Day of the Dead brings testing alive

24th February 2006 at 00:00
...with a little help from ICT. Joel Arda explains his year 9 project

Assessment in art and design can be tricky. Where I teach, I have been trying an interactive gallery for assessment at key stage 3. Since art is a visual medium, I tried to exhibit the development in pupils' work while helping them understand national curriculum levels through using ICT.

Our project, based on the Mexican Day of the Dead festival, took six months to realise. A Year 9 class, with a double period a week, produced three-dimensional skeleton models, incorporating Mexican pattern and decoration. This fitted well with our curriculum at St John's Catholic Comprehensive School in Gravesend, where all pupils study other cultures'

art, integrating social, moral, spiritual and cultural meanings, which link to citizenship.

Each pupil was given their own section in the software, akin to a web page, with different photographs of their work on it, so they could see how I assessed their work as the project progressed. First, I gathered images of pupils' sculptures on a digital camera, which I then imported into each individual pupil's slide or page in PowerPoint. When complete, each page represented an archive of their efforts. I repeated the process at intervals, adding new sets of photos as new work was done. These sequences showed the class how dramatic the changes had been.

For our interactive presentation, I connected a laptop or desktop computer to a data projector. Pairs of pupils were invited to use the program. They could review each other's work and record their own levels and suggestions for improvement in sketchbooks. Then I told them my own assessment in line with department policy, their current curriculum level and the target required by the end of KS3. I gave them a summative grade which was simply added as text boxes into each pupil's PowerPoint towards the end of the project.

The interface was as intuitive as possible, so pupils used either a mouse or touch pad on a laptop to click through the pages and access the work of anyone else in the group. It took me some hours each weekend over a couple of weeks to make the program ready for images to be uploaded. Any system take times to set up, but it is time well spent. It becomes a permanent resource which can be re-used as a template for future classes. Such an interactive gallery seems a natural way to exhibit and celebrate quality work.

Even the most challenging pupils are motivated by seeing their work on a large screen. I made a point of telling all pupils that they had achieved demanding objectives because they had created the overview of their development.

It was easy for pupils to reflect on their progress. They found written evaluations more accessible when encapsulated in writing frames. In addition, they found satisfaction in tracking their projects visually: for instance, resolving the wire structure of the skeleton to preserve proportion, building the form of the skull, rib cage and bones and on through to enhancing inks to Mexican art.

Naomi, one of my pupils, looked with shock at her sculpture on the gallery, asking "Is that really my work?" She explained her surprise at how far she had advanced from the mummified B-movie style body of her early figure.

Enthralled by the finished product, she viewed it via the data projector.

Importantly, I led by example, showing my own page created alongside theirs. At key points, we shared our endeavours in lively discussion and pupils enjoyed criticising the efforts of their teacher.

In today's media-rich world, interactive presentations motivate pupils and give teachers effective means to grade their work. Last year, when Ofsted visited the art department, the inspector commented on the interactive gallery as, "an unusually effective ICT-based assessment process (which) was very useful in enabling pupils to understand national curriculum levels".

Joel Arda teaches at St John's Catholic Comprehensive School, Gravesend, Kent

ICT gallery ideas

Familiarise yourself with software. Produce a slide show of each pupil's work. I recommend PowerPoint or,if you are confident with ICT, then Mediator

Ensure equipment is ready before a lesson. ICT technicians should be responsible for setting up booked resources. Make sure presentations work as images can sometimes go missing or links do not work.

Lead by example. As well as a page for pupils, have a page for your own work for pupils to discuss. It helps you to understand their practical problems.

For a beginner's worksheet on making interactive presentations email:

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