A new curriculum model?

Since 1999 the delivery of the art curriculum has been dominated by the model of the termly, themed unit of work which was the method used by QCA in presenting an example of an art curriculum in 1999. Although it was never intended to be the only way of delivering the art curriculum it quickly became an almost universal orthodoxy. The new art curriculum provides an opportunity to reflect upon and challenge that orthodoxy. Perhaps the art curriculum does not have to be delivered in three termly units each following the same pattern leading inexorably through a theme towards a single outcome.

The new curriculum places a premium upon mastery and technical skills. Perhaps it would be appropriate for some units to simply focus on this aspect of the subject. Just learn to print well, rather than learning a technique quickly in the process of pursuing an outcome by the end of term. Perhaps it would be possible to spend time drawing regularly, probably the most important single thing to do to improve the quality of art education.

The curriculum also focuses our attention upon knowing about art, craft and design. Perhaps it would be possible to simply look at and enjoy works of art, craft or design without having to ‘work in the style of…’ . Perhaps every so often we should put a work in the spotlight (spotlight hour) and ask ourselves, who made it, why, when, how, where. Do we like it, why, or why not.

Perhaps it is time to speculate about what might happen if we didn’t have a termly theme. A lighter, brighter curriculum model perhaps.

curric sketch

7 Responses to A new curriculum model?

  1. poppy phillips says:

    I’m interested in the views expressed above. I have long since abandoned levels in my department so that all assessment is based on formative feedback. Students know their strengths and are presented with challenges as to how they can move forward. This is challenging in a world where academic subjects clearly take president and many students struggle to motivate themselves. We have ustilised the GCSE assessment framework at KS3 for the past 5 years, it has proved a valuable framework and enables us to demonstrate progress. Our whole school policy requires us to demonstrate ‘flight paths’ we intend to continue to use the GCSE framework linked to the NC POS aims to report on student achievement. I am a little concerned that we may be heading into a period of tick boxes for tick boxes sake but at least it will remove the fixed mindset approach of ‘what level would this get Miss?’ I am writing my initial drafts whilst reviewing what others have to offer, I have found PIXL strategies far too complex but am working with the Scomis approach of emerging, developing, secured & mastered. It has been good to reflect on some alternative views – many thanks Dan

    • Dan says:

      Thanks for the contribution and glad you found stuff here interesting. I guess the abandoning of levels is good because it requires a rethink. It is an opportunity for teachers to define what they mean by progress and, in owning their own vocabulary and targets, making these more accessible to students. But, of course, it will be a bad thing if it only shifts the system from national/external boxes to be ticked, to school level/internal boxes to be ticked. I always felt it was not the levels but the way SLT’s forced them into excell spreadsheets that did the damage. At a time of increased isolation for art departments I hope we will find ways to share and develop ideas that can carry weight. It will be interesting to see what happens next (politically) and how NSEAD can engage with the agenda. I know Ged Gast (new president) well and he is keen to engage with assessment debate as he recognises that this is what will drive change. – Best wishes Poppy

  2. Dan says:

    Whenever, I meet a gifted/committed art teacher one of the key characteristics seems to be that desire to help, push, cajole, require students to follow their own ideas. I guess that was what brought us to the subject ourselves in the first place. Good luck and thanks for the comments.

  3. Len Hunter says:

    In one way I am pleased that 1.1 and any other prescript that used to bug the hell out of me has finally gone – all artists -( because that’s what we are first and teachers much much later) – have an understanding and passion for the creative world – many of us are picture thinkers and visual constructors – we have always been the voice of ‘but Art is different!’

    Now I am sitting with lots of scraps of paper and about to embark on constructing a curriculum for my school – which is implementing a whole school assessment policy – aarrrggghhh – stickers with www and ebi? And I dutifully put my hand up and expressed – ‘But Art is different’ – to which I was pleasantly surprised by a reply that said -‘lets have a dialogue about that’ or am I being naive ?

    My issues are initially – parity with local and or national / international standards – but then every where I research the implication are – get on with it and enjoy it! (thanks Dan) – T shirt in production now!

    Then I suddenly feel totally free because I noticed a job that starts in September for an alternative school that says they want someone who enjoys student centered approaches to art and that you will not be asked to provide any levels just use your professional judgement to engage and inspire the students in a mini foundation college atmosphere…

    But – I do not have to up-root myself – because I can create the same thing where I am – I will remain the stalwart voice and prepare my repartee for the ‘Does anyone have any questions about the school assessment policy!’

    So – I will boldly go where we all have wanted to go for a long long time and prove that it is not a coincidence that the creative results and student centered approaches that have been the back bone of Art education and assisted the overall percentages of schools to be better than they should have been – and that the real issue is why are you not more like the Art department!

    The new curriculum is aware that core subjects have been failing – the arts must continue to fight their own corner and defend the quality of formative / verbal feedback / relationships that art teachers have with the students – We do not have to write and produce evidence of marking – we must be trusted that we do what we do well because we are artists and we know how to help and communicate with students – and it isn’t by making them read your opinion – we talk to them!

    Each art department can become what ever it wants to be – Fine arts, contemporary, ceramic, sculptural, graphical and Technological – knowing that we already have a universal language that is understood by the fraternity of Artists – we do not need a matrix – success is empirical and not a set of instructions – other wise we would all be able to just get in a car and drive perfectly from day one.

    We can all be different!

    As for the formative assessment I see nothing wrong with setting your own standards and levels based on your own visual acuity, knowledge and skill base. As good preparation ( a foundation course) for ensuing national exams – all we have to do is get them to stop telling us what a student is expected to get in Art because they get this in maths and english – please allow me the professional courtesy of being able to project what a student in my subject will be capable of!

    Then we can look forward to some real aspirational challenges and individual creative work from the students to create and prepare themselves for a career that requires ‘personal decisions and motivation to succeed’

    As a professional teacher it will be up to you to set the standards for your school knowing that all other art teachers (artists) are working from the same universal and inter-galactic matrix that is biologically and through evolution a part of your being and who you are and why you are doing Art.

    So lets just do what we have always done and ‘Get on with it and enjoy it!’

    • Dan says:

      Many thanks for your contribution Len. It’s really interesting and helps me reflect further. I do feel that we should use this opportunity to refresh, revive and reinterpret teaching and learning in art and design and that probably the biggest problem will be the constraining impact of externally (external to the subject) defined, assessment/recording/accountability systems. I think it should be possible for teachers of art to define for themselves what they wish their students to learn and achieve and to pursue progress towards these expectations rigorously. I think it perfectly feasible to record pupils’ progress towards, and successful achievement of, these expectations.

      However, I fear that, although the DfE and Ofsted are no longer interested in identifying common national standards in our subject, many continue to believe that it impossible have good progress unless it is defined in a vague, generalised statement, to which we can attach a number/grade/colour whatever.

      I am already being asked to contribute to new improved assessment grids, and have no doubt but that they will multiply and keep teachers busy filling them in. I will probably agree to help: but I fear they will probably only provide a spurious legitimacy to recording progress in codes, and distract attention away from the really important task of talking knowingly to students about what they could achieve this week, this term. I am told teachers need these tools, but do they really?

      • Len Hunter says:

        The information on your web site is a standard reference point for me – and I have used your thoughts ‘in defense’ of my own thinking within my school – as a professionally sourced and grounded opinion maker. I reference your web site as much as I can for other teachers to realise just how useful it is.

        I am contemplating looking at Ks3 as a foundation course for GCSE entrants – and use the GCSE matrix as a performance leveller – as ‘can be expected to achieve…. if work continues to develop etc. ie: using the key words of consistent and with confidence etc – this would also allow me to break up target setting in to the 4 assessment objectives ( This will prevent over zealous use of traditional A – B – C and the disparity of students who think they are A stream and only achieving a C later.

        My school is letting the Y8 opt at end of year – so I have 2 yrs at ks 3 to offer larger perspective targets such as ‘Learning to look as an artists’ in y7 – and ‘developing abstraction techniques’ in y8

        Yr1 of the 3 yr gcse course will be about creativity and personalising the processes involved – it does mean a lot of students aiming at different out comes – but it will be great for developing a critical approach and developing a strength in individual mark making / out comes, as well as seeing the structure of the gcse marking scheme –

        I was asked at a parents/open evening – ‘How am I able to handle 23 different objectives in a class ?’ In essence the core is the same – good reflective research and inspiration, clear use of observational drawing, creative and experimental use of materials and a personal satisfaction in doing your own leveled out come rather than a similar comparative out come that may mean a personal judgement of theirs is better than mine –

        I have a 30 minute slot coming up with the learning co-ordinator next week – I hope to convince him I have a plan!

        regards Len Hunter

  4. Elena Thomas says:

    hmmm…. yes…. this sort of crosses over what I’ve been thinking of doing…
    My y6 group work without a theme, they work independently/think independently, but I run myself ragged providing (potentially) 30 different lots of materials. I am thinking that I could still allow the thinking to be independent, but construct a framework of focus on particular artists or materials… I also draw little diagrams, but I’m not really getting anywhere. What I always end up saying is that I need to start further down the school, then draw another diagram…
    I can see all sorts of things are missing from the new curriculum, but there is a freedom in what IS there.

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