Initial Teacher Education Conference at the National Gallery
Earlier this month, some of our (Secondary) Art and Design PGCE trainee teachers attended the Art and Design ITE Student Conference 2023, which took place at the National Gallery’s Pigott Education Centre in London.
The conference, organised by Will Grant, programme lead at Bristol UWE, was attended by various institutions including Brighton, UWE, Bath, and Goldsmiths which accounted for 10% of England’s current trainees in secondary art education.
Four of our trainees were given the opportunity to present, all choosing to talk on different subjects relating to art and design education. These topics areas came out from their research on their written assignments for the PGCE.
Course leader, Julie Howard said: “It was a brilliant experience for all of them to take part in, whether they were presenting or actively participating in the conference. It was a great opportunity for them to meet other trainee art teachers from different institutions to discuss their teacher training experiences and connect as a wider circle of professionals.
Throughout the day, trainees also attended a variety of workshops and talks from twelve guest speakers and were encouraged to discuss issues they had encountered in the classroom so far, having now completed their first phase of school-based training in their PGCE year.
Trainee, Tessa Moldan tells us more about the day:
“Among the twelve speakers, Emily Hoey and Tara Spurgeon book-ended the conference with their talks on how loosening up approaches to teaching drawing might build students’ confidence in their overall artistic skills.
Tara Spurgeon highlighted a workshop she initiated within a scheme of learning on representing seaweed in different media, with line drawing and other exercises used to enable students to approach their subject matter more confidently. Outlining the different developmental stages of drawing as children grow older, from abstract scribbling to active decision-making, Hoey also highlighted different approaches that might enable students to combat their fear of drawing, including embracing digital work.
Laurence Rushby also explored how experimentation might be harnessed so that students’ creativity might be facilitated in its rawest and messiest form, rather than becoming instrumentalised in the name of neoliberal ideals.
Students’ engagement with art through digital technology was explored by Sooyoung Ryo, who considered the benefits and limitations of using different technologies in the classroom, with formats such as animation presenting new opportunities for expression.
Ryo also introduced the thaumatrope, a 19th-century optical toy that can provide a historical link and tangible understanding of the developments in digital media.
The combining of traditional and contemporary methods was the crux of Josie Gilbert’s talk, which emphasised the importance of retaining analogue photography in the art classroom to give students an in-depth understanding of the photographic process.
The role of literacy alongside creative engagement was raised by Jesse Hodgson, who considered whether language should be central to art education, or if visual literacy can remain the primary focus.
Different viewpoints on classroom practices came to light throughout the day, including further considerations of observational drawing by Jen Choy, who highlighted the risks of over relying on tracing paper and how this might inhibit students’ development and confidence in the medium.
Jia Song explored how students’ observational skills might be developed through giving students access to opportunities such as life drawing, whether objects or individuals sitting before them.
Access to alternative learning experiences and perspectives was a key theme within Danielle Scholfield’s talk, which argued for the importance of bringing creative professionals into the classroom to create links with real-world contexts and shed light on the professional opportunities available across the creative industries.
In another reconsideration of classroom practices, Mair Park explored how sound operates in the classroom and whether music can assist with students’ focus. Jake Terzi-Ruddle also considered sound and silence, drawing from education scholar Helen Lees’ examination of ‘weak silence’, achieved through coercion; and ‘strong silence’, as something that is entered into in collective agreement.
The live dynamic of the classroom was also explored by Jakob Staff in his talk on using storytelling and stagecraft to bring art to life, for instance by making meaningful and surprising connections between seemingly disparate artworks.
With initial placements having given students a taster of the pressure that teachers experience, Felicia Milea raised the important topic of well-being, underscoring the importance for practitioners to maintain a balance between their professional and personal lives.
Following a drawing activity within the National Gallery that provided a sense of what learning programmes at the institution can entail, students participated in a public speaking workshop delivered by Articulation, an initiative that seeks to help young people communicate their thoughts and appreciation of visual culture.
While crucial topics such as the importance of decolonising the curriculum and enabling art and design education for learners with SEND were among the topics lacking from this year’s iteration, the ITE Conference was an exciting occasion for student teachers to engage with critical pedagogy.
As a fellow PGCE student, I found this to be an incredibly enriching day, revealing many common themes and some topics that I had not yet considered, as well as the opportunity to witness how institutions such as the National Gallery work to engage young people with their collections”.
Find out more about studying (Secondary) Art and Design PGCE at Brighton.