Summary of project evaluation by Dr Dominic Wyse, Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge
Our research on 'Picture in Focus' revealed how the National Gallery's pioneering work acted as a powerful stimulus that could transform teaching and learning. Teachers and pupils alike were highly motivated by the project. Here are some of the highlights.
New ways of teaching and learning
Teachers said the project encouraged freedom in pupils' thinking and the use of skills across subjects. Pupils said they enjoyed lessons more and learnt more. Teachers agreed that the visual stimulus and the cross-curricular approach made it easier to cater for a range of learning styles.
Engagement and interest
Teachers and pupils were highly motivated and felt a renewed sense of purpose, overcoming in some cases initial reticence.
There were many examples of creative practice. Creativity is challenging, yet teachers and pupils enjoyed the new ways of planning lessons that emerged through thinking about creativity and thinking creatively.
The project provided the opportunity to develop the practice and thinking that is necessary for cross-curricular teaching, a goal for many secondary school departments.
One of the main advantages was the depth of learning that occurred because basic material was covered efficiently, then deeper learning emerged from the different subject foci. Pupils made more meaningful connections in their work and thinking. In the words of one of the pupils who was interviewed:
"We all have so much more to say and do because we understand what we're doing so much better as we're doing it in so many different subjects. For example, in art we'll think what it would look like, then in dance we'll investigate what they'd feel like. It means that when we have to write about it, we know so much more."
From masterpiece to contemporary themes
Any prejudices about old masterpieces were quickly dispelled when the creative responses to the painting emerged. For example, the students transformed 'Diana and Actaeon' into an edition of 'The Jeremy Kyle Show'.
But it was not just about bringing the story up to date, for some students, the project triggered a general interest in culture and went to art galleries independently of their lessons. As one teacher remarked:
"They see beyond what they're learning in school. It's not just the art lesson or the English lesson that they attend, it's something which is linked to the outside world that they can then take forward. It encourages cultural awareness outside."
Benefits for schools
As well as experiencing deeper and more engaged learning, there was also a social impact on students as they collaborated to address important social and moral issues.
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