Saturday, 18 February 2012

How the Initial Assessment Stops the Master Oil Painter Joining a Beginner’s Watercolor Class

Initially assessing students at the beginning of an art course is vital if the course teacher is to formulate a meaningful programme of lesson plans that are geared to the ability and needs of the students. It also ensures each student is enrolled upon the correct art course.

Why do an Initial Assessment in Art Courses?

Without a preliminary assessment, the teacher cannot make informed decisions on what teaching methods to employ within the class, and the students cannot make informed decisions on whether to pursue the course. Really, the initial assessment establishes crucial facts about the students prior to enrolling which the teacher can use. Initially assessing students also helps students decide whether the course is really for them. After all, a student interested in botanical illustration would be inconvenienced if the art course focused mainly on landscape art. Similarly, a hopeful watercolorist might be disenchanted with a course that concentrated mainly on acrylics.

Student Evaluation for Art Class

So the initial assessment is needed to establish the following:
  • Each student’s past artistic experiences, including hobbies, art qualifications, exhibitions, commissions, achievements and competitions (if any).
  • Where the students are ‘at’. Their present artistic ability prior to embarking upon the course. Examples of artwork will help clarify this point, which might be in the form of a sketchbook or a portfolio of paintings. This will help the student (and the teacher) see how the student has progressed by the end of the course.
  • The art medium and/or the subject matter the student wishes to explore. This might be watercolor landscapes, or still life oils. In most cases, the students may not have such prescription, but simply to explore their chosen medium. However, the teacher needs to ensure the course module will fulfill any prescriptions.
  • What each student hopes to gain from the course. This might be to complete several oil paintings for an exhibition, to improve drawing ability, to prepare a portfolio for an interview, to explore watercolor techniques, to learn how to do portraiture, or simply to exchange ideas with other students.
  • Student’s special needs. By examining the student’s work and from collating the student’s viewpoint regarding his/her artistic level, the teacher may highlight a special need, which might be difficulty in with perspectives or colour mixing. In some cases, the teacher may need to draw up an ILP (an individual learning plan) which sets out the learning need and agreed art exercises that helps the student to develop.
  • Student’s strengths. To offer a counterpoint to special needs, some students might have a natural flair for drawing, yet still exhibit a special need when it comes to shading techniques. This is known as an individual learning profile, and no two students will be alike. Establishing strengths will guard against art activities that do not offer sufficient challenge.
How to Use the Art Assessment

I will conduct the initial assessment on the first session of the art course after ensuring all the students have an activity to keep them occupied during the assessment period. Unless the teacher meets the students before the art a course begins, it is not possible to plan the art activities ahead to match the students’ learning profiles.

The results of the initial assessment will firstly ensure that all students are enrolled on the correct course. If not, the teacher may suggest a more suited art course elsewhere. The teacher may also establish the needs of the students and devise art activities to suit. A class that consists of mostly beginners may benefit from a series of highly-directive art activities such as a step by step demonstration on shading techniques, or colour mixing. If, as is often the case, the group has diverse artistic abilities, the activities will need to be flexible, employing a variety of teaching methods, but which must form a coherent art module that all can follow. Such flexibility in art activities is known as ‘differentiation.’ This means that students of various abilities may take part in the same art lesson without feeling excluded.

Needs Assessment for Art Students

In a perfect world, an art class will consist of students with the same ability and interest in the same art medium. This seldom happens. This means the initial assessment will reveal a multitude of artistic aspirations and needs. The results of the initial assessment will enable the student to make an informed decision on whether to pursue the course if it does not inform on what is desired. In such cases, the teacher may advise an alternative course. Otherwise, the teacher may use the information to create a scheme of work that will (hopefully) fulfill all the student’s needs and aspirations. However, it is still the teacher’s decision on what the course theme will be and the art activities involved. This will create a coherent art course.

Ideas for Art Activities

Two opposing teaching methods
Painting alla prima
Step by step demo on how to paint flowers wet into wet
Cheap oil painting for students

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