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Tips for Starting a Successful AP Studio Art Program

By Joann Winkler
Clinton High School
Clinton, Iowa

Although there are many ways you can begin an AP Studio Art program, you can make things easier for yourself and make sure your program runs as smoothly as it can. Read the following to get a grip on the basics and take advantage of training and resources. Let's get started.

Understand the Basics

The first step is to understand the basics of the program. AP Studio Art offers three "portfolios." Each of the following portfolios has its own focus and requirements:

  • Drawing: Students address drawing issues and mark-making concerns. They can submit not only work in traditional drawing media — such as pencils, ink, and pastels — but also painting, and printmaking, in both analog and digital formats, as long as mark-making, line quality, and surface manipulation are predominant.
  • 2-D Design: Students focus on the elements and principles of design. This portfolio can include photography and digital work. It can also contain drawings, paintings, prints, and any other two-dimensional art form that focuses on composition.
  • 3-D Design: Students explore form, depth, and space — that is to say, the issues of working in three dimensions, whether actual or virtual.

Each portfolio has three equally weighted sections:

  • Selected Works (Quality) promotes the development of a sense of accomplishment.
  • Sustained Investigation (Concentration) shows the student's in-depth sustained study of an idea in art that is personally significant.
  • Range of Approaches (Breadth) shows a range of technical and/or conceptual approaches.

A program may offer one of these three portfolios, two, or all three. Students can also generate the required work over two years. At the end of the school year, students' portfolios can be evaluated and graded by the College Board.

Don't work alone. Collaborate with your AP coordinator, school administrator, and other AP teachers at your school and online via the AP Studio Art Teacher Community.

Work with your middle school art educator colleagues to build the visual art program.

Enroll in Course Audit

The next step is to complete the AP Course Audit. You must participate in AP Course Audit in order to label a course "AP."

If this is the first AP Studio Art program at your school, you should submit a specific form and course syllabus to AP Course Audit for review and approval. The AP Course Audit site provides sample syllabi that you can use as resources. Go to AP Course Audit to see how to complete this step.

Attend Institutes and Workshops

Attending a weeklong AP Studio Art summer institute is a valuable professional development tool for new and experienced teachers. Summer institutes give you a chance to get a deep and accurate understanding of portfolio requirements and of the evaluation process. This will get you ready to support your students AP success. You also have opportunities to share best practices with colleagues.

If you are unable to attend an institute, a one-day workshop can familiarize you with the AP Studio Art program. These sessions run throughout the school year in various locations around the country. To learn more about AP Studio Art workshops, visit Institutes & Workshops.

Use College Board Resources

AP Central® offers you many resources:

  • The AP Studio Art Course Description gives you complete information about the program and the portfolios.
  • AP Central provides student work samples for each section of each portfolio type, with scores and rationales.
  • The AP Studio Art Brochure (.pdf/661KB) details portfolio requirements and should be given to each AP Studio Art student at the beginning of the school year.
  • Join the AP Studio Art Teacher Community to share resources with fellow teachers.

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