Sunday, 19 February 2012

Writing Learning Objectives for Art Seems Difficult

Writing objectives for a class of art students is not easy if there is a diversity of learning needs and artistic aspirations to cater for. How does the art teacher write clear objectives that cater for all?

Aim and Objectives: What’s the Difference?

To write good objectives for art courses, the teacher must first understand the difference between aims and objectives. An aim in teaching context is a general state of intent that may or may not be fulfilled. The teacher may formulate generalised teaching aims at the beginning of the course module after initially assessing the students and which will help the teacher formulate a series of art lessons. This aim (or learning outcome) might be

To help students:
  • Develop their drawing ability
  • Know the key art movements.
  • Learn the colour theory
  • To explore mixed media
  • Improve figure drawing.
  • Or simply to improve painting skills.
Clear Art Objectives
These general statements of intent really define what the course is about. They are vitally different to objectives, as objectives pertain not to a whole course, but to each lesson or part of a lesson. Objectives are not generalised but particular.
  • Each objective is a paragraph, to the point and is clear.
  • Each objective must be specific.
  • It must reflect the level of the course.
  • It can realistically be performed within the time frame and with the resources available.
  • It must be evidenced by the student.
  • It must be easy to measure and assess.
  • Have scope for differentiation.
Art Teacher Objectives

A useful mnemonic SMART serves as a reminder. This is specific, measureable, attainable, realistic and time-bound.

Think carefully about the verbs used in each art objective to ensure each fulfils the criteria. Example of objectives in class is:
  • To draw the proportions of the human form onto A4 paper.
  • To paint a watercolour exhibiting two washes.
  • To complete a sky sketch en plein air in oils.
  • To mix four types of greens.
  • To write a one paragraph definition summarizing the style of the Impressionists.
  • To recite the primary colours.
  • To fuse two art mediums within a still life painting.
Notice the verbs, to draw, to paint, to complete, to write, to recite. Each of these verbs describes a practical undertaking which can be evidenced. Each objective must also reflect the class level. To recite the primary colours might fit a class of beginners. To fuse two art mediums within a still life painting might suit a more advanced class.

How Not to Write Learning Objectives for Art

Below shows examples of badly-written learning objectives:

1 To know what the secondary colours are.
2 To understand what Cubism is.
3 To synthesise two art techniques.
4 To complete a painting.
5 To complete a painting with three glazes in one lesson.
6 To draw a cube.
7 To paint the Mona Lisa.

Objective 1 and 2 use the verb ‘to know’ and ‘to understand’ which cannot be evidenced without something concrete (i.e. a painting, written assignment or a vocalization). How can the teacher be sure if a student ‘knows’ or understands’ something taught without evidence? Student evaluation would not be possible.

Objective 3 is too vague. Are the two techniques to be combined in a painting, print or drawing? Number 4 again is too vague and cannot be measured.

Number 5 is not realistic as glazing techniques takes hours to dry before the next glaze can be applied. What are the students to do whilst it is drying? There may not be sufficient time available.

Number 6 might be OK for a class of beginners but will need to be rewritten for advanced students to offer more challenge.

Number 7 is an extreme example, but the objective violates just about all what SMART is about. It is not specific: is it to be a replica or an interpretation? It cannot be measured: How is one student’s painting ‘better’ than another? What are the criteria? It is not attainable if the class consists of beginners or hobbyists. It is not realistic with the time frame and resources available, and there would simply not be enough time to complete it. The objective is too big and encompassing. Objectives are more about small, achievable activities in art class.

Perfect Objectives for a Class of Art Students

Writing objectives to suit the students’ artistic ability and aspirations (collated from the initial assessment) will help the teacher think about the most suited objectives for art class. Each must be a SMART objective, it reflects the level of the course, the student’s needs, the resources, time available, be measureable and evidenced. Each must also accommodate for both ends of the ability spectrum. This is known as ‘differentiation, and will promote inclusive learning. More about differentiation in a separate article.

Teaching Art and Art Activitiy Ideas

What is Sgraffito?
Troubleshooting painting hands
How to paint figures from a photo
Initially assessing students

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