I have just returned from five busy, stimulating (and sunny) days attending the Visual Arts Grade Award meetings in Cardiff, with, predictably, a major focus of assessment and moderation.

Those present included IBDP Visual Arts Team Leaders, Principal Examiners, Deputy Chief Examiners and of course the Chief Examiner, as well as the Assessment Subject Area Manager and the Assessment and Curriculum Coordinator.

One issue was repeated a number of times: some teachers continue to be a little (and sometimes very) generous, both when marking the internal assessment component, and when providing a predicted grade.

Perhaps they think that an ‘optimistic’ interpretation of weak work – say, marking investigation workbook pages which merit a 5/20 as 15/20 – will simply be accepted without review and comment. The fact is that such optimism is rarely rewarded, and a lengthy and careful process of re-marking occurs, with senior examiners analysing both the investigation pages copied in the CRB and the studio work photographed.

This is when the accuracy of the photographs and the legibility of the pages in the Candidate Record Booklet is critical. Obviously, pages that are indecipherable or unfocused, or images that are blurred, will tend to hinder, not help, the process.

Likewise, inserting 50 pages when a maximum of 30 is clearly specified (depending on the level and option), or layering a concertina of multiple photographs when the instructions clearly state ‘one photograph per space’, is equally unhelpful. There is no advantage in ‘stretching’ the rules like this, and the extra pages and/or photographs are ignored.

On the other hand, there are clearly some great things happening in visual arts classes – imaginative and conscientious teachers are working with creative and industrious students, and amazing work is being produced all over the world, in all regions.

And the visual arts programme programme continues to expand – for example, there was a 39% increase in candidates taking HLB, which was only examined for the first time in 2009 – and with this expansion more vibrant and powerful exhibitions are being put up by candidates; and more candidates continue to create thoughtful, insightful and in-depth investigations into a range of themes and issues in their Investigation Workbook.

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