Practitioner Enquiry

Marilyn Cudmore

Curriculum Manager - Vocational Art and Design


Using easels to change the working environment for Applied Art and Design classes.






  • The AS students were used to working on tables, from their GCSE courses, but this tended to promote social interaction at the cost of artistic production.
  • Research suggests that a sympathetic but relevant working environment is linked to learning and achievement
  • A rearrangement of the studio space was carried out to encourage the students to work individually to improve focus and output.

Key Actions

  • At the beginning of the project students were given a basic questionnaire to ascertain the level of experience of using easels.
  • The studio space was rearranged to provide each student with a working area containing an easel and a table for their exclusive use. Each individual space was positioned so as not to be directly opposite another to encourage ‘ownership’ of the space and to minimise distraction.
  • One specific unit (Fine Art) was chosen for the initial experiment, because this would give the students the opportunity to work both on the easels and the table.
  • A final questionnaire was complete at the end of the unit to gain feedback from the students. The room remained in the same format, however, for subsequent units.
Key Findings.
  • Only 3 out of 10 students had had any previous experience of using easels. Of those 3, none had used them for a sustained period of time.
  • This was only a small cohort of (10) students. Group interaction and discussion may have been greater if the group had been larger.
  • All students engaged with using easels for the designated project, as they were direct to do so and accepted the rearrangement of the room positively. During the subsequent unit, however, some chose to return to the ‘safety’ of working on the table top. However, when presented with the subsequent exam unit, all the students returned to using the easels.
  • Giving each student an personal working space improved individual project focus and output.
  • Students were able to appraise their own and others work in a much less pressured way by being able to step back from their own  easel and by seeing others work on easels and engaging in discussion.
  • Classroom space was a constraint. Easels and table take up much more floor area. Care is needed when designing individual spaces to make most efficient use of the floor space from both a learning and Health and Safety point of view.

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