Category Archives: Visual Arts

Designing a PBL. A reflection after week one

Holidays are always a fabulous opportunity to have space to think, reflect and plan. During the break I was able to plan and create a Project Based Learning task for my Year 11 Studio Arts students. We have two classes studying Studio Arts with two teachers, myself being one of them. I guess I started with considering what the driving question would be and what the end would look like. Some critical questions came to mind,

  • How would both classes collaborate around the DQ?
  • What technology would enable authentic collaboration?
  • What milestones need to be completed?
  • How will students go?
  • What learning will occur?
  • What are we assessing?

Coming up with the DQ was relatively simple, we wanted our students to have an authentic experience in developing, curating and designing an exhibition. From this the DQ came out.

How do we collaboratively design and create an exhibition?

I needed to map out the process and consider what students would go through. I came up with this, PBL project flow (1)which was more for me then for them. I wanted to have a little bit of clarity around what the process looks like. I love the fact that a PBL is so organic and totally driven by students. Truly making these tasks student driven learning. I decided to use GAFE for connecting each of the classes learning. I wanted to use something that is intuitive and works on any device and has collaboration at its centre. I created a folder which houses all of the student required documents. Task outline, rubrics, ideas documents, project team documents. Screen Shot 2015-07-17 at 5.23.21 pm I stabled across Buck Institute for Education after doing a little online research about PBL. Little bit about BIE

our highest priority is to help teachers prepare students for successful lives. We do this by showing teachers how to use Project Based Learning in all grade levels and subject areas. As a mission-driven nonprofit organization, BIE creates, gathers, and shares high-quality PBL instructional practices and products and provides highly effective services to teachers, schools, and districts.

BIE has a wealth of resources and example documents that you can modify to suit your PBL. It is well worth taking a look. This really helped me frame our PBL and make sure the it is hitting the required learning intentions.

This is part of the task sheet that students use to frame their thinking.

Find the full sheet here: PBL task sheet

Your task is to work in groups and across both classes in planning, designing and creating our Yr 11 Art show. The Year 11 Art show will open on the 3 of August at 5:00 pm in the Menzies Gallery Cripps Centre. The show will display work from students studying Art, Studio Arts and Visual Communication Design. The show will be a celebration of the works of Yr 11 students studying Visual Arts and assessed by an authentic audience. The show must capture the attention of your audience and focus on the following:

  • Artistic rigour: Exhibition should be of high artistic excellence and integrity;
  • Relevance: Exhibition should demonstrate the exploration of issues
  • Coherence: Exhibitions must display cohesion through themes, subjects or techniques and materials
  • Audience development: Exhibition should meet audience targets by meaningfully engaging with established audiences and creatively attracting new audiences;
  • Best-practice: Exhibition should be in-line with industry standards, particularly with regard to the standard of display and interpretation

Student Objectives

    You will collaborate your thinking and be involved in:

    • Be involved in aspects of curatorial work – writing catalogues, wall text, artist profiles
    • Be involved in exhibition design in collaboration with our Art technician
    • Design all marketing and promotion material
    • Select and install students works from Art, Studio Arts and VCD
    • Design lighting and space requirement
    • Design the look, feel and opening night of the exhibition
    • Develop team roles around critical jobs involved in the exhibition
    • Use effective collaboration techniques between both classes in developing ideas for the show.

    Reflection after week one

    Our first lesson centred around working through the ideas behind a PBL and then we moved into deconstructing the task sheet and looking through the rubric for assessment. I have used the rubrics on BIE for the assessment of the PBL and modified them to suit my context. We discussed collectively what the learning would look like to achieve above standard in each of the criterions. After this I let the students go. I have always found the most difficult thing as an educator is to let go of ‘control’. I want students to be the co-constructors of learning, driving and challenging their learning. I want to shift the ownership of learning to them from me. Letting go of the control is hard, scaring and even challenging, but when you do, your students will never disappoint. I was astonished of how quickly they were all engaging with the task, with each other and taking control of their learning in the first lesson.

    GAFE was a great choice, it is enhancing both classes ability to communicate and collaborate their learning. We started out with seperate class documents, but the students decided this wasn’t working and have now merged their learning into one document. Effectively making choices of how best they can all collaborate.  Over the next few lessons I witnessed true collaboration and self directed learning. Students began making choices of how best to support each other and what roles they would like to focus on. When you hand over learning to students and scaffold the learning intentions students will ultimately take control and be self motivated to discover the gaps in their learning and plug the holes. The engagement has been superb due to the authenticity of the task. Students are learning be doing and deeply engaging with the specific roles involved in exhibition design, curatorial work and installation of art works as well as 21st century competencies of collaboration, communication and critical thinking. What I am realising is the power of a PBL to connect 21st skills to deep learning.

    As the week moved on students collaboration deepened around the roles involved in the exhibition and they have started learning from each other about these roles. A testament to the tasks collaborative nature was seeing the students organise a meeting totally initiated by them in their own time to discuss and plan their ideas for the DQ. If that’s not immersion in a task I don’t know what is, giving up their own time to work on an assessment! Part of my thinking was to incorporate a flipped lesson about the Question Formation Technique.  Screen Shot 2015-07-18 at 5.01.28 pmI wanted students to be able to develop their knowledge about asking good questions in seeking answers that will move their learning. This is the only part of the task that I have ‘made’ them complete. A student reflection from the QFT task


    I didn’t quite understand this task at the beginning but as I started thinking of what the class really needs to know and the things both classes have been tossing up, I started understand the kinds of questions we should ask. Reading over my questions and thinking of the advantages and disadvantages of each, revealed to me how some questions that can seem important, can actually be useless. Completing this task allowed me to realize what questions are the most important and will ensure we receive the most valuable information required for our exhibition. In hindsight, I know now that some questions I have written are less important than others and should be rethought and re-written to ask how and why we should do certain things and therefore receive more valuable answers to help with the creation of the exhibition.

    Some of the questions they have came up with

    • How can we efficiently present an exhibition that isn’t completely tradition and has quirky, new elements that could attract a larger crowd?
    • What is the most effective marketing technique in order to get people to come to see the exhibition?
    • How much time is reasonable to allow to plan for a large scale exhibition. What focal points must be prioritised?
    • What idiosyncrasies are vital to each role an exhibition?
    • Creativity is evidently a crucial aspect of a successful exhibition. How do you recommend balancing innovation and impotent feelings?
    • Are there any common problems we should be aware of as we begin to put together an exhibition if so, what are they?  

    The QFT starts with giving students a question focus, I left this open for students to decide around the Driving Question. The rules for a QFT are

    • Ask as many question as you can
    • Do not stop to judge, discuss, edit or answer any of the questions
    • Write down every question just as it was asked
    • Change any statements into questions
    1. The first part of the process is making the questions. This should take around 4 minutes, don’t worry about the quality, just generate as many as you can around the topic. You have to make sure you list and number each of your questions.
    2. The next step is identifying which questions are closed and open. You need to highlight each closed or open question by making it with a ‘c’ or ‘o’. Once they have been identified you need to write the advantages and disadvantages of the question. The last stage of this step is to change closed questions to open ones and open ones to closed ones. This should take 5 minutes or so.
    3. Then you move into the priority stage and set some parameters around your choices. You need to select your priority questions and give a rationale for choosing them. You choose the three most important questions by marking them with an ‘x’, give a reason for the choice and note what number your priority question was on your list. 3 minutes max for this stage.
    4. The next part is making the questions actionable. Thinking about how you will use the questions to guide your thinking and learning around the question focus. This should take 2 minutes.
    5. The last step in the process is to write a reflection about the QFT process. What did I learn? How can I use it?

    The below example is the full process of the QFT.

    What is the most important aspect of an exhibition? Eg. The people there, the atmosphere etc. (C)A – create a focus the whole team can use in order to achieve a great exhibition.

    D – May leave us to neglect other important aspects of an exhibition and therefore we may not achieve the best we can.

    Rewritten: Which aspects should we be focusing on the most and why? (O)

    X – This question will help us achieve the best exhibition we can as it details the most important elements while also explaining how it will help us to develop a great concept.

    More information about the QFT process can be found here.

    Now we have our roles defined, ideas are continuing about the show and our questions are ready to be put into action. We will be twitting our questions to a Melbourne Gallery Director a photographic artist who is currently setting up an exhibition and will have a Q & A session with a gallery installer. This next week is going to be loads of fun. You can follow the #CGSPBL tag to follow our progress. Next week will see us move into the planning phase of the PBL, I can’t wait to see what the students come up with!

    Friday Standups

    Screen Shot 2015-07-06 at 11.07.28 am

    I wanted to create greater student accountability around their learning and also give students the opportunity to present their learning and discuss where they are going.  I got the idea from collaborating with a UX designer in London with my class. With her team every Friday they meet and discuss what they are working on, seek feedback and discuss where they are going. Out of this the #FridayStandups was born. Each Friday students have a few minutes to present their learning around these questions.

    Screen Shot 2015-07-06 at 11.07.38 amIt has kept them accountable and gives them the opportunity to share their learning and receive feedback if needed. We have been using flipgrid to curate their responses also. It has been valuable for students to have a target each week and be able to share what they are doing. It values their learning and their peers are participating in active and passive ways. It has been great in modelling different ways to tackle their learning problem. Many divergent thinking opportunities and new ideas have come out of these short presentations. It is framed with the idea of making students owners of learning and providing opportunities for them to reflect and make learning more visible.

    I am the master and you are the apprentice – Renaissance Painting Guild

    I have been really been fascinated with the idea of developing classrooms that utilise collaboration. It is very obvious that technology empowers this idea and makes it seamless, however, I still see the great power of this in a more traditional sense. An example of this was a project a colleague and I developed for our Yr 7 Visual Art students. It was based on the Renaissance, below is an abstract of the project.

    By @deanpearman & @clareBCollins

    After a discussion about the pending Renaissance unit, we pummeled, cobbled and thwacked out our tired previous assignment to reshape it into a more authentic task. We wanted students to have a deeper understanding of the contexts and structures surrounding and influencing Italian Renaissance Art. We determined to deliver students with a “real” sense of what it would be like to work in an artist’s studio at this time and used the Florentine Painters guild to provide historical and cultural references. In constructing the way we would assess the task we looked to analogues from the time. Who did the painters have to please? It was clear – their patrons. So we took the role of the Pope and Lorezo Medici, for our ‘master’ painters and their workshop apprentices.

    The task needed to be fundamentally grounded in authentic and explicit learning. We came up with the following knowledge outcomes:

    • Historical and Cultural Understanding of the Renaissance: concept of rebirth of knowledge from Antiquity

    • Development of painting techniques and processes employed by Renaissance artists through an introduction to mathematical perspective, grid-based underpainting and chiaroscuro (tone, light and shade)

    • Use of contemporary technologies with historical ideas: where the students created a photographic tableaux of significant Renaissance paintings for translation into compositional formats relevant to Renaissance idealism.

    • Collaborative & Authentic Learning: through role-playing in Artist workshops

    • Communication and Presentation skills of their work in the formal setting of the Rod Menzies Gallery

    We divided the two classes into 8 groups, in which, every student had the opportunity to be the “master” and “apprentices” within the studio. We generated and distributed a role-allocation framework for each participant within the painting guild – what part they were expected to play in the studio. Each group had to re-interpret a significant Renaissance painting such as Perugino’s Marriage of a Virgin or Da Vinci’s Last Supper and recreate it using each member of the group. Students brought in old sheets, costumes and props and used digital cameras to capture their new work. The next challenge began at this point where each group was given a 1.5 x 2.5 metre piece of scene board. Where possible, the large format of each group work approximated the actual scale of some of the Renaissance paintings studied. The translation of each students A3 tableaux art work onto the scene board was a significant mathematical challenge to each group. Once they achieved accuracy with the grid dimensions to establish accurate proportions, they created under drawing to plot out the use of ‘chiaroscuro’ or ‘tonal range’. In a new development this year, the Visual Arts decided to purchase only a range of primary pigment colours. This extended the students understanding of colour mixing and its application, where they were required to use a palette appropriating an accurate reference to the original paintings.

    To conclude the unit, the students were briefed upon the requirements to present their work before their peers and articulate how 5 key areas of knowledge were managed by their group: historic reference and narrative, style, technique, composition scheme and application of art elements and principles.

    Students were assessed in three ways:

    • Design Process & Design Thinking: Using a rubric assessment grid to determine the development of the finished art piece;

    • The finished art work: A rubric was used based on set criterion which was delivered in the learning task;

    • Presentation: students were assessed on their ability to present their work to Pope and Lorezo Medici. Students were given criterions that needed to be addressed throughout the presentation.

    Team teaching has been a highly rewarding corollary of each of these learning tasks. Their reliance on adopting a flexible approach between clearly articulated requirements and organic modulation of the unit led to valuable exchanges and enlivened the process. Reflection, both staff and student, was critical during the tasks. During and after the assignments students used these reflections both to deepen their engagement in the task and to shape subsequent learning. For either Year 7, it enhanced their understanding of the world of the artist. This task was highly successful and immensely affirming as we saw students employ and master working methods and modes of accountability employed by others . Innovation is a hard concept to quantify but learning activities like this certainly make students develop new skills, ideas and understandings. This type of learning experience also challenged us to be innovative educators and risk takers. At times it was difficult but in the end the learning on all our parts was so much richer and meaningful.

    How digital learning environments empower educators

    Teaching and learning in the digital environment is a major paradigm shift for most educators. Learning with digital content is very confronting and requires a major shift in how we deliver our programmes for enhanced learning. What changes…….well everything can if you let it. What has shifted enormously in my teaching is the deeper learning that occurs from students with using ubiquitous technologies. The classroom changed, what I tell students is, “don’t expect me to teach you, I’m not a teacher”, I’m about learning and for you to control your own learning. In that sense, I mean, I’m not the traditional idea of a teacher, all chalk and talk, handouts, homework, the boring stuff! What I do is use class time for deeper exploration of abstract concepts and authentic or real world learning. How does this occur???? Well…… with technology, a wiki, pod/vod casts, blogs what I call “inter-connectiveness”. What has empowered me is the fact that using technology allows for the class room to be a place where students engage with each other in collaboration and learning. What has shifted dramatically is the idea of school and home and what occurs in these spaces. At home traditionally the “homework” type of work would occur and at school the delivery of content would.  What happens now is the “homework” type takes occur in class time and at home students are engaging with technology and digital content that drives deep and meaningful learning at school, a “flipped classroom”. The big eye opener for me is how this actually enhances student learning, the use of  ubiquitous technologies has created a strong learning environment and culture, I actually love it when hearing students talk to each other about problems and they say “it’s on the wiki!”.

    Of course this is only one aspect which makes for quality teaching and learning, but one which has changed the way I learn and in turn allowed my students to achieve excellent results.