Peer Assessment Goes Global
In this edition of Teacher Talks, middle and high school Design teacher, Jenny Small tells us about her grade 10 students, and their Visual Arts project in collaboration with a school in the UK.
Peer Assessment Goes Global
By Jenny Small, Middle and High School Design Teacher
Visual Arts is an interesting subject for many reasons. It is a subject that lets students capture what they see, and perhaps what they don’t. More interestingly, it is a subject that, almost always, reflects a piece of oneself. This is also why I wanted to share a few reflections on the grade 10 unit, ‘In the City.’ The key concept in this unit is identity. How does one identify oneself in a city, especially in one that you have live in for years?
The objective of the unit was for students to bring their own personal experiences with city life to their work. Having experimented with a range of print-making and mark-making techniques, as well as researching and responding to the work of other artists, they are also required to demonstrate their knowledge and understanding, their ability to think creatively, develop skills, and their ability to create a final work.
I wanted to provide students with unique ways and resources to aid this learning process. Feedback is an essential part of any learning, quality feedback and advice is how we make progress. But we learn from each other is sometimes more powerful. So it is with feedback. Often, feedback and advice from peers is much more powerful than only listening to the advice of the teacher.
And we decided to go global in search of feedback. So I contacted a school in the UK. Students in Birmingham, UK at the Camp Hill School for Girls were given the same homework task as students at Keystone. Both classes had to draw a building that holds a special memory for them, a structure they identified with. They were asked to create a mixed-media piece responding to the work of one of two artists Valery Koshlyakov or John Piper who they have been studying through the semester.
By collaborating with a school thousands of miles away, the unit grew not only to understand the contrasts between western and eastern architecture, but also the construction of identities. Obviously, by swapping work with students from a western culture, as expected we saw some contrast in the architectural styles of the buildings students chose to draw. But I was also interested to see a significant contrast in the techniques, styles and drawings of the students. And I hoped that my students would not only learn from the feedback they receive, but also from works their British peers works.
Though anxious and a tad bit nervous at first, my students produced their best work. This is what one of my students, Vincent Liu told me later, “When I heard about the peer learning project, I was at first nervous but also quite excited. This is a rare opportunity and I wanted to share my best work with the peer school. I was excited because I really wanted to see the peer school’s work, and how they would assess us, especially because they are culturally different from us.”
When I look at the development of the Keystone students’ work, I think that this experience has helped them to be braver. It has helped them to experiment with different materials more. One of my students, Alice Zhang, thinks so too: “I think I need to be more confident in experimenting. I think it’s the way I have been taught to draw before, where drawing meant capturing the object I was drawing exactly without imposing my thoughts or opinions on my artwork. I have always been good at art, but it was only after coming to Keystone that I started finding my own style. My British peers helped me realize that I need to be less conservative in my artwork. I hope I can continue to build my friendship with the peer school students.”
Personally, through this experience, I have learnt more about my own students here at Keystone. I have learnt that they have such a diverse range of experiences to draw from, and that they are willing to collaborate and communicate with others. Some students shared quite personal memories, and I think that this will help them to connect in a more meaningful ways with their work. It was encouraging for me that my students were open to new ideas from the UK, and were equally thoughtful in their advice to their new British friends. They were also open minded when reading their own feedback. It would be interesting to see how each school develops their work further. We are looking forward to swapping images of the final outcomes from these projects in the near future.
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