The Value of Process Documentation in the AP Art and Design Portfolio

Posted by Fitchburg State University on June 14, 2023 at 3:48 PM

“Students create a portfolio of work to demonstrate inquiry through art and design and development of materials, processes, and ideas over the course of a year. Portfolios include works of art and design, process documentation, and written information about the work presented.” (AP Art and Design Course and Exam Description.5) 

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In the Sustained Investigation section of the Art and Design portfolio, the process documentation of working with images is as important as the final product. Teachers often want to know how many process images vs. final products are recommended for success. The question is important, but the answer is as individual as each of our students. The Sustained Investigation section of the student’s portfolio is guided by questions. Exploring through inquiry is a cognitive act. Artmaking, language, attention, learning, memory, and perception all contribute to gaining knowledge and comprehension. Artmaking makes thinking and knowledge visible. Writing about thinking in the portfolio supports the integrity of the artmaking.

AP exam readers do not know the students whose work they are evaluating. Their judgment is based on the assessment of the College Board’s published rubric. When choosing images for the final portfolio, I tell students to present a visual narrative that demonstrates what they have learned and accomplished through their sustained investigation that is easily understood by an objective viewer. The journey of images and words should reflect the knowledge gained through practice, experimentation, and revision. The reader will gain insight into the students’ thinking through what the student chooses to present. From that point of view, process work becomes the vehicle through which thinking is made visible. Each student’s journey requires an individualized narrative. Some students will show the process for every finished piece, while others will demonstrate process that incorporates the thinking behind several works in the investigation. There is no preferred number of process images recommended. The key is to help students understand what best illustrates their accomplishments and tells the most complete story of what they have learned. Therefore, it is critical that students document thinking and artmaking through journaling and/or other means throughout the entire course. The accumulation of evidence from their journey can be curated to represent a comprehensive narrative of their achievement in the final portfolio presentation.A picture containing text, screenshot, multimedia software, software

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College Board. (2023). AP®2-D Art and Design, 3-D Art and Design, Drawing AP Art and Design Course and Exam Description

Instructor bio

Claudia Michael has been a College Board endorsed AP Studio Art Consultant and exam reader for over fifteen years. In addition to grading portfolio submissions, and serving on the leadership team during portfolio evaluations, she has written published commentary for the College Board, providing rationale for the scores students received. Claudia has been an art educator for more than thirty-five years. Her experience includes teaching K-12 in private and public schools. As district mentor for the Manchester School District, she worked with new and experienced teachers across disciplines. She has taught studio art and teacher preparation classes in several New Hampshire institutions of higher education.  In recent years, she has focused on using Contemporary Art to inspire K-12 curriculum. Claudia has created two courses that reflect her research for the NH Institute of Art, now the Institute of Art and Design at New England College, MAT degree program. She holds the title of senior lecturer in Studio with Granite State College. She has received two distinguished faculty awards and was Secondary School Teacher of the Year. 

An award winning artist and art educator, Claudia is the recipient of three Fulbright fellowships, a Freeman Foundation Grant, two Granite State College Faculty Development Grants and a University of NH Academic Technology Grant. She has painted in several countries including Canada, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Cyprus, China, Morocco and the U.S. Claudia was recently an artist in residence in Assisi, Italy. She exhibits her work widely in New England and her paintings have won numerous awards. Her work is included in several private and corporate collections. 


Thank you to Advanced Placement Summer Institute Instructor: Claudia Michael for this blog submission. 

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