Home Education Creating a clearer picture of what makes good art

Creating a clearer picture of what makes good art


Using tools she developed herself, Ms Jocelyn Chew, who teaches art at Yishun Innova Junior College, breaks down the components her students need to better appreciate and create good art, thus catering to their various strengths and building their confidence.

By Zhu Jia Li Jocelyn, Yishun Innova Junior College, Outstanding Youth in Education 2022 Finalist

Tell us a story that shows what kind of teacher you are.

A few years ago, when I was watching the cooking competition MasterChef, the contestants were tasked with cooking the same dish three different ways. I’m not a cook myself, but I found the idea challenging and interesting.

“What if I set the same challenge in my art class?” Artists have long been finding new ways to challenge artistic traditions and our way of looking. The next thing I knew, I handed a piece of ginger to each student to study and asked them to find 10 ways to express the subject through different pieces of art.

This effort was not without some scaffolding, as my students come from different walks of life and have different levels of exposure to art. I created a board full of prompts to stimulate them with different levels of difficulty. They had to use at least five basic prompts, such as drawing for a set period of time or drawing on a different surface, to guide them in developing their ideas.

After the assignment, we had a gallery walk in the classroom – a platform for students to talk about their work and the approaches they explored. One clue was the “time” one student used for his work, depicting a piece of ginger with many wide eyes. He explained that as he continued to watch the ginger, he began to imagine eyes looking back at him! For the same prompt, another student shared how ginger’s skin began to shrivel over time, prompting her to appreciate the beauty in the fleetingness of life.

Discussion of ways to draw ginger

“Some students welcomed new ideas, while others bravely tried new things, even incorporating ginger skin into their creations!”

This multi-level appointment was aimed at satisfying different preferences and interests. It awakened my students’ minds to different perspectives on the same question. Some students welcomed new ideas, while others boldly tried new things, even incorporating ginger skin into their creations! The practice worked so well in opening their minds to new ideas that I continue to use it today. It also inspired me to constantly look outside the school environment for ideas to motivate my students.

Describe a teaching method or tool that you find effective.

On a seemingly normal day, my class might see me blurt out something like this:
“2B or not 2B!” or “Want 2B to draw perfectly?”

This is my cue to introduce the 2B Art Assessment Tool – a simple tool I put together to help my students improve their ability to understand what makes a good drawing and how they can set standards for their work.

Since I started teaching, drawing is one area of ​​art that I find that many students want to improve but don’t know how. Borrowing from Hattie and Timperley’s Effective Feedback research model, this tool includes activities and discussion on a set of artistic rubrics, followed by a self-assessment component. Students work in groups to first observe a series of images, then sort and match them to the criteria and descriptors in the given rubrics.

For example, students look at a freehand drawing and may decide that it has good tonality, which is one of the key aspects of drawing and painting. If the image has a range of dark, medium and light tones, the color contrast adds even more realism to the picture. Students then match this image to a higher score on the rubric and discuss why they did so. We learned to use words like “proportion” and “rendering (appearance of 3D effect)” for a common basis of understanding.

As a result, they can assess their strengths and areas for improvement in their work. The tool also helps me see what my students are trying to achieve and I can think about what elements to include or adjust in my next lessons to help them work towards their goals.

Using this tool, one student noticed a marked improvement in her drawings. She paid closer attention to the accuracy of the proportions of her drawing and abandoned the outline sketches, both of which would have given her a higher score based on the rubric. Ten months later, she made the jump from a “borderline general” score on the rubric to a “good” one. I could see the excitement and increased confidence in her as she shared her thoughts and progress with me.

Ultimately, I hope that students will use the lens they gain from the tool to view not only their own work, but during the opportunity to provide peer feedback.

What school project or initiative are you particularly proud of?

During my first year as a junior college teacher, I ran a refresher program for JC1 repeat students. Having to repeat your first year of college can sap your self-esteem and confidence. With the intention of significantly engaging students and developing a sustainable and positive community culture, I thought, “Why not create opportunities for them to lead?”

We went to Gardens by the Bay!

During this trip, they got the opportunity to share their interests and lead each other in their own way. One student became interested in photography and enthusiastically prepared a demonstration of his work and tips on shooting on location! He also developed a photo challenge in which students had to apply the tips presented.

The students were grateful for these events planned for them and it was a meaningful experience both to learn new things and to bond with their peers. “The study tour definitely opened my eyes to the beauty that the world had to offer,” thought one of my students, and this is why I strongly believe in providing opportunities to learn, grow and shine.

Furthering this mission were other student-led segments that I introduced to Refresh, such as art jamming, learning Korean, coding, and an appreciation for wushu and cultural practices. With opportunities comes learning, as evidenced by my student’s reflection that they “learned during art jamming that what we plan doesn’t always go smoothly, and we have to improvise and come up with solutions on the spot.” I believe their confidence and positivity grew each time they found solutions and overcame obstacles.

361A8446We draw sketches in nature with the iPad

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