Testing the ‘C’ boundary

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In a daily routine of emails and meetings it was a pleasure to join art teachers and just talk about teaching art and students: like the yr 10 student whose sole expectations from life were “make up, a baby and love” probably in that order.

We met to review and share work at the boundary of GCSE ‘C’ and ‘D’. There were ten teachers from four schools. In the event all schools entered for Edexcel examinations and so we were unable to compare results from different exam boards. Encouragingly we found that there was consistency in the samples from these four schools. The ‘D’s and ‘C’s did correspond and it was possible to discern a consistent order of merit across the schools. It was interesting to note the defining difference between C and D grades. It seemed to be, not so much in technical expertise or formal fluency but in the intellectual curiousity and maturity of the student. Work at a D grade seemed to be shallower and monochromatic in scope whereas work at a C grade suggested a narrative which was deeper and richer.

We noted that during recent Edexcel training teachers were told to ignore changes to specifications and in effect carry on as they had always done. In addition there was some agreement that, this year, moderators were encouraging teachers not to emphasise the absolute need for writing and to accept that visual analysis and reflection could demonstrate critical evaluation and understanding.

We noted that the similarities were far more obvious than the differences between schools. Characteristics of all work were: brainstorming, open ended experimentation in sketchbooks, references to several artists and consequent stylistic experiments, use of photographic references and the internet. Often the final piece was the weakest and the preparation seemed to contain many hours of work. This prompted a discussion about the possibility of students spending a disproportionate amount of time working and reworking development pages in their journals rather than spending time creating successfully realised works of art.

Many students had worked from figures with varying degrees of success. I mentioned a website I had seen earlier in the day featuring the work of the dance company Philobulous. A short brilliant piece by two dancers creating an extraordinary sequence of shapes and combinations using just two bodies. Certainly worth looking at for ideas about the use of figures.

Finally one really good idea a teacher’s small assessment note attached to work with a paper clip which contained comments – ‘A good thing is…’, Could be better if…’, Relevant to Assessment Objective AO1, AO2, AO3, AO4′. Thanks to Kirsty for that. And to the teachers of Sir William Ramsay Arts College, Holmer Green School, Amersham School and Chalfonts Community College.

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About Dan

Senior Advisor, Art Inspector, Member of the Expert Advisory Group for Art, Consultant working with NSEAD, IOE, QCA, UCE, UOG. Currently lecturer at UCL working on a project in Kazakhstan to develop text books for a new art curriculum.
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