Transcript of Bonus episode – Visual Arts, the frames, practice and conceptual framework

This transcript has been edited slightly for clarity. Listen to the podcast (22:59).

Jackie – The following podcast is brought to you by the creative arts curriculum team from secondary learners, educational standards directorate of the New South Wales Department of Education. As we commence this podcast today, let us acknowledge the traditional custodians of all the lands on which this podcast will be played around New South Wales. Their art, storytelling, music and dance, along with all First Nations People, hold the memories, the traditions, the culture and hopes of Aboriginal Australia. Let us acknowledge with honour and respect our elders, past, present and future, especially those Aboriginal people in our presence today who have and still do guide us with their wisdom.

Welcome to the creative cast podcast series. My name is Jackie King and I'm a Creative Arts Project Advisor with the New South Wales Department of Education. Today we're going to have a bonus episode. We're going to talk about a visual arts resource that has been released recently with Alex Papasavvas. Please welcome Alex.

Alex – Hi Jackie, thanks for having me on.

Jackie – Thanks for coming on the podcast today, Alex. So, we've released some pretty cool resources recently. Part of this was released last year and then some of it was released last term as well. We've released some support resources for visual arts for the frames, practice and conceptual framework and I know that they're different resources for stage four and five and then for stage six. So, I was just hoping that you might be able to start us off today by telling us a little bit more about these resources that are available on our website.

Alex – Yeah, sure. So, on the Stage Six website we've got some support resources that are really intended for classroom use and they unpack the core concepts in visual arts of practice, the conceptual framework and the frames. And then on the Stage four and five website we've got a support document for teachers that we put out last term, which is more about the frames but does touch pretty heavily on conceptual framework as well. So, this is the way that content is organized in visual arts. And these ideas are really central to the way that we teach visual arts in New South Wales and provide a quite a robust framework from which to understand both art making and critical and historical studies. So, these ideas of practice, the conceptual framework and frames are shared all the way through what I call the visual arts family of subjects. So you'll find this content of practice, conceptual framework and the frames all the way through the 7-10 Syllabus is for visual arts, photographic and digital media and visual design and in stage six visual arts and then with some minor variations in the Stage Six content endorse courses for photography, video and digital imaging, visual design and ceramics. So, the resources themselves are pretty flexible because they describe and support the teaching of these concepts that are central throughout all of these subjects. Now, the resources themselves. On the Stage six website, there are three scaffolds that were put up last year. They're quite condensed and only take up one or two pages each and they're in the form of some questions that support teaching and learning in each of those areas. So, for practice, this one's split up into art making and critical historical studies because it can be really helpful to consider practices of makers and writers separately sometimes and also to unpack what sometimes of subtle delineation between historians and art critics. So, to give an example of what's in this resource, there are questions here for practicing art making that includes things like what are the artist's intentions? What conceptual choices has the artist made? How has the choices of materials and techniques informed the representation of ideas? So, these are really useful for either teachers or students to get into what practicing art making actually looks like. And looking at some of those big ideas of intentions, choices and actions in both art making and writing. The scaffold for the conceptual framework is similar. It's framed as a set of questions for classroom application that support understanding of what we call the agencies of the art world, which are these big concepts of artwork, artist, audience and world. So, in this resource, there are four or five questions for each of those agencies that could be really helpful for teachers or students to organize their thinking around these concepts. So, for example, for audience, one of the questions is, who was the intended audience for the work? Has this changed over time? And that opens up some really big possibilities for a discussion or a line of inquiry about a particular artwork. And I also know that a question like that doesn't just consider audience in isolation. It also references the artwork itself. So, it's a good example of a relationship between audience and artwork and considering those relationships within the conceptual framework, a really rich source of meaning and understanding in visual arts. So finally, the frames scaffold, as you'd expect, has four or five questions to support understanding in each of the frames, the frames really are a tool that we use to consider understanding and art from a particular perspective. We use subjective cultural, structural and postmodern. So, these are like the big themes or big ideas that we can think about art from. And really the frames are meant to sit around the ideas of understanding that you can get from thinking about practice, or the relationships between artwork artist audience and world. Certainly, by the HSC, we're expecting students to bring their understanding of these three areas of content together in a holistic manner.

So, a question from the scaffold, that applies the perspective of the postmodern frame, like how is the artist challenging or questioning long held beliefs, traditions or conventions, contains that idea of challenge that's really central in the postmodern frame, but it also references the relationship between the artist and the world from the conceptual framework and that directive of how we also bring in ideas about artists practice of what they do when they're making artworks and what's motivated them to do. So, not to be too repetitive, but the document we have on the Stage four and five website, it's called programming for the frames. This is more of a support resource for teachers to inform their programming. So, like a set of ideas that teachers might use to focus on a particular aspect of content, or used to develop a line of inquiry in a unit of work. So, in this resource for each frame there's three sections, there's firstly an overview of how that frame intersects with the conceptual framework. So how, for example, in the subjective frame artists, artworks, audiences and the world are all thought of in terms of things like individual and personal experiences, feelings, memories, the imagination, fantasy and so on. So, there are some examples there of like in the subjective frame, artists have thought of like this and goes on to clarify the way that those concepts interact with each other. Each frame has a glossary for some of the big ideas associated with that frame. So again, for the subjective frame, we've got definitions or explanations of things like emotion, memory, sensory experiences. And then for each frame there are some questions that could be used as stimulus in the classroom. Like what clue does the title of the artwork give about its intended meaning? Or how might audiences make a personal connection to this artwork? So, this document, programming for the frames is really a support document or a tool for teachers to get ideas for how to approach that area of content in their programming.

Jackie – Fantastic, massive resources. Well, they sound like massive and really comprehensive resources that really help both students and teachers. And obviously they're about unpacking the core content in your syllabus. So, my next question, always in these podcasts, is how does this resource support the syllabus? Or how is the syllabus evident in these resources? Are you able to unpack that a little bit more for us?

Alex – And you know, I've probably made these sounds a bit bigger than they are. I mean the scaffolds for stage six, they’re only one or two pages each, so they're quite condensed.

Both of these resources, they’re for teachers and students to engage directly with that language of the syllabus itself. So, they're basically like syllabus references. We've been using these concepts in art education in New South Wales for a really long time, about 20 years, and I think most our teachers in this state would agree that it's a really excellent way to organize content for this subject. There's an incredible flexibility here. You can take these ideas of practice, frames, conceptual framework and apply them to any artwork, any artist or critical writing or exhibition or whatever aspect of the art world you're looking at and use those ideas to generate and arrive at a really deep, robust, nuanced understanding of art. It scales really well. So, you can selectively apply these ideas across years 7-12 and be able to ask any student well in this artist practice, what were their intentions, what choices did they make to create an artwork and then maybe go a bit deeper with things like, well, how might an audience reacted to this? Or have they represented aspects of their cultural background and in that way lead students who are more advanced or nuanced understanding or interpretation over work?

Jackie – Yes. Really helping to build that terminology, I guess, through 7-12 and making it more complex as it moves through the stages of learning. How, and I guess we've just sort of answered this but, how can that help to improve outcomes for students?

Alex – Yeah. I think that having resources like this that make the syllabus language really explicit and clear is incredibly helpful. I think a lot of this stuff is kind of intuitive, like you might have students look at an Aboriginal artwork or something that's really obvious from China or Japan and they know that there are ideas about culture embedded in works like this, right? But having that framing language of saying, okay, well, we can use this as a tool to organize our ideas and explain how or why that culture is represented in that artwork or how the artist has related to the world, to develop that understanding or what particular meaning or history. Some of those symbols might have been able to organize their thinking and recognize how this actually is exactly what the syllabus is asking for. I think that can be really helpful, and particularly in the senior years where we might expect students to have a bit more of that meta understanding of the fact that they're taking an HSC course and that it has a syllabus and it has outcomes and it asks for particular things and so having documents like this that organise those ideas that might already be familiar in a way that's very explicit and say when we're thinking about practice this is it, or when we're thinking, you know, when we're using perspective from one of the frames, these are the kind of questions that we can be asking ourselves to unpack meaning from an artwork or about an artist practice. But I think they're developing that understanding in those ways of thinking through the junior years is obviously really critical as well. And having those names to give these concepts is important too. Yeah.

Jackie – And obviously in the Junior Resource, in the Stage 4/5 programming for the frames, you're showing how some of those different frameworks link up, is that right?

Alex – Yeah, that's right. So actually, when in developing this resource, I was thinking about an older document that used to circulate a bit, which was fantastic titled Practice, frames, conceptual framework. But one of the things that was really helpful from that resource were these tables that said, hey, so in the subjective frame, we think about artists artwork world audience in these ways. This is spelled out in the syllabus, but having that organization of being very specific and saying from this perspective, we're thinking about these agencies in this way, it was really useful. And then having a section that looks at relationships between agencies in the conceptual frameworks. What does an artist world relationship look like? Or what meaning can we discover when we think about how artworks and audiences interact with each other. So those relationships are really important as well. So, in the stage four and five resource, it is more for teachers, they would have to be a little bit more selective about how to pull parts of that out for use in their classes. I mean there are questions there, there are definitions, there are explanations of the syllabus content. You probably wouldn't want to show the whole thing to a year seven or eight kid, but you could use some of the ideas and some of the questions in that document to for example, set up a line of inquiry for a unit, to set a question for a lesson or for an assessment task or something like that. And also having some definitions for some of the big concepts in each of the frames can be a helpful thing in the classrooms. So say for the structural frame, there are some different definitions here for what is visual language or what do we mean when we're talking about composition or subject matter or aesthetics? And so having some of those terms explained in a support document I think can be really helpful for people to go looking for when they need ideas or language in their programming.

Jackie – Yeah, and I think that is really important too, obviously you were just saying you know, the Visual Arts syllabus is 20 years old. Like these concepts have been around for a long time and most visual art teachers should understand these, but I think it's really important too that we're thinking about our colleagues who may be teaching outside of their subject area, like a music teacher might be teaching some visual arts in stage four etcetera. And I think this, that Stage four and five resource document, really does help to unpack some of those concepts. And I think it's really important to show how they are interrelated because nothing really has to live in a vacuum.

Alex – That’s a very old that's a very old saying in art education that art doesn't occur in a vacuum, but programming can't really occur in a vacuum either. Right. And I think that this resource is, you know, as a quick reference, it might be a little bit easier for someone to navigate than the syllabus itself, even though it's come pretty much directly from the ideas that are in the syllabus.

Jackie – Yeah, fantastic. So obviously there's two different resources that we're talking about here. We're talking about a Stage four and five support document that's really for teachers to inform their programming. And then we've got the scaffolds which are for stage six, primarily unpacking the frames, so teachers can obviously use those documents in different ways. Just wondering if it's beneficial if we talk about how teachers could use the first document and then how they could use the second resource as well. So, could you unpack for us how teachers might be able to use the stage four and five programming for the frames document?

Alex – So the programming for the frames document, I think would be a good thing to look at when you're writing a unit of work in stage 4 and 5. You could use it for stage six as well really, I mean the ideas from practice frames conceptual framework, they all scale incredibly like you can apply those ideas across learning from 7 to 12, but if you needed something for, say an assessment task, like if you need it, if you were setting an exam for year 10, if your school does year 10 exams, you might go to that resource to look for questions that relate to the unit of work that you've done or when you're writing the unit in the first place, you might look to, you know, like how might we consider this artist in the way that they relate to the world around them or like are we coming from a cultural frame perspective or a structural frame perspective? What kind of language can I use in my program, in my lessons, in my resources to support that understanding from a particular viewpoint, you know? And it's sort of like a convention that we try to limit our use of the frames to like one or two at a time. Otherwise it's a lot. So being able to go to a support document like this to look for some more specific ideas I think could be really helpful in planning and programming, in setting lessons worksheets, like assessment task activities, all of that sort of stuff.

Jackie – Yeah. Fantastic. And the Stage six resource are more scaffolds for students with some questions and I know you're creating a Stage six case study at the moment, which refer to those scaffolds all the way throughout, which is really nice. Can you talk a little bit about how as you've created your stage six case study, how you've been able to use those scaffolds for teachers to be able to refer to for their classes?

Alex – Sure. Well we often say not to reinvent the wheel, right. And the scaffolds there are quite, you know, they concentrated goodness in terms of resource for programming. So, I really see this is something that in your Stage six class, this might be something that students have in their books, are in their diaries as a reference at all times. So, when they are considering an artist study or a piece of writing, they can go back to those scaffolds themselves to figure out meaning. To be like, all right, so my teacher has said we're looking at the cultural frame today, so what am I going to do? And then there are those questions there that help them to understand, well, actually this is what is being asked of them. So, this is one that's been designed really to be used by students in that way. It can be used by teachers quite easily as well to set questions to drive a classroom discussion and to develop resources and activities. But this is something that's accessible at that student level. And I think with some teacher moderation, you know, that could be used in stage five as well or used very selectively in stage four if you wanted to. And I know that some of the resources we've already published for stage five in that ctrl + alt + shift set of resources does reference these scaffolds directly and says, hey, like we're thinking about the cultural frame this time, so go to the frames scaffold and answer some of the questions from the cultural frame. The case study that's in development does have that throughout as well. So, this is something that could be used as is directly by students or to have particular parts pulled out and focused on by the teacher.

Jackie – Fantastic. They sound like really fantastic support documents for teachers and students to really start understanding the terminology of the frames, practice and conceptual framework and yeah, helping to answer some of those questions or posing some questions to be answered. Thanks for sharing about those resources today, Alex and of course we do need to just remind teachers that those resources are available on the Department of Education's curriculum website and there is a link to both of those resources in the show notes. So, you can click on that link in the show notes to access them.

You have a pretty exciting podcast coming up next week where you're talking to some pretty amazing art teachers. Can you please tell us a little bit about what that podcast or what we can expect from that podcast next week?

Jackie – Yeah, so this podcast is mainly about case studies in the HSC course. Case studies are huge and as you know, the expectation is that we cover five different case studies in the HSC course specifically. And for me, as a classroom teacher, this was a very exciting time for me, like writing a case study. Maybe I'm just a huge nerd, but I really enjoyed devising those case studies, like grouping some artists together that had something in common and setting up a particular theme or a critical question or a line of inquiry and following that through for, you know, for a bit of a deeper look. So, I'm interviewing two very experienced visual art teachers Brian Shand and Melanie Cassin and they're going to be sharing some of their ideas about case studies and their approach to programming for Critical and Historical Studies in stage six and I'm very excited about it.

Jackie – That sounds really exciting and I'm looking forward to hearing some of those ideas. I think it's really great for teachers to hear the ideas of other teachers and what's happening in other people's classrooms. Fantastic looking forward to that one. Thank you so much for your time today Alex to share about some of those resources. And we look forward to hearing the case studies podcast next week.

Alex – Yeah. Thanks Jackie.

Jackie – This podcast was brought to you by the creative arts curriculum team of secondary learners, educational standards directorate of the New South Wales Department of Education. Get involved in the conversation by joining our statewide staff room through the link in the show notes or email our Creative Arts Curriculum Advisor, Cathryn Horvat at creativearts7-12@det.nsw.edu.au. The music for this podcast was composed by Alex Manton and audio production by Jason King.

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