Up Close and Personal

ASSESSMENT MYTHS NUMBER 2: “My work is personal: I thought that would get me a high mark?”

No, I’m afraid not. “Personal work” will not necessarily get you any marks at all.

Ideas reflecting2This is often misunderstood both by students and teachers, and I suspect that part of the cause of the misunderstanding is the 2nd bullet point in the Studio markband descriptors – the one that states that the work “demonstrates the production of personally relevant artworks that show exploration of ideas reflecting cultural and historical awareness and artistic qualities”.

All work is personal – you made it so it’s personal – so the reference to personal work is in some ways meaningless. The more important (and more difficult) part of the bullet point descriptor is the next few words of the sentence: that show exploration of ideas reflecting cultural and historical awareness and artistic qualities.

The examiner is really looking for artwork that shows cultural/historical awareness and artistic qualities, not just ‘personal’ stuff. Your painting may well be personal but that’s not enough.

A successful personal response to something in this context (the visual arts assessment criteria) should also show how you have explored a cultural or artistic element.

That doesn’t mean (of course) that just sticking a picture of the Statue of Liberty, the Eiffel Tower, the Taj Mahal etc is going to get you many marks either.  These are knee-jerk responses – the first thing that might come into your mind when considering an image representing a country.

These buildings, statues etc. fill a similar role to national dress and the flag that represents the country…The Eiffel Tower (etc.) are obvious and predictable clichés. They are cultural stereotypes. By themselves they hardly show evidence of a deep, thoughtful or in-depth exploration of ideas.

On the other hand, they might show some very basic/simplistic understanding of the assessment criteria, and even stereotypes are better than nothing, and – if it works in context and has a foundation in investigation – it might be a start.

(My next blog will continue to discuss the PERSONAL in art (watch out for “THIS TIME ITS PERSONAL”)

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Statue of Liberty website and Torch Cam: www.nps.gov/stli/index.htm

2 Comments
  • Shereen
    February 10, 2014

    Well it seems to me that most of the descriptors are confusing and difficult to understand! By both teachers and students…why can’t the criteria be written in a more direct way to avoid all of this misconception? When I was at a workshop earlier many of the examiners couldn’t explain to me in words the meaning of the criteria!

  • Andrew Vaughan
    March 11, 2014

    Hi Shereen,
    You are not alone in feeling that the current descriptors are too complicated and difficult to understand – I have heard that opinion from many teachers.

    If its any consolation, the final version of the new guide for the new course (starting later this year) has just been published on the OCC, and I think the assessment descriptors for the new course are much better.
    They aren’t perfect, of course, but I think that they are much more understandable for both teachers and students.

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