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Art history achievement objectives


Art history sits in The New Zealand Curriculum within the visual arts.

Understanding the arts in context and communicating and interpreting are the two visual arts strands that explicitly capture the intent of art history.

Art history connects with developing practical knowledge and developing ideas from the arts strands.

Students in art history learn about how practical knowledge and ideas are applied in the arts through investigating the methods, processes, and conventions of established art-making practice.


Students demonstrate progress in learning in art history within the five key progression principles.

As they progress through level 6–8 in art history, students move:

  • from identification and recognition to analysis, explanation, and evaluation of style features in art works
  • from identification and interpretation of subject matter, symbolism, and iconography to understanding how meaning is established or expressed in art work
  • from recognition of style or movement to understanding the importance and features of influence of context on the development of style
  • from identification of ideas, themes, and subjects in art to analysis, explanation, and evaluation of issues and theory in art works
  • from applying skills of analysis to new art works:
    • to applying them to new situations, using reasoning and with more confidence in their use of the principles of analysis
    • to applying them to interpret an art work that they had not studied before, recognising its characteristics, movement, style, era, and an aspect of an artist’s oeuvre.

Before considering progression from level 6–8, teachers should recognise and acknowledge that many students may only study art history at one level.

Consequently, teachers may be teaching curriculum level 8 to entry-level students who have no prior experience of the subject.

If so, teachers will need to adapt programmes and course outlines to suit the prior knowledge of their student cohort. For instance, teaching skills of how to analyse and read subject matter would precede style analysis at any level.


Indicators are examples of the behaviours and capabilities that a teacher might expect to observe in a student who is achieving at the appropriate level. Teachers may wish to add further examples of their own.

Context elaborations

Context elaborations are possible contexts for learning, with a suggestion of how they might be used with the focus achievement objective.

The listed context elaborations are examples only. Teachers can select and use entirely different contexts in response to local situation, community relevance, and students’ interests and needs.

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Last updated June 25, 2012