Stop, Collaborate and Listen

So, it has been a while since I implemented this assessment task, but it is long overdue for a spot of reflection!


My inspiration came from my own ‘classroom’ experiences. I am doing a Masters in Cross-Disciplinary Art and Design, Fully online with College of Fine Arts. While the content is really interesting, more than anything, what I am taking away from this course, are the structures and learning ideas.

Assessment and learning in virtual environment requires high levels of effective communication. I have also been interested in the way each subject has both individual and group tasks. Also, all students must reflect and comment on their peers ideas.


I wanted to mimic this mode of learning in Stage 6 Visual Arts. Year 11 are the first senior group to come through with their own laptops as a tool in the classroom.

While some teachers see these laptops as a hinderance, often telling the students not to bring them to class, I see it as the opportunity to shift the way I teach and the chance to engage the students in a whole new way.


NB/I am very lucky to work with a great head teacher who always runs with my crazy ideas.

I had this vision that I could use the EDMODO group function, split all students of Year 11 up into smaller groups and get them to analyse artworks.

I also thought it would be cool to do this with another school, to challenge the students even more. Perhaps I was thinking too big. The kids freaked out when they heard this. How could they work with other students they hadn’t even met? (Meanwhile, I do this everyday in my studies!!)

So the groups were named after the artists names:

N/B The “SECOND CHANCE” group was created after the task was finished and I will explain this later on in the post!

The students task was:

* Collaborate with other students in your group using Edmodo. All discussion online

will be used as part of your assessment. Do NOT rely on one person to do all the work.

* Discuss and research, ideas and ways of understanding each plate.

Make sure to analyse it according to the Frames that is at the top of each plate

Subjective: Audience response, personal/artists feelings about the work

Cultural: Context, time and place, religion, gender, artistic influences, style

Postmodern: Technologies used, irony, parody, humour, questioning conventions

Structural: Description of the work, materials used, size, signs and symbols, interpretation

N/B Each group has a different frame assigned to each plate, so pay attention to what

you are saying about each artwork, and which frame applies to your group.

* As a group, create a presentation that illustrates your analysis of the works.


The coloured plates were included with the assessment criteria.

The ‘FRAMES’ are the syllabus requirements for Stage 6 Visual Arts. So we rotated which frames was the focus of each artwork, so that each group analysed from a different perspective. This task was also designed to be modeled on the HSC exam paper, which has an unseen section. Artworks that students have not studied must be analysed using the different syllabus content structures.


To evaluate this task, I have to say that some students jumped into it, excited to be learning this way. But some students didn’t take the group component of the task seriously. It was so different to how they have been programmed to learn, that they couldn’t get their heads around it. They didn’t realise they were getting graded on the way they engaged in a dialogue and active discussion about these artworks. Most students found it really hard working with another school… and this is where a flaw was discovered. Here I was concerned that students were not participating, when I realised that there was a failure in communication between myself and the teacher at the other school. As per the assignment sheet, it said “as a group, design a presentation based upon your analysis”. There was a marking criteria and we set a due date. But the students from the other school were not helping my students to resolve their visual presentations. Why?

It was because THEIR teacher told them not to do it!!!! The other teacher said it didn’t fit into their assessment schedule and just wanted them to write the essay!! Meanwhile, we had discussed the task together… clearly he didn’t get the point. But if he didn’t get it, I hope that my students still did! GULP!

When they did submit their work, I got some great results! One Glogster and two PowerPoint presentations illustrated their understanding of the artworks.

But wait, you say, there are 4 groups?!

Yes… One group failed to hand anything in!!! They were waiting for someone else in the group to do it!


Ok. So now what?

Do I send home about 30 N-Awards??? Really??? How is that going to help?

It wasn’t going to. But it was then that I remembered a Games Based Learning theory that I had heard. Kids will play games and re-do a level after they die over and over again, learning from their mistakes until they defeat the bad guy. I wanted to apply this to my classroom. We created the SECOND CHANCE group and notified the students that we felt had not participated as expected. They they had to analyse 4 different artworks and do their own visual presentation with a new due date. About half of these students completed this and we still sent some N-Awards home.

So, was it successful?

YES!!!!! Ok, so some students didn’t get it. Some thought it wasn’t even as assessment task… but the truth is in the essay and the exam results… How much did these students understand these artworks and were they able to apply it to a new context???

This is my way of thinking…

Even if some of the students hadn’t actively engaged in the group discussion, everytime they logged onto their EDMODO page, the dialogue was there. If students hadn’t listened in class and joined in the class discussions that foregrounded the topic, they had some form of content that was STUDENT GENERATED! They had discovered this information and made links for themselves.

The essays that were submitted make links between the artworks provided on the colour plates and the ones were had covered in class. All students submitted an essay. All students wrote at least a page. All students understood what the frames were…..

Then they did their half yearly exams. (This was at the beginning of Term 2…)

Every student remembered the artists that had been used in the unseen plates. Even the boys who often struggle in exam conditions could make a reference to these artists and their works and write some sort of response.


I think that learning in the style is NOT easy… and students are not used to it. So, it needs to be introduced into our assessments earlier than Year 11. I thought that it was more exciting and I loved reading what the students had discovered. While they found it hard, all students seemed to get something from it. I am going to persevere and keep trying new things.

Who says assessments have to only be essays and exams….!!!! 


About missjessm

Art. Teaching. Design. Life. View all posts by missjessm

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