‘My work looks like a child did it compared to all the other students in my class with experience’

This month my post is a reply to a heartfelt comment written by a student.

As you may know, its possible to leave comments after a blog post, and on 1st April a student made a comment in response to a post titled ‘EXHIBITION ISSUES (part 3)‘ from August 2016.

The comment did not refer directly to issues discussed in this particular blog (the ‘theme’, the curatorial rationale, optional supporting photographs etc.) but he was clearly venting!

I have included the whole comment at the end of this blog but address/discuss the individual points first.

Primarily, the student seemed frustrated with the demands of the visual arts course.

1. Prior Learning

His main point was about whether students need to have had some art experience before starting the visual arts course.

‘You tell us we do not need any experience to take this class. That is crazy!’

My view is that prior learning can help (obviously) but should not be a requirement (and is not in fact a requirement).

The guide (page 9) says, ‘Prior learning: The visual arts course at both SL and HL requires no previous experience.

  • The course is designed to enable students to experience visual arts on a personal level and achievement in this subject is reflected in how students demonstrate the knowledge they have gained as well as the skills and attitudes they have developed that are necessary for studying visual arts.
  • Students’ individual abilities to be creative and imaginative and to communicate in artistic form will be developed and extended through the theoretical and practical content of the visual arts course.
  • The visual arts course provides a relevant learning opportunity for a diverse range of students as it lays an appropriate foundation for further study in visual arts, performing arts and other related subjects.
  • In addition, by instilling discipline and refining creative communication and collaborative skills, it offers a valuable course of study for students who may wish to pursue a career or further education studies in areas unconnected to the arts.’

Yes: the visual arts course at both SL and HL requires no previous experience.

‘Individual abilities…to communicate in artistic form will be developed and extended through the theoretical and practical content of the visual arts course.’

I often have students joining the art class with very little experience.

In my opinion a more important factor than prior knowledge/experience is motivation and willingness to learn concepts, ideas and skills.

If a student has no experience of art but is willing or even eager to learn, then a lot – including a great exhibition – is possible.

How do these students do in my class? In the last examination session two students (out of a class of eight) arrived with very little experience. It was a steep but overall productive learning curve for them, but they displayed a willingness to explore and learn, and in the end one achieved a 5 and the other a 6.

2. Humiliation? ‘Those of us with no experience feel humiliated’

This is a slightly different point and is more about the atmosphere in the class and the feel within the teaching space.

Its worrying to hear that any student (whether or not they have prior art experience) feels humiliated anywhere, under any circumstances.

Humiliation should not occur in any classroom but especially not in an art room, because art is the one place in a school where students need to feel safe and confident when expressing themselves.

Page 100 of the Visual Arts Course Companion book says ‘Showing your art in an exhibition is a little like taking your clothes off in public‘.

Showing your art in the art room can seem equally daunting if you are worried about negative response from your peers.

(This could be an issue that you talk to a school counsellor about?)

 

3. ‘Shame on you for getting us involved in this class.’

I’m not sure about this. Did you and your friends start the visual arts course because of my blog?

Usually discussion occurs with parents, teachers and the DP coordinator before the course selections are proposed, and confirmation and support is required by all before you start.

It is the responsibility of the visual arts teacher(s) and/or coordinator to ensure that the student is well aware of the expectations and requirements of the course well before they sign up! The demands and components of the course should not come as a surprise!

 

4. DP visual arts vs DP music

‘Do you think you could pass an exam of playing the Oboe without any background reading music or playing an instrument from September of one year through a bit more than half of another year?’

Probably not, but we are not talking about DP Music!

My blog is about DP visual arts – so I’m not sure that this comparison really works.

DP music is different to DP visual arts. We are not talking about learning a single, specific skill (e.g. how to play an oboe): the visual arts course is not about acquiring a single specific skill.

Its more broad and more creative than that, and the challenges are more diverse.

‘What is art?’ Saša Šantić, via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0)

5. Its a two-year course

You write that the student has “from September of one year through a bit more than half of another year”

The visual arts course, like all Diploma Programme subjects, is a two-year course, although since the upload deadlines are in April for most schools, in reality its more like one and a half years.

Either way, your student should have, say, from September of the first year right through to the September of the second year, and then on for another six months to March-April of the following year. This seems to be more time than your suggested “from September of one year through a bit more than half of another year” (?)

I know that some schools try to run the whole course in one year. I do not agree with this but it’s a decision made by individual schools, not the IB. Its certainly not recommended by the IB.

If your school is trying to run the course in one year I sympathise and – although its too late for you – suggest you talk to others, including parents, to see why the school has taken this decision.

6. HL vs SL

The final point seems to refer to the Process Portfolio requirements in relation to the Art making forms table.

‘Plus so bad to make HL work in three areas but demand them to be better than SL who work in only 2 areas? This should be reversed.’

This is slightly confusing. More is demanded of HL students because they get more time (240 rather than 150 hours).

 

To the student: thank you for posting the comment and I’m sorry that your experience of the visual arts programme so far has been so unrewarding and negative. I’m not sure if anything I have written here will help, but I’m most concerned about the element of humiliation that you refer to. Please talk to a teacher or school counsellor about this.

 

The comment

Here is what the student wrote in his comment:

You tell us we do not need any experience to take this class. That is crazy!

My work looks like a child did it compared to all the other students in my class with experience.

Those of us with no experience feel humiliated.

Shame on you for getting us involved in this class.

Do you think you could pass an exam of playing the Oboe without any background reading music or playing an instrument from September of one year through a bit more than half of another year?

No way Jose. Fail.

Plus so bad to make HL work in three areas but demand them to be better than SL who work in only 2 areas? This should be reversed.

 

 

2 Comments
  • Barbara Bovaird
    April 7, 2018

    These are very helpful and reassuring responses – And I hope the student who made the original comments takes the time to read them. It is the time of year on the IB calendar when students can feel overwhelmed and frustrated. I always tell potential students that IB visual art is for anyone who wants to discover their creative voice and has the courage to do so. If I have a student who is perhaps lacking in technical skill I help them to find other ways to express their ideas, concepts and creativity. Mono printing, photography, collaging, felting and textiles, sculpture … It’s amazing to watch them be introduced to a medium that does not rely on fine technical skill as much as creativity, and critical and reflective thinking.

    • Andrew Vaughan
      April 7, 2018

      Hi Barbara,
      Thanks for the comment and for the very useful skill related ideas!

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