International Journal of Art & Design Education

AS Level Art: Farewell to the “Wow” Factor?

Volume 21.1   2002



The new AS level modular examinations for year 12 students in England were introduced as part of the government’s Curriculum 2000 reforms designed to bring greater breadth to year 12 and 13 experience. A uniform structure of two modules followed by a synoptic timed test has been imposed on all subjects by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority [QCA]. In AS Level Art the expressive study module requires evidence of a broad engagement with different generic art forms and visual language skills. The Thematic Study requires convergence towards specific outcomes in at least two media and the Timed Test of eight hours duration requires work towards a single theme with a preparatory period of six weeks. The paper arrives in January so the two coursework modules need to be completed in a little more than a term. The four assessment objectives are as follows:

1 To record observations, experiences, ideas, information and insights in visual and other forms, appropriate to intentions.
2 To analyse and evaluate critically sources such as images, objects, artifacts and texts, showing understanding of purposes, meanings and contexts.
3 To develop ideas through sustained investigations and exploration, selecting and using materials, processes and resources, identifying and interpreting relationships and analysing methods and outcomes.
4To present a personal coherent and informed response, realising intentions and articulating and explaining connections with the work of others.

All four objectives need to be met in each module.

Although some subjects have welcomed the change, it seems that fears raised by those concerned with the teaching of art during the consultation process have been born out by the experience of the last year. Previously art teachers were free to address skills and concepts in their own way and with regard to the different aptitudes, interests and learning styles of their students. The final submission, including the exam project was marked as a whole relying on the professional experience of the teacher and moderators to balance the requirements of the syllabus with the transcendent, the ‘wow factor’. This paper questions the value of a tiered course that is at once superficial in its expectations, draconian in content, unrealistic in its timescale and discouraging of work of substance.