selected and developed from the study of the artist/designer. In both homework and classwork, avoid copy and paste from the web, include web references and personal response.

    All students to complete several pages of experimentation/investigation where students test media and make several studies that improve the quality of their idea and how they use the media.

    Self and peer assessment used at key points to set targets for improving work.

    Teachers to mark sketchbooks every two weeks using 2 stars and a wish or WWW (what went well) and EBI (even better if) to make recommendations for action.

    All teachers to check that where improvement or completion of tasks is required, that students complete this to the required Level standard.

    Students who are unable to progress are often unwilling to lose face in front of their peers if they admit to needing direct help.  Art and design teachers are particularly adept at small interventions with each student, where they demonstrate how to use media or work in a specific way.  However, this can become a poor use of lesson time if this ‘demo’ is being repeated around the classroom to many students and where there is no follow-up by the teacher to check progress.

    Whole class demonstrations can be useful, but more usefully, a small group ‘demo’ is more powerful if a group of students are selected by the teacher and gather together for a short focused presentation or demonstration targeted on their needs.  There is no loss of self esteem to these students if this is a normal and regular feature of a teachers teaching style.  This strategy is powerful if used with all abilities, where teachers gather together those with a specific need and share characteristics in their skills and work.

Explore using learning mentors and coaches

    Many schools are starting to explore the development of students as researchers and co-creators in their learning across the curriculum.  Some schools are nominating students as learning mentors and coaches, within their year group or class, and sometimes specific to a subject.  They have badges and some wear a doctor’s coat indication they are available to give advice in that subject.  This is still in the early stages of development, but is proving powerful in using students with the correct skill set, both in a subject and in supporting others in their learning (e.g. emotional intelligence/personal and interpersonal skills).

    These students are also increasingly being used in two other important ways.  One is to observe learning and feedback to the teacher on learning, from the perspective of the students.  The other, is to offer their support in partnership with the teacher as part of an extended learning programme.

Support teachers and teaching assistants
Use can be made of support staff in several ways to enable effective intervention. They may be
in the room to support a specific student with learning needs or a small group.
    The support assistant can support self and peer/small group self assessment activities, ensuring students understand and correctly use the criteria.
    Provide a whole classroom presence to enable the teacher to run a focused activity with a small group for 3-5 mins.
    Use exemplars prepared by the teacher to manage small group discussion about actions to improve.
    Support small group differentiated activity.

NB. The purposeful use of support staff (when present), is essential for an outstanding lesson, as set out by Ofsted.  So please ensure they are tasked effectively (in relation to differentiated success criteria) and deployed specifically to make an impact on the learning of one or more identified students.

Targeted (Tier 2: – group interventions)
Class level intervention
When a whole class is underperforming and failing to meet the expected standard, how long will you wait before you take action? One week? Two weeks? A month? Half a term?
How will you choose to take action? 
    You could try and continue the project but split the class into ability groups and work with each group separately.

    Redesign or change the project completely.

    Place support materials on the VLE, including video instructions and hyperlinks to enable students to improve their understanding and complete meaningful activities.

    Move to a different medium, technique or process, although you may retain the same project outline.

    Select a technique or craft activity that develops a different set of skills, more of a process or sequence of actions, breaking the activity down into shorter more easily manageable steps.

    Stop the project and work on the weaknesses students have with their e.g. drawing, use of colour, technique etc by running demonstrations, after school workshops and intensive instructional activities.

    Shift to more experimental or expressive approaches, and away from representational techniques. 

    Work on a larger scale, in a broader media, or possibly introduce a modified way of working e.g. drawing at arms-length using broader media attached to a 1metre length of dowel.

Homework clubs, out of hours learning clubs or ‘art clubs’
In art and design, the tendency is to run coursework clubs after school for examination students in a slightly informal way.  These are often also attended by KS3 students who are enthusiastic.  Lunchtime versions also occur where time permits.  These arrangements are usually too informal for some students who need more structured interventions, but do suit some students who are well motivated, but just need more time and individual guidance.  
    Try setting up a structured Homework club for those who want access to the art and design rooms to access facilities and the camaraderie they don’t receive at home, but also some directed one to one teaching. 

    Very weak students will need more structured teaching within a club arrangement, so they need to be near the teachers desk and have their materials and activities well set-out.  If they are giving up their own time in response to you identifying a need, you should make provision that challenges and supports their development.

    Motivate attendance - playing music, providing biscuits, sweets or squash.

    As an intervention – provided sequences of taught activity, demonstrations, a chance to try things out and gain focused support.

Intensive (Tier 3: – individual interventions)
Skill support
“I can’t draw!” This is probably the most common vocalization of the student who openly declares their need for support, either within earshot or directly to the teacher.  This requires a diagnosis of needs and rapid remedial support targeted at the required skill or competency.  Often more associated with a confidence issue than a real lack of skills, although sometimes the student is correct and they have not previously been well taught.  In these situations as stated above, it is often helpful to identify several students who would benefit from being brought together to actively engage in some focused and structured learning to cope with the current task.  More development may need to be postponed to the next lesson where these students can receive a carefully structured set of activities to diagnose and tackle the larger issues of why they believe they can’t draw.

Supporting issues of low self esteem  
Students who have low self-esteem may well either seek to become invisible in the classroom
or use poor behaviour to mask their problems.   In all cases, early intervention is essential in
preventing these problems escalating and students losing any motivation they feel they have for
the subject and activities.  Low self-esteem can be identified through many characteristics such
as: small-scale drawing, avoiding starting an activity, minor disruption, excessive pencil
sharpening, invisible drawing etc, all of which describe different outcomes of a lack of

To build students’ confidence they need to have some rapid successes, often gained through a
series of short, well structured intervention activities that build skills and capacity to return to the

    Use several short tasks (chunking) that set small incremental improvements in the skills to enable students to clearly see their own progress.

    Use strong verbal rewards and praise to reinforce the successes. 

    Homework can be modified to help provide some of these short skills based interventions, as can VLE content and after-school provision (see Homework club - below).

Other Intervention Strategies for use in any Tier
Artists in residence supporting intervention
Artists in residence are always a positive experience in the classroom and students usually benefit greatly from the opportunity to work with an artist and see the creative process at work.  We often see this as being of particular benefit for our strongest students, but we also know that the experience of working with an artist can be transformational for all students. For our weakest students, this transformation in understanding and successful creation can be most profound. The right artist can also have a motivational effect, engaging students interest and helping them understand what to do and how to achieve their best outcome. 
    Selecting and using an artist for a short residency project, with a group of weaker students or whole class can be a very effective way of developing key coursework and boosting achievement.

    Select an artist whose medium or working process is well suited to a small group of weaker students.  Craft skills and techniques are best e.g. carving/sculpture, printmaking, photography, jewellery and ceramics.

    Organise an artist to work with and mentor a group of weaker students as part of a regular after school programme, to create a piece of work for a commission or installation in the school.

Interventions with other Vulnerable Groups including Able, Gifted & Talented
Class and student data will identify vulnerable groups and also indicate particular learning needs, for challenge, modified expectations and perhaps even differentiated materials and teaching approaches.
    Organise a seating plan by ability or needs and modify outcomes and activities by group or for those grouped on specific tables.

    Plan your time in the lesson, where you will need to provide particular support, show exemplars and make specific efforts with particular students to develop skills and concepts. Have a clear strategy and the resources in place to assist vulnerable students before the lesson starts e.g. guidance on steps to follow that improve outcomes/skills.

    Prepare suitable resources or visual materials to address the learning needs of vulnerable groups, place them on the tables where these students are working. Help them to use these exemplars to develop their own skills and practice.

    Prepare support resources on the VLE to develop independence and to provide additional challenge or extension tasks for the most able.

Rewards for students following successful intervention
By rewarding students who have successfully risen to the challenge and improved their work, you will improve their Mindset and develop a Growth attitude to learning and success (see Carol S. Dweck - Mindset). 
    Send home a postcard praising their effort and attitude.

    Give rewards for effort and achievement (merit points, feature as artist of the week, praised openly in assembly, their work on display).

    If you run an after school intervention club, provide drinks, biscuits etc to motivate and create an improved atmosphere.

A National Strategy model of intervention – adapted to reflect art and design needs
Teachers hold a fundamental belief that all children can learn and improve the quality of their art and design skills, knowledge and understanding, through the actions each teacher takes.

Recognition of the value of good first teaching, ensuring high quality, research-based instruction, well resourced and exemplified, with effective AfL practice.

A focus on professional development for teachers to guide their intervention activities.

Teaching teams use data to set layered curricular targets and by modifying planning for learning and teaching, address misconceptions and weaknesses.

Monitoring student progress to inform planning and instruction.

A multitier model which includes classroom, small group intervention, and individual intervention (see illustration on page 4), multiple strategies including a VLE to build independence.

Dynamic and diagnostic assessment and effective progress monitoring.

Curriculum-based measurements (assessment activities, Levels and Assessment Objectives).

Systematic data collection and assessment management showing longitudinal results/trends.

Access to funding/budget to be used to support early intervention.

Ged Gast    I    Creativity Consultant    I    Babcock 4S  2011