happy dogIt’s May, which means that most IBDP schools in the northern hemisphere will not have to worry about the visual arts course that started in 2009 ever again!

It’s over, ladies and gentlemen!

 Well done for persevering with those somewhat convoluted assessment criteria, containing multiple ideas and issues. They were always a little too complex, and I sympathise with all teachers and students who struggled to understand them.

Now we have a new set of components – but I think that this time the criteria are a lot less complex and are much easier to understand.

That’s not to say that they don’t need a little unpacking. I lead online and face-to-face workshops and the context of this month’s blog is SCREENS – and a couple of questions I’ve been asked more than once about the components of the new course.

I will try to answer these questions.

“SCREENS” & accessibility

 “Why do IB use the term “screens” if they mean pages?”

 The IB do not necessarily mean pages. Yes, both the CS and the PP contain text and images and some students may indeed create both primarily through the visual arts journal, so that the uploaded files do in effect show a series of pages.

BUT other schools and students may have other systems in place, including other formats and platforms – for example digital documentation and digital/creative platforms –  some of which may not yet exist, but may appear in the lifetime of the current course.

“Screen” is simply an open-ended term for whatever is uploaded and whatever the examiner will see.

In using the term “screens” the IB are trying to leave the file type/format open so that, for example, future technological developments can be included

The IB are also reminding students and teachers that everything is assessed on screen, with the implication that things need to be legible (see next question). Think about what examiner will see


“With up to 18 screens for HL comparative study and up to 25 screens for HL process portfolio, what’s to stop students packing every screen with multiple images and comments?”


Well…I was sitting in a pub in Cardiff drinking some Brains (don’t worry, it’s a Welsh beer) with the renowned Jayson Paterson (OCC guru), talking about the process portfolio.

There was a pause in the conversation and then he suddenly looked me in the eye and said,

A happy examiner is an accurate examiner, so screens will need to be legible and correctly orientated. Having to zoom in and out, squint and rotate pages is time consuming and makes examiners grumpy which might negatively impact the accuracy of their marking.

I put down my pint, being was somewhat surprised by the forceful manner in which he expressed himself, but he is of course right.

I believe he also wrote something like this in the OCC.

It’s a valid point for both CS and the PP (and, for that matter, also for the ‘old’ investigation workbook)  –  onscreen images need to be legible and easy to access.

From an examiner’s perspective, things are much better now than when the digital upload started.

At that time some examiners complained that with some schools they could neither read the text nor decipher the images: some schools were uploading low-resolution and/or out of focus views of pages and a lot of time was spent (wasted?) just trying to understand what was being submitted, let alone assess it.

This is still sometimes an issue but overall there has been a big improvement. However, it may still be a temptation, so my advice is – aim for clarity not confusion! Don’t flood those screens with everything your student has ever done.

Think about the assessment criteria (which include marks for presentation in both the CS and the PP) and encourage discrimination and selectivity among your students.

Examiners may occasionally zoom in to see more detail but it should not be the only way to see things properly: the full screen image should show everything without it being necessary to keep working the mouse wheel! (So for example, I should be able to read text on screen without needing to zoom in).

Call it presentation, legibility, accessibility or common sense – but don’t make the examiner struggle to understand what’s on his/her screen…

A happy examiner is an accurate examiner!”

Coming up

Next month senior DP visual arts examiners from all over the world assemble in the IB Assessment Centre to scrutinize, discuss and analyse the assessments made for studio and investigation for the May 2015 examinations, and to resolve any problems.

It’s always a fascinating, stimulating and lively few days – stay tuned for some informal feedback!


Grinning dog image: Lucy the Labrador