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Highlights of Subject Report 2017

Friday 9 February 2018

Each year, about 8 months after exams, a subject report is published by IBO, compiled from examiner comments and feedback and recorded in a 22 page long document available here on MyIB ( sign in first). The Grade Boundaries have also been updated ( with little variation) to reflect the most recent numbers-go to this site page.

I have tried to summarize the Subject Report here, highlighting what seems to me the most relevant and instructive points for teachers, although the whole document is worth reading if you have time.

Exhibition Component

General comments

  • Still little 3D work, and photography tends not to be explored in depth
  • Strongest submissions have both thematic and stylistic relationships
  • Exhibition Overview photos: include clear views without the student or other people – this is to help the moderator get an overview of the exhibition, the scale, arrangement etc
  • Additional supporting photos are OPTIONAL, use only to show extra views or details when helpful to moderator

Exhibition Texts  

  • Use the slot for “medium” to give details about technique and media used
  • When photography, state whether digital or film, and if editing state which programs used.
  • The Exhibition text should be used to mention sources of inspiration and artistic intentions.

Teacher supporting comments

  • Refer only to the artworks and specific assessment criteria
  • Avoid references to personal qualities or other comments irrelevant to moderation process.
  • No comments at all, or ultra brief comments aren’t helpful, as is simply copying and pasting the criteria.

Criterion A, Coherence

 Some misunderstanding around the idea of themes- the objective should be  to creatively explore linking ideas, not be tied necessarily or arbitrarily to a theme! Often students tried to force a theme or invent as an afterthought, or took a very simplistic approach and chose a “theme” without creating dynamic links between works. Themes supplied by the teacher were obvious and not helpful, Students need to reflect on their artistic intentions and  remember that coherence can mean “thematic or stylistic relationships”

Criterion B, Technical Competence

Reminder: there is NO art making forms requirements for the exhibition, the exhibition work can be in a variety of media or only one medium. In fact, often the variety of media showed a lack of sustained development in any single process!

Photography explored in a limited way. Darkroom photography rarely seen. Digital photography showed little contextualization in the CR or exhibition texts.

Printmaking work often simplistic.

Criterion C- Conceptual Qualities

Subtle use of complex imagery is a difficult mark to achieve; often imagery lacked originality and or complexity

Symbolic content unclear or cryptic and frequently relied on written explanation.

Often the stated intentions in the CR were not reflected in the artworks, too vague, too descriptive, too complicated ( or simplistic).

A lot of “issues based work”- i.e the environment, body image, identity, which varied in quality: some exciting work but more frequently simplistic and predictable responses.

Criterion D- Curatorial Practice

Generally a better understanding of the Curatorial Rationale  this year ;)

However, many HL students did NOT respond to the part in the CR about the arrangement and relationship with the viewer, or commented in a generic way “ I want the viewer to feel free or serene” or “ I want the viewer to enjoy and understand my work”

Many wrote about “my theme” instead of discussing relationships across individual pieces.

Some SL students instead were confused and wrote about the relationship with the viewer, this is not an SL requirement.

Some students inserted photos into their CR- not a requirement and not recommended.

Recommendations for teaching Exhibition Component

  • Teacher led projects should be limited to first year, not feature at the exhibition
  • Explore art from all areas and time periods, and not just contemporary!!!
  • Provide workshops that introduce a variety of techniques so students can discover their interests.
  • Work from observation too!
  • Repetition does not equal coherency
  • Technical competence comes form sustained experience, focusing on developing in depth skills in a few areas better than dabbling superficially in a variety of techniques ( for the exhibition, save the experimentation for the PP)
  • Conceptual skills- avoid the obvious, the predictable and cliché
  • CR- make sure you are writing to the right level, SL and HL specs differ!
  • Visit galleries and exhibitions, this will help your students with curatorial understanding and practice
  • Do not include photos in the Curatorial rationale
  • Do not show people in the exhibition overview photos
  • Make sure photos of artwork are clear, in focus and correctly oriented.
  • When using images sourced from a photo or another artist acknowledge sources.

Comparative Study Component

General Comments

Students should analyse (using evidence to support the interpretation and evaluation of) art works, rather than simply describe or recount them.

A common fault is to compare artists rather than artworks.

Too much unrelated and irrelevant information can be detrimental. ( limit number of artworks to 3?)

HL criterion F often not well understood ( see below)

Criterion A

Often students write brief accounts or summaries rather than the analysis of art works ( analysis is breaking down the formal qualities in order to bring out the essential elements or structure).

 A framework of formal terms using subject-specific language can be helpful if relevant terms are used.   

Some students do not understand that the identification and analysis of formal qualities (criterion A) is a different task from analysis and understanding of function and meaning (criterion B)

Criterion B

Students often interpret, or give their personal opinion of the artwork without supporting their understanding of function and meaning with evidence.

This evidence comes from the formal analysis of the artwork (criterion A) and from other sources of knowledge such as research into the cultural significance. Both criteria C and B require reference to ‘cultural context’

Wider research is essential to gain understanding of purpose.

Students struggled if they had chosen a little known contemporary artist that they were unable to effectively research and place in a cultural context.

Criterion C

This was among the weakest area for many. Some referred to art movements in a generic way without highlighting their significance to the artwork.

Cultural significance will probably include an art historical context, as well as the cultural, socio-political and historical significance of the works. It should consider the original audience and purpose, as well as a contemporary audience.

The cultural significance of the artwork is the subject of the comparative study, not the life and times of the artist.

Criterion D

The best candidates used the comparison screens to develop a discussion. Often candidates gave an overview of the comparison in their introduction and developed this throughout.

Comparisons were most effective when the artworks selected made for meaningful contrasts; for example, a similar subject from different times and cultures.

Often unnecessary biographical information was included rather than ideas about the selected artworks.

Diagrams? Venn diagrams in strongest studies provide a useful summary of similarities and differences with critical analysis that developed the ideas coherently and clearly. However, the use of Venn diagrams in weaker submissions had limited connections and comparisons with no evidence of critical analysis. Placing information on a screen is not developing a discussion of similarities and differences.

Criterion E

The accurate use of subject-specific language is the key to developing critical understanding and success throughout the study.

In particular, there was a lack of process specific terms. Students would benefit from greater use of glossaries to expand their understanding of art terminology.

Some excellent studies had confused presentation.  ( see Presentation and Format CS ) Avoid using small fonts (less than 12 point) and complex graphics that do not communicate ideas well. Intrusive backgrounds also interfere with legibility. Similarly, an overuse of arrows can be unhelpful. Occasionally candidates used sketches and visual explorations very effectively.

Criterion F  HL only

Many candidates do not understand the connections task. The task is not to compare their art making with the selected art works, it is to consider how the comparative study has influenced the candidate’s own development by identifying connections between one or more of the selected works. Few were able to reflect on the developmental aspect of the connection.

The objective here is to reflect on how the CS has impacted or otherwise influenced your own artistic development by making connections between their work and the artworks under study, NOT to compare your work to the artworks!  More about this on CS, HL Connections  

Recommendations for teaching the CS

  • Clarify the formal requirements and the assessment criteria before starting comparative study.
  • Teachers should discuss choice of selected artworks in order to ensure that it will lead to a meaningful comparison.
  • Ensure that candidates write an introduction.
  • Introduce a subject specific vocabulary, teach how to analyse formal qualities, how to research and how to apply research to support an evaluation of an artwork.
  • Compare artworks, not artists!
  • Understand the meaning of cultural significance in relation to their selected artworks.
  • Dissuade candidates from addressing criterion D with bullet lists in tables since this practice hinders critical analysis of connections, similarities and differences. Encourage a discussion.
  • Citation of sources at the point of use and academic honesty in the referencing of all sources, including both text and all images should be checked by teachers and guidance about effective referencing should be offered in class.
  • Teachers should read and give advice to candidates on one draft of the comparative study. It is the teacher’s role to provide oral or written advice but not edit the draft.
  • Teachers should ensure that SL candidates do not submit their own artistic practice. ( HL only)
  • Teachers should review legibility with candidates prior to upload. Visual presentation should be clear (not less than 12pt text).
  • Candidates should ensure that the connections with their own art making for criterion F (HL only) are explicit in their text.

Process Portfolio Component

General Comments

This year the PP is looking less like Investigation Workbook, students seem to be making the most of the options that the process portfolio submission affords.

Often times however, students tended to attempt to cover too many of their art-making undertakings shallowly rather than focussing on the works that met the minimum number of forms in greater depth. Stronger submissions focussed on fewer works able to show more of the ideation, experimentation, processes, refinements and reflections.

Teacher directed projects or tasks continue to be prohibitive in candidates attaining the higher mark levels, and rarely progress beyond technical exercises.

SL specific comments

Meeting the required art making forms still proves to be a challenge for some.While the submission requirements are less than Higher Level, the criteria for assessment are the same at SL .

The strongest portfolios presented an engaging narrative that guided an examiner through the mind of the candidate. These portfolios often had an overarching theme or idea that they were exploring, but these themes were just as often material concerns as they were conceptual. There seemed to be a magic number of four to five projects, which afforded candidates the space to evidence the criteria in 3-4 screens per project.

Given the assumed post production nature of the task, there  is the tendency to present ideation and reflection after the fact. In high performing portfolios, the evidence was ongoing, and often came directly from the Visual Arts Journal in the form of mind maps, brainstorming, fully annotated smalls sketches and plans, material  experiments with accompanying reflections  and consistent refinement. This level of engagement needs to be recorded throughout the two-year course, not just as a post production reflection.

There is still an issue with proper citations and referencing : students are advised to cite all works, including own, at point of use and in a list of references.

Criterion A, Skills, Techniques and Processes

Students should cover each of their art-making forms with some consistency in depth and detail. They need to invest sufficient time to develop skills in each of the media they explore.

The guide does not restrict candidates from submitting images of resolved work that is also included in the exhibition component.  

For three-dimensional forms, be sure to include some form of photographic log of progress and show images of the outcome, these are means by which a sculptural practice can be documented. Likewise, in lens-based, electronic and screen-based forms, it is critical that candidates document their processes: include evidence in the form of contact sheets/proof sheets, test sheets, outcomes of experiments involving changes in depth-of-field and/or shutter speed, darkroom experimentation, screenshots of screen-based work in development, photographs or diagrams of studio or improvised lighting set-ups.

 Criterion B Critical Investigation

This is the Criterion with largest number of zero marks, indicating that a number of students either neglected to investigate any artist’s art-making practices, or just presented biographical information about artists.These students often failed to provide any evidence of some critical investigation into the works of other artists that related in meaningful and significant ways to their own art-making practices. It is essential is that the works that are explored are relevant to the students art-making, in terms of the medium, the style or the technique. The investigation needs to be critical rather than biographical or historical , candidates need to deconstruct the work, thus analyze and interpret it.

It has proved of value to include reflections or critiques of exhibitions when these stimulate some material or conceptual connection to the students own practices. Students who created artist copies with clear intentions at comprehending an aspect of artist work or process were clearly focused as investigation. In the best cases, critical investigations were not used for the purpose of appropriation, but as an opportunity to explore another’s technical or conceptual practice In support of own art-making practice.

Criterion C: Communication of ideas and intentions

Strong submissions considered how a work might be perceived by an audience, articulating how their imagery is intended to communicate their ideas visually.

 Successful portfolios also included contemporary art ideas and issues often linked to theory of knowledge, such as the choice or presentation of subject matter or medium, how they reflect or challenge artistic or social traditions, social issues, the responsibilities of the artist in society; the relationships between art and craft, visual and word, and how this related to their own intentions.

The weakest aspect of this criterion continues to be in the documentation of the ideation or inception stage of the art-making process. need to show evidence that they are considering their imagery and the appropriateness of the techniques and materials they choose. In weakest cases, some schools are continuing to present to candidates overly prescriptive projects with limited scope for  students to come up with their own ideas and concepts . These students often rely on found images from the internet and pop culture , resulting in superficial idea development and basic use of imagery and symbolism.

Where Creative autonomy is encouraged it is more likely to see evidence of ideation and inception of creative ideas in  the visual art journal, where this has been used in an authentic and sustained manner. Evidence of initial brainstorming is useful for examiners to see and understand the starting points for work, as is evidence of an awareness of how a work might be perceived by an audience.

Criterion D: Reviewing, refining and reflecting

This criterion refers to the ongoing reflection and evaluation throughout the art-making process.

Reviewing and refining as a creative discipline requires artistic intervention from the student: include considered annotations that evaluate the appropriateness of a technique or media, or how well a work is progressing while suggesting ways to improve a work, or new directions to consider.

The weakest area of this criterion is that students fail to consider and reflect upon their development as an artist.  Many teacher prescribed projects did not allow for the natural revision of ideas and refinement of techniques that comes out of independent artistic research.

Criterion E: Presentation and subject-specific language.

Visual evidence is critical for presentation and this is reflected in mark level descriptors, note reviewed mark levels for this criterion,

Presentation marks are not awarded for decorations and highly stylised fonts or elaborate backgrounds- keep handwriting clear, and choose well-proportioned fonts ( 12 pt smallest)

The stronger submissions are coherent, the content of the screens and the order in which they are presented to provide a cohesive experience. Good screens were often dense without being over crowded, including samples from a hand-written visual journal.

In the weaker samples, visual journal and the process portfolio were considered as an afterthought. Often writing was illegible, with excessively busy backgrounds, poor contrast between text and page, or pages shifting in orientation.  Also proper use of subject specific vocabulary was an issue, terminology used without evidence of having understood or properly applied them.

Recommendations for teaching the PP

The PP is a portfolio of evidence of a candidate’s artmaking processes and development as an artist. Try to give the clearest and most detailed picture of this process from the start to near to the finish.

Recommend to focus on a smaller number of works in greater detail, addressing all criteria for all included works – and just ensure that all the minimum number of forms requirements are met. Be more judicious in selecting the works which the processes used to create them better address the assessment criteria,

Discourage candidates from organising screens in the order of the assessment criteria. Rather, organise screens in a manner that gives the examiner the clearest, most coherent narrative of the development

Using headings to direct the examiner to content addresses a particular criterion is acceptable but it is important that the candidate’s understanding of the criterion is adequate.

Be clear in addressing a sufficient range of forms and media, i.e oil painting and acrylic painting come under the same form “painting”

For work in Lens-based/Electronic/Screen-based forms insure that they include sufficient evidence of their involvement in the process. Insure screens are captured in sufficiently high resolution so that text and images are not rendered illegible.

Referencing Clarification:

Every image used must be appropriately referenced to acknowledge the title, artist, medium, date (where this information is known) and the source from which the image was retrieved, following the protocol of the referencing style chosen by the school.

Students own original work is identified and acknowledged in the same way, using a phrase such as “my own work” rather than their name. Include citation details alongside images of their own work, includes media/medium. Declare when an image in the final version of the work is also used in part 3: exhibition assessment task.

When deliberately appropriating another artist’s work make explicit reference to the appropriation. Another person’s work, ideas or images have influenced then the source must be cited at point of use and must also be included in a list of sources.

Any found object or image (including those taken from the Internet  must be appropriately referenced.

A list of sources is required for the process portfolio, and citations are required in text, at point-of-use. this screen will not be included in the screen-count when assessing the process portfolio component.


    Tags: visual arts, subject report, 2017, assessment, advice, recommendations


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