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Stages of Learning in The Arts

AusVELS takes account of the developmental stages of learning young people experience at school. While student learning is a continuum and different students develop at different rates, they broadly progress through three stages of learning. 

The following statements describe ways in which these characteristics relate to learning experiences and standards in each of the three stages of learning in the Arts domain.

Essential learning in the arts involves sequential and in-depth learning. During their schooling students develop knowledge and skills in arts disciplines and forms, increase their ability to explore, manipulate and apply these skills in different combinations and contexts in order to realise their own ideas and better understand the techniques, products and performances of others.

Today’s students see images, products and performances that have been created by artists working both independently and in collaboration with other practitioners. ‘New media’ arts and arts works in multidisciplinary forms require new ways of thinking in and about the arts. Inquiry models in which students examine cultural, social and conceptual meanings provide the learning elements necessary for exploring the multiplicity of interpretative frames.

Across Prep to Year 10, students should have access to arts learning that stimulates, develops and refines cognitive, affective, creative, technical, aesthetic and kinaesthetic skills. This has been shown to aid the development of flexible thinkers who can examine and manipulate ideas, products, concepts and possibilities.

Prep to Year 4 – Laying the foundations

From Prep to Year 4, students begin to explore content and contexts relating to specific arts disciplines as well as creative, aesthetic and kinaesthetic perspectives. In these years they focus on making and inquiring. New multimedia approaches to the arts offer a model for cross- and interdisciplinary practical activities suited to these years.

At this stage, students’ observations are primarily concrete and students use their perceptions and realities as their inquiry framework. It is important to offer opportunities for students to reflect on, monitor and plan their thinking and making. Arts learning, where good thinking dispositions are modelled, valued and supported, assists the bridging of thinking from the concrete to abstract dimensions. Students should be able to explain something new after a discussion or practical exploratory session, and talk about changes in their own thinking, performance or making, giving reasons for their actions and explaining and demonstrating their organisation of ideas. Students begin to recognise, appreciate and value ways that others think, act and solve problems differently.

Students use a broad range of traditional, ‘new media’ and multidisciplinary forms and materials to improvise, design and make works in many two-dimensional, three-dimensional, digital and performance forms. Through making works that select and combine arts elements, principles and conventions, students develop a range of cognitive, motor, cross-discipline and discipline-specific techniques and understandings.

Years 5 to 8 – Building breadth and depth

During Years 5 to 8 students broaden and deepen their understanding of arts disciplines as an area of human activity across cultural, historical, and technical traditions. They are usually engaged by, and respond with enthusiasm to, social and experiential learning that provides opportunities to explore aesthetic qualities. Such engagement fosters personal expression, critical and creative thinking, and communication skills.

As they progress through this stage of learning, students increasingly understand the advantages of using a range of problem-solving strategies when considering options to make considered choices about arts ideas and ways of communicating meanings and messages. They develop awareness of the role that emotions, motivation, technical skills and beliefs play in exploration and production, and can describe how others in their society and other cultures have different perspectives, values and solutions to problems. Arts learning at this stage should provide opportunities for students to plan, monitor, analyse and evaluate their perceptions, ideas and solutions through reflecting on the effectiveness of their thinking strategies and output, and how they might make productive changes.

Students are beginning to adopt a critical and analytic stance. They can make connections between traditional, experimental, technological and contemporary arts forms – developing an understanding of the elements, principles, conventions and processes that may be applied in a range of contexts. Classroom activities should be creatively and cognitively demanding and build on the intensity of student interest in experiences.

Years 9 to 10 – Developing pathways

In these years students increasingly specialise in arts forms and disciplines of interest to them. They are aware that ‘new media’, multidisciplinary and multimodal forms, with their notions of appropriation and connectivity, exist alongside traditional forms whose techniques need to be mastered.

Students develop independent ways of learning in and through the arts. Their involvement in arts learning may have a vocational focus or may involve developing understanding of ways arts forms and concepts impact on industries and other situations where visual, sonic and electronic cues form the basis of human interaction with machines. They explore and analyse the aesthetic qualities and contexts of other arts works and are able to explain the role of the arts in their own and other social, historical and cultural contexts. They become aware of the need to adopt a critical and analytic approach to meaning and message. Their emotional reactions to images, products and performances are enhanced by critical skills as insights and comparisons are explored, and social and universal concerns are combined with the exploration of individual and personal values.

Arts learning at this stage should involve student reflection on the processes they undertake and making judgments about both quality and use of relevant criteria for exploring and manipulating media, technologies, material and personal space. Students select and manipulate skills, tools, techniques and processes from across the curriculum and within specific arts disciplines to communicate ideas, concepts and feelings.

Students are involved in every aspect of the making and presentation of arts images, products and performances, working both individually and collaboratively. They model the practices of professional artists, experiencing and experimenting with innovative ways of using arts elements, principles and processes. This might involve developing creative ways of using vision and sound, experimenting with arts forms that combine traditional and digital media, and reflecting the transitory nature of contemporary arts performances and products.

At this stage, students should be making informed personal choices by applying thinking strategies, aesthetic awareness, meaningful use of language, ‘possibility’ thinking and the use of knowledge to arrive at original ideas by linking unrelated ideas and concepts.


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