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Visual Arts PD - Online and Accessible!

We have trialled our very first series of online visual arts professional development workshops in term 1 2022, with Kaiako from Te Kura o Te Paroa in Whakatane, in the Bay of Plenty (NZ) - Online via Zoom.

I was approached by a member of the staff to see if I could work out a solution for 5 teachers to participate in some visual arts PD without them having to travel or the school having to cover extra travel costs for me to get to Whakatane from Auckland.

I was excited about the prospect of giving this a go and felt I could translate my current PD courses to online quite easily.

We worked together for 4 sessions on Monday afternoons from 3.15pm - 5pm. The kaiako set up a table to work at near the big screen, so they could easily interact with me and work on their art making together. I sent them a list of materials they would need a couple of weeks before we started.

Content over the 4 sessions:

  1. Setting up for painting in your classroom | Exploring colour making, tints and shades using warm and cool primary colours and white.

  2. Exploring 2 Maori artists, their process and their work (Zena Elliot and Kura te Waru Rewiri)

  3. Expressing identity through the use of symbols such as pattern, shape, objects, line, composition and colour.

  4. Designing a shape to express identity | Learning about making a sculpture using cardboard construction with recycled card, paper cups and tape | paper maché techniques

  5. Designing and painting the sculpture to express identity by using symbols such as colour, composition, pattern, shape, space and line.

Kura Te Waru Rewiri, Tenei au, tenei au [This is me, this is me], 2006, 200 x 150 cm, acrylic on canvas, collection of the Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki, © photo: Sam Hartnett


"I enjoyed the practical teaching strategies and more importantly Mandy challenging my traditional way of thinking towards art. I can now see the benefit of curriculum integration and the correct process to use during these lessons. (Process versus an end outcome).

Another positive benefit from this change in ethos is that on the first session I asked you, how do you encourage Year 7-8 students to engage in art? I have now seen that my students are highly engaged and love visual arts because of the clear creative process that is now used. Giving students time to explore and experiment is a process that I have been missing out."

Kura Te Waru Rewiri..

Whenua/Wahine/Whenua (Land/Woman/Land), 1989, acrylic and kanuka on hardboard.

Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, purchased 1989.


  • Teachers don't need to travel

  • The time and place to work can be chosen by the teachers

  • It's more affordable (half the price!)

  • It's a great way for a small group of teachers to connect and learn together in a non-threatening, accessible way

  • Teachers are more likely to contribute and reflect in a small familiar group

  • I'm there with them for guidance or incidental teaching as they work

  • The sessions can be customised before the PD starts and throughout the sessions to cater for everyone's needs, cultures and expereinces

  • Teachers could teach what they had learnt in their classes and feedback/discuss in the next session

  • The sessions can be recorded for future reference

  • Teachers can join in from home if necessary

  • It's therapeutic and fun!


I was pleasantly surprised how effective this platform is for teaching our courses and working with teachers (once I got the hang of the computer stuff!). Positive connections can still be made and I feel this group learnt and experienced as much as the teachers participating in our face to face courses in a super supportive, non threatening environment.


Teachers were asked what they would say to someone considering participating in a Creative Matters online course like this:

  • Do it! You'll learn specific teaching strategies and techniques. Mandy is very engaging.

  • Do it! It's fun learning for Kaiako who can then share what they have learned with their students.

  • Do it! It's worth it. Really teacher-friendly and doable. Everything is done you just need to turn up enjoy, have fun and share your creativity. Thank you Mandy x

  • Go for it. You will love it

Zena Elliott.

Lines, lines and more Lines.

Kaiako were also asked if their attitude or approach to teaching or participating in the visual arts had changed and they all agreed it had:

  • More so my confidence and clarity in teaching visual arts.

  • To be open to the individuality of each student's work that shows their creativity and the type of artist that they are developing to be.

  • I actually found a little about myself of what kind of an art person I am. My strength is in the performing arts where most times straight lines, levels are faultless no room for error a perfectionist I guess to actually finding myself in art that I actually liked the stifling art style, I liked the overlapping of art using symbols sometimes messy art total opposite to performance.

  • I loved the unwinding time that the art lessons gave me an inner peace I was happy to glide away into my own world of art and enjoy.

  • An understanding of the fundamentals

Ngā mihi nui to the wonderfully generous and enthusiastic teachers from Te Kura o Te Paroa who participated in this online PD and helped me refine my online skills.

If this online PD sounds like it would work for your school please get in touch!

In school PD with Mandy is also available - find out more here:

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