Last month I wrote about some teacher reactions to the grades their students achieved. (At the end of every examination session, some teachers express concern about the results).

One complaint that I hear from teachers who are disappointed in the mark relates to how committed the student was, how hard he/she worked and how much time he/she put in.

My student was thoroughly engaged but the IB do not value or even recognize their effort! There is no correlation between the work they put in, the passion they have and the results they get.”

This is a little simplistic. In fact, the IB do value and recognize effort – but ‘effort’ itself is not directly assessed.

It might be more accurate to say that effort is valued and recognized in particular when the results of this effort match assessment criteria.

At times there may well appear to be no correlation between the work they put in, the passion they have and the results they get. But passion without understanding – or direction – is not enough.

 If a student works with passion and commitment in, say, history, but still hands in/uploads a mediocre essay, the examiner is not going to know about the passion – but even if he/she did, it’s the quality of the work that is being assessed, not the effort.

I’m an examiner and I don’t give any marks for engagement, effort or passion.

No examiners give marks for these things because they are not in any of the assessment criteria.

If you don’t believe me, please read the assessment descriptors.

If I’m looking at an exhibition that shows evidence of loads of effort but still shows (for example) a mediocre understanding of the ideas and techniques that underpin artistic expression, or only some exploration of ideas reflecting cultural and historical awareness and artistic qualities I’m still going to (probably) award a mark of 4/20 (I’m referring here to descriptors for the course with final examinations in November)


Effort and passion are not indicators of success.

Of course, this is not to in any way downplay the importance of effort, engagement and commitment; in almost all cases, these things are a big part of a successful submission. A visual arts candidate is unlikely to do well if he/she isn’t engaged with the course. I’ve been teaching visual arts for more than 30 years, and in my experience the hard workers frequently do well.

Those who don’t work particularly hard tend to do less well.

In addition to passion etc there needs to be an understanding of the aims and objectives of the visual arts course. Many of my own students work hard, but that is only rewarded when the outcomes (the art) reflect both that degree of engagement and the kind of things that are rewarded through the assessment criteria.

If we turn to the new course, it’s the same: as the guide says (p29)

The Diploma Programme primarily focuses on summative assessment designed to record student achievement at, or towards the end of, the course of study.

The hard work needs to clearly contribute to relevant artistic outcomes. To do well in IBDP visual arts, students need to work hard. About that, I think, we can agree.