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The Art Project - Reflective Summary

The Art Project
 The Art Project has required a fundamental shift in perception regarding teaching and learning for both the teacher and the learner. The traditional timetable was altered and students, who had applied and been accepted for the programme, came to realise very quickly how small their physical world had become. Alternately, their virtual world increased dramatically as did their understanding of their ability to make an impact on that world.

Currently Sam is scheduled for three lines in the Art Project but generally he spends his whole life there. Lorena, the English teacher, is scheduled in for one line - but it is a totally unique line that cuts across a number of lines allowing her to be more versatile with her time, and Angela, the Painting teacher, has one line that also cuts across other lines. It is a nightmare for the time-tabler and we’d like to acknowledge their generosity with regard to this particular feat.

The students spend the majority of their time within the walls of B6, the current abode of our Art Project. They are timetabled for one other subject and during that time they leave to attend that particular class. The students one line out does not coincide, therefore magic has occurred with the teachers’ timetables to make sure that we get to see each student at least once a week.

The shift in perception regarding teaching and learning comes in the nature of assessment and collecting evidence. Recently, students have been engaged in doing a comparative study of artworks by artists which will be assessed against a number of standards for different purposes. At level 2, one Art History standard requires a considered personal response to art works, another requires students to demonstrate understanding of art works in their physical environment, and the English standard at level 2 requires students to produce a selection of crafted and controlled writing.

In order to monitor their work and ensure authenticity, all student work is done on Google Documents. The beauty of this is that every change that is made is logged and recorded.Students understand that they are not to work on their work outside of school hours.    Google Documents highlights misspelled words, but doesn’t signal the wrong word and neither does it highlight incorrect grammar, etc.  Initially, students would email their work, each time they had finished working on an activity to log the time and date. As we realised the tracking that we could use Google Docs for, we relaxed and remind the students continually to complete all work during school hours. To preserve authenticity within the class, one of us is always there, students will still have to sign the necessary documentation attesting to their work and we can see the development of that work, which is authenticity in its own right.

  • Why did this need doing?

Over the last few years at Fraser it has become more apparent that student engagement, achievement and learning is greatly increased when students are working in tangible and authentic contexts and assessment is a byproduct of these authentic contexts.

Passionfruit Magazine, the Art Projects, is an example of trying to achieve these noble goals by creating an authentic project. Incorporating a number of different curriculum areas, students are creating something tangible that they care about and are proud of, also allowing them to gain the necessary qualifications they need for work or tertiary study..

  • What did you learn as you did this?

○      Our current school structure, while giving a nod towards key competencies, does not prepare students as well as we would like for independent learning in contexts like the Art Project. In many cases we have scaffolded students’ learning so well that when it comes to them identifying their own learning pathways they struggle. This has lead to an investigation of how students could be better prepared for this type of learning through our junior programmes and early in the Project next year.

○      The authentic context provides an excellent stimulant for student perseverance with learning and using a range of technologies. One example of this is a student working in collaboration with a commercial organisation who had sponsored us some online 3D art galleries (http://www.exhibbit.com/) to make an exhibition and integrate this into the Passionfruit Magazine website.

○      The willingness of external organisations to support and engage with the project has been impressive. This has included professionals donating time and products to help our students produce aspects of the magazine, and others investing financially through advertising or by sharing their expertise. Our learning from this has been that great community support is available for us to tap into in support of our learners.

  • What did it achieve?

○      A website (and magazine, soon) that will act as a learning resource for other students.

○      A selection of learners who are interested in potential career tracks that they were unaware of previously. For example, today one of my students commented on how he’d like to become a font designer.

○      It is also developing independent learners who are competitive and have high expectations of themselves and their peers.They are also able to respond to situations in a relevant and appropriate manner and are learning to develop professional relationships outside of a teen’s usual sphere of influences.

○      Students have been exposed to a variety of professionals through interviews and through visits. They have developed a greater appreciation of the vastness of the world of creative industries and of their possible roles.

  • How do you know?

○      Our students are creating tangible evidence; personal blogs, creation of the website, creation of the magazine.

○      We have been privileged to watch their interaction with professionals as they visit, and as our students visit them. Their questions are growing in maturity and thought.

○      Their work is being assessed against Achievement Standards and they are consistently working at a Merit Level, Level 2 & 3. Our challenge is to lift their current level of achievement so that they understand the requirements of ‘excellence’ and are able to replicate this process.

  • What advice would you give others trying to do this?

○      Pay very close attention to developing a supportive group culture at the start of this kind of project. One of the unexpected down-sides of this project has been some interpersonal ‘challenges’ for some students, and next year we will take more time at the start to explicitly teach students skills for working collaboratively, and sharing a working space for extended periods of time.

○      Seek out the support of your community. People will be very generous when assisting young people who are trying to get ahead in the world.

○      Be aware that when interacting with the ‘real world’ students can feel substantially knocked back when given negative feedback. This can have a significant impact on their performance in a project like ours, and needs to be carefully managed.

○      Staff involved in such a project need to be assigned specific time to plan together so that all are clear on the intended outcomes and ongoing developments.

○      Build opportunities for individuals within the group to have a break from the class so that they can get refreshed and have time out from the intensity of working in the same space with the same people.

○      Pay close attention to setting goals that are high, but perceived as achievable by the students. The sense of achievable goals set has made a significant impact on student willingness to participate in various aspects of the project. For example, a reduction in printing cost for the magazine moved students from feeling it was an insurmountable problem to sell enough advertising, and thus beginning to disengage, to re-engaging with the project because it seemed achievable.


e-LfA Cluster Hamilton

e-LfA Cluster Hamilton

Ict cluster of Sacred Heart Girls' College Hamilton and Hamiltons Fraser High School