In the MYP Arts program the last Criterion, D) Responding, is often interpreted as the old Arts Criterion C) Reflection & Evaluation, so many teachers have continued to assign reflections as a way of meeting the assessment requirements.
To clarify, here are the descriptions of the old and new Criteria:
Old Criterion C) Reflection & Evaluation
This objective focuses on the way that a student gradually comes to feel and think like an artist. Ongoing reflection should be more than just a record of what was done. Reflecting critically requires the student to question and justify the choices that he or she has made and to develop an objective evaluation of his or her own work. The student should show a growing insight into his or her own artistic development. The student is encouraged to seek feedback from others and to consider how this feedback might inform his or her work as it develops. Constructive feedback can help a student to confirm, clarify or modify his or her artistic process or intent. Objective C is concerned solely with the student’s reflections and evaluations in relation to his or her own work. Appraisal of the work of others is addressed in objective A, although this may lead a student to reflect on his or her own work subsequently.
New Criterion D) Responding
Students respond to their world, to their own art and to the art of others.
Students must make connections and transfer learning to new settings.
Through reflecting on their artistic intention and the impact of their work
on an audience and on themselves, students become more aware of their
own artistic development and the role that arts play in their lives and in the
world. Students learn that the arts may initiate as well as respond
I see several problems with old VS new, reflection/responding confusion, the biggest one to me being that students, across the board, hate writing reflections. Just ask your students, “What’s the most annoying task you have to do in art class”? and most of them, I guarantee you, will say “REFLECTIONS”!
Reflections are also usually completed at the end of a task or project which means that most of the learning has already taken place. If the students are only responding to what they've learned in past tense then they’re missing out on many opportunities to improve and expand upon their work. The whole process becomes an after thought that the students see as a anti-climactic downer at the end of an exciting learning journey.
I’m not saying that reflections aren’t a valid and beneficial practice, they most certainly are. However, there are ways to have the students reflect on their learning that are more engaging than having them write a journal entry at the end of a project. Here are some suggestions:
More importantly, the language of the new criterion specifically says that the students should also be responding to the artworks of others and the world around them. So, reflections alone aren’t going to cut it anymore. Teenagers are very opinionated, curious, and eager when inspired so getting them to respond to a stimuli usually isn’t a difficult task, but finding a way to capture their responses and assess them can be tricky. I try to avoid written tasks as much as I can, responding to something by making something with your hands is the best way I’ve found to engage and excite students.
Here are some suggestions for how to engage the students with responding to the art of others and the world around them.
These are just a few examples of ways that students could respond to art and the world, please feel free to share more examples with me if you have any!
Teachers talk a lot, especially about teaching and we tend to "speak" for our students a lot in regards to what we think they think, want, enjoy, dislike, etc. I love to survey students because it gives me the reality check I need to realise that I don’t always know what they’re thinking and what they need. I’ve been doing some entries lately about creativity, documenting learning, and assessment and it occurred to me that my former students may have valuable opinions on some of these matters. I sent a list of questions to some of my former students who are now in University, some are now studying art and some are not, and have gotten their permission to post their responses as they trickle in. I cannot thank them enough for taking the time to respond; they are very special kids, students, friends, people.
Response by Anna McLaughlin, former student at The International School of Indiana. Graduated 2015.
What type of art classes did you take in High School? (Program? Year levels?)
In high school I took two different types of art classes, one in the MYP program (9th and 10th grade) and then finally IB art in the 11th and 12th grade.
Why did you take art in High School? What was your motivation?
I took art in high school because to me there was no other option. I had always loved art, and design is the field that I want to go into so art was the obvious choice! I knew that I would be able to challenge myself but also enjoy myself. Art class was my first choice and if I were to do it all over again I would still choose it.
Can you remember and describe two of your favourite units of study in art class in High School? Please explain what you remember the point of the unit was and what you learned and created for the unit.
One of my favorite units that we did was a mask unit. I know it was in the MYP but I can’t remember if it was 9th or 10th grade….Regardless, I loved this unit because of the heavy cultural implications. It allowed me to really explore the importance of masks to another culture and to understand what it was that made them so special. With those things in mind, I was able to create my own mask which is something that I really enjoyed. Overall that unit inspired me to take inspiration from other cultures as a more regular thing, and to this day one of my favorite things is to research another part of the world and the people there and then make something out of it!
Another one of my favorite units was one in junior year where we had the opportunity to take an art trip to New York City to experience the arts and culture that the city had to offer. While we were there we were expected to keep an accordion sketchbook of pictures, thoughts, images, and scraps that we found inspiring. At the end of the week the whole group had these awesome sketchbooks filled with such different things, and we all walked away feeling more inspired than ever. I think what I liked about this unit was the freedom that we had. The only instructions were to fill the book, no blank pages allowed, and that led to some interesting things.
Can you remember a unit in art that you didn’t enjoy? Please describe why it didn’t inspire you.
There weren’t many units that I didn’t enjoy at least some aspect of, I felt like you got at least a little nugget of knowledge out of most of them. There was one that just felt like it dragged on, I think in 8th grade. It was a pointillism unit, which I loved the concept of, but the execution was a little tiring. It took probably two months and in those two months the only thing you could hear was the sound of pastels pounding on the tables of the art room. The final products were cool but the time it took to get there was just a little rough.
Please describe the way you used your sketchbook/journal in your high school art classes. What worked well and what didn’t?
I used my sketchbooks in high school as a way to show my progress and every decisions I made surrounding a project. I would usually start with a concept or assignment, do research, and then from there plan my own project. I absolutely loved the journals, I felt like they sometimes helped me say things I wasn’t able to put into actual words. My progress is also really interesting to see, and I loved that I was able to track that. I think I finished probably 6 or 7 sketchbooks in high school, I know I had 3 by the time I finished the IB.
Do you think that using more tech in art class would have made the experience better/more relevant/more innovative? Why or why not?
I think it really depends on the person. One of the things that’s great about the IB is that it’s okay to do your own thing in a broader theme. I made a few videos for some final projects, and I think tech was something that I felt comfortable using because I had the freedom to do what I wanted with it.
Do you think that creativity should/can be assessed in art class? Why or why not?
I would say it’s more about effort. There may be one person who’s incredibly creative but doesn’t make an effort in the class and therefore produces mediocre work, while someone who may not be as creative but dedicates a lot of time and effort to the class produces great work. I guess it’s kind of like in most subjects, there are going to be people who have an innate talent and others who have to work a little harder to achieve the same results. That was me with math, but I passed!
What do you think is more important in art class, concepts or skills? Or are the equal? Explain.
They’re equal! Art is just as much about ideas as it is about the physical stuff that gets produced! I always have to tell myself that when I see a canvas that’s just painted white or something like that, because I might not get it initially but the ideas are usually behind it and usually insanely interesting and intriguing.
Do you wish you had had more personal choice in art class?
I felt like I always had the perfect amount of freedom as well as instruction in my art classes. At this mid-point I felt free to express myself in any way I wanted while still producing things that when with the themes of the class.
What are you doing now in school and life?
Right now I’m taking a gap semester in between studying. I was at a school in Italy but decided it wasn’t the right fit so I’m transferring to a different school and will be moving to Paris in the fall to attend. In the meantime, I’m working, blogging, and pushing myself to be more creative! My goal is to be in the fashion industry as a designer so I’m working hard to make that happen!
What effect did taking art in High School have on what you have done since then? If any?
I still use the workbook/sketchbooks all the time. I use them much in the same way I did in high school because it just works for me. I love filling up a book with ideas, pictures, process, and research, it’s the most satisfying feeling.
Anything else you want to share…..
I LOVE ARRRRTTT.
Current works from Anna.
Despite the fact that I have over a decade of experience as an art teacher I still panic before the first day with a new group of students over what to do with them as an artistic ice-breaker the first day or week of school. Every year I feel like it’s the first time I’ve had to do this and every year I do something, some successful and some not so great, and then promptly forget what I did before the next new group arrives. The pressure for me comes from the desire to make a good first impression as a teacher, set some classroom expectations, and also to inspire interest in the subject from the get-go. That’a a lot to ask from an activity but here are some winners that I’ve tried and some that I’m excited to try.
Empathy, The ability to understand and share the feelings of another, is a life skill that could make the difference between future suffering and compassion, war and peace, starvation and satisfaction, economic disparity and prosperity, and more. To simply prepare our students for university entrance, equipping them with facts, creativity, and technical skills will do little to further and support humanity; something that globally is in desperate need of attention. Art is a subject that is ripe for providing opportunities to develop empathy. Art is emotional, personal, expressive and maps the human experience. To study art is to study people and once studied we can observe that people are all deserving of love, support, education, food, and opportunities.
In art education students are challenged to research, examine, and sometimes recreate works by other artists, cultures, and time periods in order to understand them. This practice places the students in another mindset, taking them out of their own box and placing them temporarily inside another ready to transport new knowledge back to their personal scope of understanding. Much like the study of literature, music and drama the study of visual art focuses on what it feels like to be human and as we all know, what it feels like for you is not what it feels like for me. Take the work of artist, Frida Kahlo, for example. To study her work is to study what it must have been like to live in multiple worlds, (Mexico, Europe, the USA), to suffer daily extreme physical pain, (due to a spinal injury caused by a bus crash), to love someone who mistreats you, (her tumultuous marriage to artist, Diego Rivera), and to be inspired by a political and social revolution, (her involvement with the Communist movement). It is impossible to understand her work without gaining an understanding of her human experience and it’s impossible to understand her human experience without engaging ones imagination to place yourself in her ‘shoes’.
Examples of Frida Kahlo's work.
The IB mission statement includes a nod to empathy, “These programmes encourage students across urge world to become active compassionate and lifelong learners who understand that other people, with their differences can also be right.” As a peace keeping endeavour, the IB could not be more right about the importance of this last statement. Acceptance of diversity of language, creed, appearance, and behaviour is paramount to attaining a peaceful world. I don’t need to tell you, reader, that most of the problems we are suffering from today across the globe would be rendered moot if simple acceptance of our differences was the standard.
There are so many ways to engage our students with empathy in art class, here are a few ideas:
An example of one of these ideas in action can be seen in a unit I did with 10th graders that was inspired by the work of late artist/journalist, Dan Eldon. Information about Dan Eldon can be found on the website, http://www.daneldon.org/, but in short he was an expat who grew up in Kenya and created many artistic journals about his experience starting from a young age. He became a photographer for Reuters and was tragically killed in a mob in Somalia in 1993 at 22 years of age. We used his artistic influence visually by working with mixed-media including collage, and incorporating text. We used his conceptual influence by engaging with global, current events that resonating with us as individuals. The results were fantastic because the students really got on board with the idea that the work should be personal even though it wasn’t about them. The goal was to invoke an emotional response from the viewer that invited them to learn more about the people effected by their chosen event. Some examples of the final pieces are below.
The best kind of learning penetrates not only the mind but the heart and and invoking empathy through learning does both.
I'm subbing for a Diploma, year 1, art class this week and noticed that many of the students has trouble answering the question, "What's the theme of your next piece"? I received a lot of answers such as: Fantasy, Surrealism, and Abstract. It struck me that these students didn't seem to understand that these were not themes but rather, art styles, and broad examples at that. Even if a student had answered with Surrealism to the question of which art style they were planning on using, it's still pretty vague considering the variety of Surrealistic styles that exist.
Tonight I created a couple of infographics that will hopefully help clear up this confusion tomorrow in class.