GCSE Assessment
Unpacking the GCSE Assessment Criteria for Art and Design with a focus on the use of ICT.
Unpacking the GCSE Assessment Criteria for Art and Design with a focus on the use of ICT

Keith Walker Chair of Examiners for AQA, GCSE Art and Design discusses the GCSE assessment objectives in relation to the use of ICT.


ICT features as a vital area of experience in the art and design curriculum. I view the continuing development of new media practices through existing examination frameworks in art and design as a tremendous opportunity to:
  • enrich and extend the art and design curriculum;
  • provide for different learning preferences and needs;
  • engage with much of contemporary art and design practice in a direct and empathetic fashion;
  • provide for a greater range of choices with regards to how candidates can evidence their creativity and demonstrate their knowledge, skills and understanding;
  • recognise the distinctive values and enthusiasms of particular individuals be these teachers or candidates and support developments in respect of these;

Of course this is only going to happen if we view examination specification requirements as open frameworks capable of generating a wide variety of approaches and practices and not as straightjackets requiring fixed and prescribed outcomes that inevitably lead to orthodoxy and repetitive curriculum models.

Examinations as they are currently conceived ultimately depend upon the assessment of submitted materials through the application of the relevant assessment objectives and associated attainment indicators. If we are going to actively promote ICT practice as a vital element in art and design practice then we have to feel confident that materials generated and submitted by candidates for examination can be appropriately assessed in respect of these objectives. This can only happen if the assessment objectives are viewed as expansive statements capable of being evidenced in an infinite variety of ways.

Each objective needs to be unpacked by teachers with secure guidance from awarding body representatives and addressed in personally meaningful ways by candidates. We must avoid grafting on narrow definitions of what these objectives stand for - 'that's the drawing objective', 'that's the critical studies one' 'this one means you have to write something' etc. We need to recognise that individuals learn and respond in different ways and this has major implications not least regarding the underachievement of boys. Perhaps, most significantly in respect of ICT, we need to also avoid seeing the four objectives model as an exclusively linear sequence.

So what I would now like to do is visit each of the four objectives as they are presented in the (QCA, ACCAC, CCEA) Subject Criteria document and unpack these with a specific focus on how ICT in art and design might productively and purposefully meet requirements. Clearly related practice can weave in and out of all four objectives and drive innovative and creative responses.


GCSE 'Record observations, experiences and ideas in forms that are appropriate to intentions'
GCE 'Record observations, experiences, ideas, information and insights in visual and other forms, appropriate to intentions'

Relevant practice could involve drawing as an end in itself or drawing as the collection of information for subsequent developments

ICT This could involve the application of available drawing programs and exploitation of mark making characteristics and the formal elements in electronic form. This might be especially significant for those who lack confidence in more traditional modes of representational drawing. Resulting work could be free standing, combined with more traditional materials in some way or subsequently re-worked through the use of other software as the candidates' ideas and intentions develop.

It could involve recording from direct experiences, draw upon memories or involve the use of the imagination.

ICT This could involve recording with a video or digital camera to collect information for developmental work or to record images as outcomes. Sound and vision might be used in a time-lapse context. For example, a candidate might reflect on memories and existing records of a journey undertaken. These existing collections of memorabilia could be appropriated, collaged and or layered in some way to present a new synthesis of memories and experiences. Candidates might use their imaginations and ICT facilities to project into the future and record ideas with regard to something that doesn't as yet exist. This might be especially relevant in a design-based context.

It could involve the recording of ideas and gathering of information in response to a given brief or topic.

ICT The electronic sketchbook might prove especially useful in this aspect providing a valuable and accessible vehicle for the organization of initial ideas storming and any subsequent gathering and development of related information. The nature of evidence contained could be wide ranging and certainly involve the profitable combination of image and text.

It could include documentation of gallery, museum or site-specific visits.

ICT The important thing here to consider is what the candidates are expected to gain from such a visit and how best to use ICT opportunities to positively document and subsequently collate and re-present resulting materials.

The key concern is that the activities, processes and working methods employed should be appropriate to intentions and the overall context(s) of the work. So a maturing project could develop exclusively through ICT practice or be integrated in some way, at some point, with more traditional materials, processes and working methods.


GCSE 'Analyse and evaluate images, objects and artifacts showing understanding of context'
GCE 'Analyse and evaluate critically sources such as images, objects, artifacts and texts, showing understanding of purposes, meanings and contexts'

This should involve consideration of personal work and its development as well as the work of others

Understanding of context is important and significant since analysis and evaluation of a response to a design brief is likely to be different to that associated with an issues-based project or open-ended line of enquiry. Within a design-based or craft -based context this analysis and evaluation of personal work could involve consideration and presentation of alternative possibilities, justifications of choices made and consideration of the extent to which a given or self-imposed brief has been met..

ICT The electronic sketchbook might once again come to the fore here with on-going as well as summative analysis and evaluations of progress featuring in visual and/or written from. There are obvious opportunities to combine image and text here in engaging and imaginative ways.

Consideration of images, objects and artifacts could lead candidates to engagement with contemporary practitioners as well as works from the distant past and historical figures and named movements.

ICT Museum and gallery sites as well as those devoted to particular artists and designers present an infinite variety of access points for engaging with images, objects and artifacts and candidates should be provided with every encouragement to broaden their frames of reference and understanding. They will of course gain more credit for expressing their own view, opinions and preferences rather than simply re-presenting existing downloaded information, although understanding of context can often be discerned in what candidates choose to use and how this is organized and accommodated within the presentation of their work.

It is desirable that candidates be opened up to a wide range of practices and in the context of today's focus it is to be hoped that this would include computer generated materials, digital imagery, video, animation and performance. This might then suggest possibilities for personal developments that would otherwise have remained undiscovered Resulting understanding might give direction and purpose to the context of their own work. Enquiries could involve interrogation of imagery and working methods employed in current design practice in such areas as graphic communication, fashion design, interior and spatial design, architecture, product design etc. Through internet access connections could be local, national and international.

On a very basic level an example of personal work and engagement with the work of others could involve the candidate in the development of a proposal for a sited municipal work. With reference to artists such as Oldenberg and Christo the intention might be to make the ordinary extraordinary through unusual juxtapositions, changes of scale and locations. Outcomes might be presented in electronic form with various locations identified and presented with visualsations of how the proposed object might look in situation.


GCSE 'Develop and explore ideas using media, processes and resources, reviewing, modifying and refining work as it progresses.
GCE 'Develop ideas through sustained investigations and exploration, selecting and using materials, processes and resources, identifying and interpreting relationships and analyzing methods and outcomes'

There is a clear focus on process here.

The development and exploration of ideas and sustained investigations implies some sort of journey through a unit of work. The journey could be linear, logically sequenced stage by stage or involve discovery and some element of surprise. The journey could be into the unknown and involve risk taking and experimentation. It could be cyclical and involve getting lost on occasions.

ICT One of the obvious benefits of ICT is that it provides rich and engaging ways of undertaking, directing and documenting the journey. Opportunities are presented for image manipulation, experimentation, trial and error, consideration of a variety of approaches and alternatives. Candidates are able to store and retrieve information, go backwards and forwards and document alternative considerations. By such means the candidate's personal journey can be made explicit and accessible to the outsider who is trying to get a sense of its distinctiveness.

When using media, processes and resources candidates should be able to choose from a range of options and select those that are appropriate to their needs, interests and ambitions.

ICT The processes, tools and resources that are associated with ICT lend themselves to creative approaches and innovative practices in this respect. Candidates can be provided with the means not only to effectively employ the formal elements - line, shape, colour, composition etc. - but also to creatively exploit possibilities through layering, sequencing, montage, collage, assemblage, repetition, overlapping, appropriation, manipulation, developing a range of potential outcomes etc.

When engaging in this process, candidates might also explore the work of others for very specific purposes - the use of a techniques, application of a program etc.

The process of reviewing, modifying and refining work as it progresses is one that can be regarded as central importance in respect of ICT in art. ICT provides a vital tool for the development and application of key considerations associated with the development and application of visual language.

ICT Related practices could involve moves from the realistic to the abstracted. The process could involve simplification, stylization and/or exaggeration. It could involve notions of sequencing and time based considerations. It could involve interplay between 2D and 3D visualisations. It could involve the development of pattern and consideration of different colourways etc. It could feature as an essential tool in the design process that then leads on to actual 3D outcomes.


GCSE 'Present a personal response, realizing intentions and making informed connections with the work of others'
GCE 'Present a personal, coherent and informed response, realizing intentions and articulating and explaining connections with the work of others'

Presenting a personal response can take many forms

ICT With reference to ICT it could be in the form of time-based imagery, an animation sequence, 3D imaging and designing, digital photography and associated manipulations, video. It can certainly be in combination involving visual imaging, text and sound.

Candidates might choose to present a body of their personal work as though in a virtual gallery setting or on a web site, with associated commentaries and captioning.

Issues based work can often find its ultimate and most effective means of expression in ICT practice.

ICT (e.g. the Kruger inspired Domestic violence poster campaign - 'The Message in the Words')

A prescriptive design brief with clearly related parameters and client expectations can similarly provide candidates with the opportunity to make a personal response, but outcomes need to take account of the brief's requirements.

ICT These requirements could stipulate a ICT presentation and the submission of a range of proposals/alternatives for client consideration.

Integration of practical and critical studies provides the most obvious means by which candidates' can evidence their ability to make informed connections with the work of others.

This connection with the work of others might be established at the outset of a project, introduced or further supplemented part way through or even be presented at the final phase of a project to enable candidates to fully recognize the nature of their personal response through compare and contrast activities.

Engagement with the work of others needs to be meaningful and not tokenistic. It should enrich rather than restrict developments. It should represent something more substantial than simply the ability to down load and present received information.

ICT Access to resources through the Internet provides a fantastic resource for candidates. They no longer have to rely on departmental books etc. and as such can explore more personal lines of enquiry. They can engage with the work of artists and designers who employ new media as a vital ingredient in or principal medium for their own work and this might hopefully stimulate personal ambitions and intentions.

Having said this new art can grow from old and many candidates derive obvious benefits through such connections.

ICT For example an animation sequence involving image and sound was used in the AQA Standardisation meetings in 2004. The sequence was supported by an accompanying journal that thoroughly documented the candidates' gathering of information, his incubation and further development of ideas and verification of intentions - (all key aspects of the creative process by the way). The choreography of the animation was explained. The candidate had been inspired by the work of Mondrian and this had provided an essential prompt and departure point, without restricting the qualities and characteristics in the associated animation sequence. The important thing is that the candidate was able to get somewhere in the development of his work that was informed, but not determined by qualities and characteristics in the Mondrian references.


By way of conclusion I would like to emphasise one or two points that are probably at the forefront of your minds. As concerned professionals you will want to promote good practice through art and design. You will also want to maximise the potential of ICT to enrich the art and design curriculum. You will want to encourage all your candidates to fulfil their potential and for many this might be most affectively achieved through some degree of engagement with ICT practice. However, you will be anxious that evidence that is presented is properly understood, appreciated and assessed by awarding body representatives at the time of moderation and examination.

Frankly, people such as myself have a very important role to play in this respect. We have to train moderators to assess work in whatever form it is presented, without preference or prejudice, and effectively with due regard to the careful application of assessment criteria. We have to avoid simple prescriptions with regards to requirements and actively seek out and disseminate examples of alternative approaches. These in turn need to be shared with teachers, accompanied by clear guidance concerning the relationship between the qualities revealed and attainment evidenced. It is important to avoid the temptation to look for practice that is safe, predictable and easy to assess and instead be concerned with what it is important to assess.

Keith Walker
November 2004