It’s obvious. It’s probably so obvious that it doesn’t need saying.

But I sometimes encounter students who are perfectionists – or at least try to delete/hide all evidence of mistakes in their visual arts journal and/or Process Portfolio.

It’s not that they hate making mistakes, its more that they don’t like to leave any evidence behind.

I get it – why reveal your “weaknesses” when you are up to your neck in assessment worries?

You want to impress the examiner with the consistently high quality of all your work!


But this misses the point of the Process Portfolio, where some assessment criteria actually reward evidence of these ‘learning’ mistakes – it’s all about PROCESS.


  • If you don’t make mistakes you don’t learn
  • There is no such thing as a mistake – it is just a great learning experience.
  • Take chances, make mistakes. That’s how you grow
  • Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new – Albert Einstein



Mistakes often come when you are trying something new and/or taking risks, which links, of course to the IB LEARNER PROFILE:

As IB Learners we strive to be ‘RISK-TAKERS. We approach uncertainty with forethought and determination; we work independently and cooperatively to explore new ideas and innovative strategies. We are resourceful and resilient in the face of challenges and change”.


If you visit the BraniyQuote page about mistakes you’ll see they all say pretty much the same thing – making mistakes is good for you.

Many of the quotes are from people I’ve never heard of, but they all agree. ITS GOOD TO MAKE MISTAKES, especially if it helps your learning!


  • Every time we mock failure we are mocking trying.
  • Explore the links between failure, success and making mistakes: failures, and making mistakes, lead to success, as long as you keep on trying.



Moving on to the visual arts course and the evidence – and what the examiners say, as summarized twice a year in the Subject Report – not only will your work benefit, you will also get marks when the examiners see you trying in the Process Portfolio


Page 18 – 19 visual arts May 2016 subject report, Process Portfolio

Criterion C: Communication of ideas and intentions


The creative process of generating, developing, and communicating new ideas “…can be an awkward one, visually for visual journal pages, and subsequently process portfolio screens. Students seem reluctant to include such pages as evidence in a process portfolio that includes presentation amongst its assessment criteria, but are also apprehensive about include evidence of false-starts and dead ends.”



Early ideas

Record some of those unsuccessful or rejected early ideas! “Evidence of initial brainstorming using any form of strategy such as concept webs, mind mapping or lists are essential for examiners to see and understand the starting points for work covered in the process diary…In most submissions, students seem to start documentation once the processes towards realising the artwork as a physical object has commenced…”


Criterion E: Presentation and subject-specific language

Acknowledge your “weaknesses”

“in stronger submissions… the outcomes of earlier works were used to inform subsequent works. The student would candidly acknowledge perceived weaknesses or gaps in their skills that were evident in the previous work and articulate how they might attempt to address this in the next”.


Links to explore

Why Failure Is Good for Success


Why Success Always Starts With Failure

“When our mistakes stare us in the face, we often find it so upsetting that we miss out on the primary benefit of failing (yes, benefit): the chance to get over our egos and come back with a stronger, smarter approach.”