Author Antoinette Blain 1

Antoinette Blain Subject Leader, The Arts

Praxis is one of those words used a lot in academic journals across many disciplines, but I’m pretty sure it was invented to describe what Arts teachers do! According to Wikipedia, praxis is, ‘the process by which a theory, lesson, or skill is enacted, embodied, or realized. Praxis may also refer to the act of engaging, applying, exercising, realizing, or practising ideas.’

In an IB classroom, we work with concept-based teaching and learning. We ask students to perform at the highest level of thinking when we ask them to demonstrate their understanding of a ‘big idea’’ in a visual or performance outcome. This is complex stuff, and where is the evidence presented? In the process!

Teachers take different pedagogical approaches, varying from traditional teacher-centred approaches to more learner-centred strategies, the range of which is captured beautifully in this diagram from The Art of Education University. Most teachers will draw on various strategies depending on a multitude of factors: how they structure lesson time and approach topics is based on teachers’ knowledge about their students, the subject and the curriculum.

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link to the source: The Art of Education University

Examining our learning towards different pedagogical approaches in the arts helps us to think about how to deal with assessment and recording of process work in both MYP and DP Arts. As Constructivism, the learning theory on which IB philosophy is founded, gradually gained momentum in schools, art teaching pedagogy followed suit. The theory of discipline-based art education (DBAE), originally proposed by the Getty Center for Education in the Arts in 1988 (Sacramento County Office of Education, Perspectives On Arts Education and Curriculum Design) proposes that art-making – the practical work – needs to be taught in combination with art criticism, history and contextual studies. This has become the founding pillar of most art curricula.

The MYP visual arts course requires that we teach all these components in a holistic way so that students can work with their process collected into a portfolio (physical or digital). This feature is now automatically available on ManageBac. This in turn requires teachers to be expert assessors. We need to find and justify the evidence we use from across a spectrum of pieces of work. Our ‘backward planning by design’ needs to relate to our chosen pedagogy. Teachers working with a TAB or Waldorf-style classroom might not know what the outcome will be from the students, but they will have structured the process so that they can elicit the required evidence. This is where the journal function in ManageBac can be useful. Students have ownership of it and can authentically record their process as well as act upon feedback. It also provides a platform for recording teacher-student dialogue and, crucially, the students’ dialogue with their own art-making process.

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The holistic, portfolio approach of MYP assessment emphasises the ongoing nature of assessment and the importance of formative feedback. It lifts the focus on summative assessment to a more collaborative, ongoing process that facilitates student agency.

Previously, my team and I thought a lot about how best to capture the best and most appropriate work that goes into a student’s process journal in the Arts, in particular for the MYP e-portfolio, without interfering with the authentic process of using the journal itself. If students are allowed the creative freedom to use their sketchbooks for all of their artistic endeavours, editing it for the e-portfolio can become a time-consuming process! On the other hand, no teacher ever wants to shut down work that is generated by the student’s passion for the subject. This year I started using the journal function with my DP visual arts class. I ask them to upload the ‘highlights’ of their work. This supports their ability to ‘review, refine and reflect’, particularly when taking process photos of an exhibition piece.

My sense is the journal can help to capture some of the ephemeral evidence of art teaching and learning, particularly for MYP teachers who lean towards the ‘abundant choice’ end of the scale, which may otherwise be difficult to collect for assessment purposes.

For more help on facilitating journaling, you could recommend your students complete this IB provided nano course, Effective journaling in DP Arts.

If you are interested in having a conversation about The Arts, you can connect with me on MiniPD, and don’t forget to visit the Managebac Subject Pages for more information, there are separate pages for DP Visual Arts and MYP Arts.

About the Author

Author Antoinette Blain 1

Antoinette Blain
Arts Teacher-Coach

Antoinette Blain is an educator, coach and leader in visual and expressive art education, with over 25 years experience. Originally from London, UK, Antoinette has built up a wealth of experience and passion for inclusive, creative and forward-thinking arts pedagogy. Her teaching and leadership experience is global, having taught in the UK, the Netherlands, Italy and now Kenya at both local and world-renowned international schools, including a United World College and Aga Khan Academy.

From teacher, to department head, to vice principal and now coach, Antoinette has been instrumental in driving forward arts education in both the British curriculum and across all three International Baccalaureate programmes (PYP, MYP and DP) with her concept-based approaches and innovative processes. In addition, Antoinette is a certified IB workshop leader and school visitor.

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