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Making art meaningful

By Adrienne Riseley

Abstract

In Sweden, art students at upper secondary school have little choice. Sweden bases its whole school structure on democratic principles and the curriculum, which is goal-based, is said to give limitless possibilities for a teacher to facilitate high levels of learning outcomes. I say not so. Or more to the point such a view is theoretically sound but in practice problematic, particularly with regards to the visual arts. My motivation for this study began after observations from art classes in Sweden and New Zealand and the concern I felt for how differently teachers approached learning outcomes in visual art. I was particularly interested in how New Zealand schools work with the portfolio method on a national level as a way to set and identify learning outcomes in upper secondary school students’ art. This study of Swedish and New Zealand school curriculums and visual art teaching practice in both countries aims to identify underlying reasons for how each country defines and recognises learning outcomes in the visual arts..Observations are to a greater extent from a study trip to two New Zealand upper secondary schools and to a lesser extent from Swedish upper secondary schools as this would constitute a much larger study and is perhaps destined for future research. I am aware of the fact that this study lacks some quantitative validity due to the absence of comparative observations from several schools in Sweden. I have only made observations from two schools in New Zealand which further weakens the validity of this study School curriculums from Sweden and New Zealand have philosophical differences and place focus on different aspects of knowledge and learning. The goal-based school curriculum (Sweden) and the outcomes-based curriculum (New Zealand) should and do influence how a subject is taught in the class-room. The difference between the two countries however is that in Sweden interpretation of these goals allows teachers the right to make subjective decisions about levels of learning outcomes and in NZ these levels are nationally recognised. This study aims to show that the use of student portfolios together with nationally accepted criteria for learning outcomes can be a way to achieve high standards and equivalence in visual arts as these provide a structure for the teaching and learning of art-making practice and specifying for students, teachers and parents the appropriate levels of performance a student needs to achieve at different assessment levels. This study gives justification to the view that meaningful visual art education occurs when there is an agreement to specify clearly the lowest levels of learning outcomes (Achieved or pass) and that subsequent assessment levels build upon this base of knowledge. Visual art education is thus a democratic act in its clarity of objectives and expectations upon students for it is then that a student can choose. Only when an individual becomes well informed can choice be meaningful

Year: 2009
OAI identifier: oai:gupea.ub.gu.se:2077/20010

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