Sunday, 9 December 2012

Reflections on Year One

I've been pretty quiet on the blogging front lately - silent in fact, since mid-August. Now that the academic year is slowing down a bit I've got some time and distance for thinking about how the project's gone, and what we'll do differently next year.

Firstly, here's a re-cap of what we've been up to since the launch of the magazine. There were three key tasks for the students during Term Three, and the few weeks of Term Four that they were present for, prior to NCEA exam leave: Visual Arts folio development (for those not familiar with the New Zealand system, the folio is a major external assessment for Visual Arts, worth about half of the credits available for a year); preparing for external exams in English; and completion of internal assessments for Art History, English, Media Studies and Visual Arts.

The third task in this list - completion of internal assessments - was not an initial part of our plan for the year, but it became clear as we marked work that although the theory of producing authentic work for a magazine and marking it against a range of standards was good, in practice there was some 'shoehorning' required to make sure all the requirements of a standard were met so that the student could be awarded the credits. As a result of this, in 2013 students will be working according to more conventional type assessment tasks that are designed to ensure all requirements of a standard are met, while at the same time giving students the freedom to produce authentic work for Passionfruit Magazine.

Polaroid transfer onto bandage. Jasmine Wiltshier, 2012

Some of the feedback that we received from students during the first half of the year was that they wanted to be able to spend much more time making art works, and the development of their folios gave them the opportunity to do this. They embraced this fully, to the extent that it was sometimes hard to get them to attend to other work! The amount and flexibility of time available to students enabled them to explore a range of processes that we would not usually cover, and the photographers developed a particular interest in Polaroid transfers.

Our Painting majors were invited to join the conventional NCEA class for the second half of the year, and this assisted greatly with their skill development and ability to craft work to meet the requirements of the external standard. While the project based learning approach of this project is great for the development of a range of skills and aptitudes, the development of specific technical skills is variable, depending on the context each student works in. Attending a series of formal lessons proved to be a great way for the Painting students to develop some of their skills, and we are in the process of working out how best to integrate this into the project for next year.

Preparation for external exams in English provided quite a challenge. Enough time was available for the teaching and study necessary to prepare students for the exams, but students found it hard to adapt to the set requirements of preparing for a test when they had become used to working in a much more self-direct manner. In reflecting on the difficulties that arose from this, we are considering running an English 'line' of the timetable for the project students in 2013, or adding them to a conventional class at the appropriate level for some periods of the week so they are given the structure needed to help them have success in the exam.

I'll be back with some more reflections on the project in the coming week, along with some of the other ideas we have for 2013.

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