Visual Arts Unit

A pedagogical approach for Visual Arts

This unit is aimed at teaching Visual Art skills to students in years 9-10, whilst also exploring ideas of identity and place. The environment it is taught in encourages students to learn in heuristic way by doing and make mistakes, all the while scaffolded by delivery of key skills and learning of techniques and use of the principles of art and design. Key learning activities take place throughout the unit while students are working towards developing a project. The learning plan will follow a concept development process which will produce a character in 2D, or a sculptural form of a figure, that might be presented as an artwork in and of itself, or as a starting point for building a character in the VCD learning plan for a game, animation, children’s book, or comic book. We will explore traditional methods of line, shape, texture, colour, sculpture with the possibility of extending this idea onto animation, 2D or stop motion. We will explore contemporary approaches to design, art, illustration and all image making but will focus on practitioners that are making stories and art for their own practice, as opposed to those delivering a character for a commercial enterprise. We will explore materiality of the characters using paper and found objects, to develop characteristics and communicate ideas of identity and place.

Using an annotated process journal, students will observe how artists and illustrators have described culture and place through their drawings, illustrations and animations.

Still from Alice in Wonderland by Jan Svankmajer

This learning plan will begin using mind mapping, an example is below, which explores some possible character ideas. There will be some other creative exercises such as exploring the character through the use of some similar methods from the VCD subject, but in this unit these ideas are more of an opt in suggestions for extending ideas and this process should follow a much more open and creative process.

The outcomes for this unit follow the descriptors of the Victorian Curriculum. At level 9 this focuses on following the process, and more marks will be awarded for this criteria. At level 10 students are expected to follow the process and provide deeper insightful descriptions and analysis. They are designed to be flexible for students to work at their own level and pace through the ideas of the projects, and to explore different areas of materials and experiments, and provide space for mistakes and rework, to ensure they are following their own interests, saying what they want to say, and developing their own artistic style.

Jessica Joslin ‘The Immortal Zoo’

The resources for delivering this unit, include starting points as diverse as Charlie Chaplin to Studio Ghibli, Shaun Tan, to Jessica Joslin, and animated films such as Book of Kells, and Waking Life. This film is visually interesting, and includes interesting philosophical questions as an added layer of building meaning into students work. Lessons from Fuse on how to draw, as well as my own tutorials I will develop to teach perspective, colour use, and using diverse materials will be covered in weekly lessons that will include skill development, theoretical ideas, and work towards the project of developing a character or figure.

The inspiration from this approach is to use the products and practices of contemporary culture with the view of art in a wide ranging way, not just a product that ends up in an art gallery. This approach I have used before successfully to engage students to explore traditional archetypes and themes around identity and culture. We will also explore archetypes and tropes further if students elect to do the animation phase, where we’ll be looking a little at Joseph Campbell’s ideas around the hero’s journey. In answering questions about the character they are making, students are also looking inside at themselves and asking similar questions about who they are, what they are doing and where they fit in. It works well as often students make a character that they don’t see as themselves and can express things about themselves without feeling that they revealed something they would like to keep private. This assignment has several opportunities for extensions, to bring students together to present character artwork, animation and combined group projects to encourage collaboration as described in High Impact Teaching (Hit) strategy 5 (Education and Training 2019).

Still from Waking Life, directed by Richard Linklater

Throughout the teaching time, the pedagogies are structured around social constructivism and High Impact Teaching Strategies as outlined by Hattie in his book Visible Learning. As well as this the environment and the time spent in it is the value to the students, the classroom is very open and cultivated to be a special place where students can do things and are encouraged to express themselves.

“What is most important is that teaching is visible to the student, and that the learning is visible to the teacher.” (Hattie, 2008 p26) During the delivery of the unit ideally on a weekly basis the teacher will deliver a structured class (Hit technique 2 and 3). The beginning part of each class will review what stage we should be at (Hit technique 6), deliver some new ideas, techniques or tasks to do, that scaffold the larger project and help to build the steps to successful completion. The teacher will formatively check in with each student on a weekly or bi weekly basis (Hit 7, 8, 9 and 10) that they are meeting the required benchmarks in their projects, how the learning plan, techniques and process can be altered for their learning needs, and that they have understood where they should be at. Using High Impact Teaching Strategy 1, students will set goals or use the preplanned ones about what stage they should be in each week. Most of the work to do on the character development project should be done in class time. Students will have that flexibility to move forward in the process, and there are extensions within the project to take their ideas further.

Victorian Curriculum

The outcome for this unit are based on all the descriptors of the Victorian Curriculum for Visual Communication Design.

They will be exploring/ expressing visual arts practices and styles as inspiration to develop a personal style. Exploring and expressing ideas, concepts and themes in art works. They will also investigate how artist have manipulated materials, techniques, technologies and processes to develop and express their intentions in art works. They will also need to select and manipulate materials, techniques and technologies and processes in a range of art forms to express ideas, concepts and themes. They will also analyse and interpret artworks to explore the different forms of expression, intentions and viewpoints of artists, and will analyse interpret and evaluate a range of visual artworks from different cultures, historical and contemporary contexts to explore differing viewpoints. This will include VCACAE040, VCAVAE041, VCAVA042, VCAVAV043, VCVAPO44, VCAVAR045, VCAVARO46.


Anne Bamford, 2003, The visual literacy white paper, Art and design University of Technology Sydney, Adobe system pty ltd, Australia.

McLuhan Galaxy. 2019. Marshall McLuhan Still Has It Right (for Education) | McLuhan Galaxy. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 20 April 2019].

YouTube. 2019. Arts Participation and Students’ Academic Outcomes – YouTube. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 20 April 2019].

Education and Training. 2019. High impact teaching strategies . [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 20 April 2019].

ACMI. 2019. Exploring character: the boy | ACMI. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 20 April 2019].

Hattie, John. Visible Learning : A Synthesis of over 800 Meta-Analyses Relating to Achievement, Routledge, 2008. ProQuest Ebook Central,
Created from swin on 2019-04-20 23:50:53.

Waking Life, 2001. [DVD] Richard Linklater, United States: Fox Searchlight Pictures.

Alice, 1988. [DVD] Jan Svankmajer, United States: Condor Films, Film4 Productions.

Boing Boing. 2019. The Immortal Zoo: animal bone sculptures from Jessica Joslin / Boing Boing. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 22 April 2019].

Learning designer, digital designer and educator with extensive experience teaching creative subjects. Qualifications include: MA Creative Media (Multimedia), Ba Arts (Fine Art), Cert IV Training and Assessment, Dip Training Design and Development, Dip Vocational Education and Training, currently studying an MA in Secondary Education.

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