The weight of creativity

There is an intriguing twist in this simple tale. It comes from the book ‘Art and Fear’, by David Bayles and Ted Orland. At the beginning of term a ceramics teacher divided the class into two groups. He told the first group that they would be graded on the quantity of work that they produced – the amount of clay used. He explained that at the end of term they should bring to the assessment all the work they had produced and that it would be weighed. Students would get an ‘A’ for 50lbs of work, a ‘B’ for 40lbs and so forth.

The second group was told that they would be graded on the quality of their work and that at the end of term they should present for assessment just one pot of the highest quality they could achieve.

Apparently the results were very clear. the highest quality work, that which was most orginal, effective and creative was all produced by the first group.

Bayles and Orland explained that: “It seems that while the ‘quantity’ group was busily churning out piles of work – and learning from their mistakes – the ‘quality’ group had sat theorising about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of dead clay.”

I like the story because, although we know about the value of creative play, of taking risks and failing, much of our actual pedagogy seems to reflect the experience of the second group of students. We tend to follow a risk averse process of developing and refining an idea in pursuit of a single fully resolved outcome. It is a very different process to that of the first group who just make stuff – lots of it.

Posted in Creativity, Just Stuff | 1 Comment

Teacher assessment is less fair – discuss

Daisy Christodoulou’s blog is always interesting, and often infuriating – well she is young, right wing, a teacher and popular educational expert. But she goes for the jugular, attacks our treasured myths and bases her arguments on research not dogma.

The latest post on her blog ‘The Wing to Heaven’ argues that the research tends to suggest that teacher assessment is inherently less fair and accurate than we fondly imagine and certainly less so than exams. Basically she argues that research indicates that teacher assessment is subject to unconscious but persistant prejudice against children already disadvantaged. Read the blog here Blog Post.

So far so interesting, and I guess and I would recommend ‘The wing to heaven‘, just because its challenging. But it does occur to me that it may add something to the debate about the gender gap in our subject. Perhaps teacher assessment is less fair and accurate, and more prone to inherent prejudice in favour of girls’ approach to the subject than we would like to believe. So does this mean we should be more open minded about exam reform?

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Tim Oates on the curriculum and assessment

Tim Oates talks with quiet authority about how the new national curriculum came to be and how ideas about assessment have changed. He explains how the honourable intentions of the TGAT report (Professor Black) became corrupted. However, it is clear that when he talks of assessment it is about assessment in the core subjects. Well he would wouldn’t he that’s the important bit. But it isn’t good enough to simply assume that there is only one approach which is so appropriate for English, maths and science that it must also be appropriate for all subjects. This does harm to the effectiveness of other subjects in achieving the aims and aspirations set out for them. This is a waste of educational potential which we cannot afford.

Posted in Assessment, Key Stage 3, Levels, New National Curriculum, primary | 1 Comment

From the horses mouth.

The recently published report of the Commission on Assessment Without Levels is interesting and probably important for our subject. Some of it consists of statements of the blindingly obvious. But in view of the fact that many schools are blindly holding on to crass and abviously silly assessment practices it is perhaps depressingly necessary to repeat simple common sense information about effective assessment. One common excuse for senior managers desparate reliance on systems which, even they usually admit in private, are facile, is OFSTED. So it is helpful to hear OFSTED trying to set the record strait – below.

Art teachers, well all subject teachers atually, should read the commissions report it will help them as they challenge senior managers to develop a coherent and helpful assessment policy – rather than a spreadsheet for recording, often meaningless, numbers.

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The arts are important because…

A Marylebone High School film about the importance of the arts in school with a cast of significant creators.

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Education Technology Action Group – I do hope so


I guess if anyone can Stephen Heppell can. It was rather a shock to come across this after the regressive, backward looking, Govian years. But it is a real joy to see the language, creativity and positive vision of the future being developed by the ETAG group chaired by Stephen Heppell. What is more there is attached a real school taking on the vision. Have a look at the Isle of Portland Aldridge Community Academy’s facebook page to get a sense of what can happen if schools are not frightened of new media ( click here IOPACA).

Here is a link to the Education Technology Action Group report. It is a really refreshing and encouraging read. There was a time when some of us believed this would all be inevitable, perhaps it still will be.

PS. I got the link to IOPACA from a Merlin John piece about the failure of schools to develop useful websites. Click here for the link to Merlin John’s article.


Posted in Creativity, IT, Networks and Teachers | 3 Comments

Playing with ebooks

Just stumbled upon this interesting post about ebooks for children on  ( Really just using this post to park the information until I have time to play. Story Bird widely used story maker website. It has great templates picture bank. It’s ease to use and the results look wonderful. Create fantastic pop-up story books with just a few clicks. You can upload pictures and editing text & speech is easy. The results look amazing, especially using the augmented reality option. This is a fabulous site for creating free ebooks by uploading photos from your computer, or by using the well stocked gallery of props scenes and characters provided by the site. Just drag and drop your items into place. Books can be private or shared using a url link. A free signing is required. You can also have your ebooks made into real books for a fee. Get some weird and wonderful story starters. Just click on the button to view one of the million starters. There is also a junior version for younger writers at Story Time For Me is a great animated audio flash story site from the US for young learners. althought the song may drive you mad!’s_Bookshelf A nice collection of children’s ebooks to download. A simple looking site, but with some great ebooks to download. A online story making resource where users choose, type, click and drag themselves a story with images and animation to share. A site with 82 classic novels at last count as downloadable ebooks. Easy to download and comes in many formats for e-readers and PCs. This is a great looking e-book site. View thousands of titles and read them online and on your portable device. You can also make notes on the pages. A site with a large collection of ebooks to read online. A beautifully made resource showing students the different elements of a book/story and provides ideas and vocabulary for them to talk about their learning. A good collection of online books for young readers. A good e-book search engine. Search for lots of formats including PDFs and Doc files. Preview books and embed some into your website. A good site to find online ebooks of classic titles. Find stories from amateur writers based on geographic location and upload your own. This is a wonderfully bizarre interesting story site where users move the character around and solve the puzzles. The demo version is free. An amazing digital storytelling project. Watch videos of children telling original stories. A wonderful series of interactive stories which use text, music, animation and games to tell the adventures.

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Its really important to get our facts right

The NSEAD (National Society for Education on Art and Design – the subject association for art does an annual survey to investigate trends in art and design in schools. Last year the survey documented the emerging (negative) impact of eBac on art uptake and provision. You will understand, even better than me, how the continuing programme being pursued by the government is likely to have an increasing impact on our subject. There is no one else collecting subject specific data. HMI no longer undertakes subject reviews. NSEAD is probably the only national voice for art and design education in schools and it does have access to the national debate. It is really important that their research and data is seen as robust and therefore, their sample size needs to be as large as we can make it.
Here is the link to the 2014 survey results. This has informed debate in parliament and elsewhere
The 2015 survey can be accessed at the URL below. If we can, I do think we should encourage as many art teachers as possible to complete the survey and provide an accurate picture of our subject.
I hope you will be able to complete the survey and share this with many of your colleagues.
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Just noted this site providing articles about contemporary issues in school improvement, which seems interesting. The article that caught my attention was a study which challenged the research findings that have seemed  to suggest that ‘feedback’ always led to improvement. Apparently it doesn’t when teachers  misunderstand the term and simply offer vague praise.
Well, we should know this, its not the feedback, its the ability to describe clearly and passionately what children can achieve in terms that both children and teachers can recognise. I guess I am coming to the view that its teachers who can clearly communicate aspiration to their students that make a difference. Perhaps the particulars of the aspiration are less important than the fact that the students are inspired to aspire.

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Sharing good practice is always worth doing.

In January OFSTED published a set of papers sharing examples of good practice in art teaching. There are 12 case studies in all and they include building professional practice into GCE ‘A’ level courses, developing drawing, inspiring creativity and developing a whole school approach to art, craft and design. The case studies are from both primary and secondary schools. Click here for the link.

Posted in 6th Form Art, Creativity, Networks and Teachers, Ofsted, primary | 2 Comments