Exploring the World Around You

The senior examining and assessment teams have been looking through examples of work submitted in the recent visual arts examination sessions (May and November 2017 and 2018) in order to find helpful samples for teachers.

It has become clear that occasionally art teachers award marks for the exhibition component that do not really reflect the quality of the work submitted. When this happens, the marks are usually too generous, although in a few cases they are too harsh.

Either way it’s not good for the students to be, let’s say, unintentionally misinformed by the teacher in relation to how well they are doing.

It should go without saying that of course teachers need to know what the visual arts standards are in order for them to be able to accurately assess the work that their students create.

So, examiners and moderators have been looking at examples of great and not so great student work to provide teachers with a better idea or what success and/or failure might look like.


A couple of exhibition uploads caught my eye. Both were reasonably high scoring, but not ‘top marks’ (24/30 and 28/30) and interestingly neither were about protest (moderators  see a lot of exhibitions that tend to follow a very predictable “raising awareness” of concerns formula).

Both exhibitions were very much about thoughtful awareness of the immediate environment, with art that focused on what was happening around the student – their locations, their families, their place in the world. One student was in China and the other was in the UK, but both in their different ways met the expectations of the programme.

These themes were elaborated, with frequently complex imagery, leading to achievement in conceptual terms; there were links between individual artworks, and processes and techniques were well selected and applied (contributing towards coherence); and technical competence was consistently assured.

Was there a theme? Yes. Having a theme is not necessarily a bad thing. Both these cases are examples of how a theme can be successful. It was successful because the students adopted an inquiring, creative, and imaginative approach. The theme was not a constraint, but a launch pad.

In some ways this was a modest, even humble, theme, starting in the home (apartment or house) and working outwards and inwards.

Both exhibitions were intelligent, masterful and revealing, both still asked questions, and both were successful.

Coincidentally, last week I visited a nearby art gallery that was showing a small exhibition of Impressionist paintings.


While there I was reminded of the student artworks discussed above: students/artists observing and capturing moments of their lives through thoughtful observation of the world around them.

Admittedly, these impressionist paintings did not look like some of the student artworks (that has a more contemporary feel), but they shared a similar purpose and concept – exploring and refining the local, the immediate, the things and people that surround us.



All photographs taken by me at the Lightbox.

Artworks on display in the “Impressionism: The Art of Life” exhibition.

  • Lucy Everitt
    January 31, 2019

    Dear Andrew,
    This is so interesting a teacher running the course for the first time, alone. I have the text books, the specification, I read your Blog, I have done a cat 1 course, looked at the PRC, I am part of an online group and have a subscription to the inthinking website. However, it is still difficult to get a thorough range of graded exemplars. I want to do everything I can not to misinform my students. We are being asked to give predicted grades in term 2 of IB1 and I am finding the pressure of getting this right extremely daunting. Would you be able to provide some useful exemplars sometime for teachers just starting out. There are quite a few of us around the world in remote locations.
    Best wishes,

    • Andrew Vaughan
      January 31, 2019

      Dear Lucy,
      Thank you for the comment. I also started my international teaching career in a fairly remote location (an international school in the foothills of Kilimanjaro, Northern Tanzania), so am familiar with the dilemma of being new, wanting to do things right but still feeling uncertain and sometimes confused.

      With regard to examples of assessed work, as I wrote in the blog, the senior examining team are in the process of finding more examples. I’m currently reviewing sample work that will likely go to My IB, which – as the ‘official’ visual arts site – is the best place, I think. When it appears, I can announce it here in the blog, but I’m sure that it will be announced anyway on My IB – so please also keep your eye on My IB!

      But I think that you should already have access to more than 50 examples of assessed student artwork, which should give you a good idea of standards:

      • Cat 1 workshops provide 18 examples of assessed Comparative Studies, Process Portfolios and Exhibitions to participants, so you should have a range of examples from your workshop (?)
      • There are 13 further examples already on My IB.
      • And if you have a subscription to InThinking, then you will be familiar with the “Student Gallery” section and around 23 examples of work with marks in the three components.

      But stay tuned to My IB for more examples!

      I hope this helps,



  • William Tell
    January 31, 2019

    Why do IB Coordinators instruct IB Art Teachers to make their predicted grades higher?

    • Andrew Vaughan
      January 31, 2019

      Hi William,
      If you are referring to your own DP Coordinator, I don’t know why he/she gives this instruction.
      It might be best to ask him/her.

      My DP Coordinator asks for accuracy in the predicted grades upload, and teachers are expected to explain why they were ‘optimistic’ if their marks prove to be too generous.

      Having been a DP Coordinator, this – asking teachers to predict realistic rather than generous marks – seems to be a better (more honest and more sensible) approach.

      You may be interested in my 2016 blog


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