Sunday, September 18, 2011

Assessments in Art Education

What's the point of assessment in art education?

            As long as there have been schools there have been assessments.  The point of assessment is to measure and evaluate student leaning and instructional practice.  What to assess and how to do it is the ever changing question asked by educators.  Assessment is useful to both teachers and students.  It helps both gauge their progress, level of understanding, and what they need to investigate further.  Self reflection is an important part of assessment.  I do not see assessment as an end point.  Rather, it is more of a check point along the path of learning.
            I am assessing my students and myself on a daily basis in my classroom.  This enables me to evaluate student progress, effectiveness of my current teaching methods and to recognize if I need to take a different approach with the group or an individual student.  Formative assessment is the primary method I use in daily assessments.  Below are the types of formative assessment strategies I use.
1. Large and small group discussions are used to observe how students are grasping and applying information and concepts.  Asking questions that begin with "why", "how" or "what do you think" enables me to see if a student is internalizing a concept and putting it use as they construct their own knowledge.  In these discussions I observe student participation.  When I see that a student is not participating in the discussion I will specifically ask them a question.
2. Individual teacher/student discussion helps me determine if a particular student needs more specific instruction or guidance.  As students are working on a project I move throughout the room to get to each student to discuss how they are utilizing a concept, media or technique in their art creation.  Often this is just a quick chat, but there are situation where I will need to spend more time with an individual student.  In my classes of 20-25 students I sometimes cannot get to everyone in a single class period.  I make note of who I did get to conference with so that in the next class I can start with those I did not meet with previously.
3. Planning journals and work in progress reflections.  I utilize student planning journals as a method of assessing problem solving strategies and to assist students in evaluating their own progress.  Part of my curriculum is student journal keeping.  In this journal students practice the skills introduced for art creation, and to plan and reflect on their creations.  By reviewing these journals with students individually I am able to better guide them to their own discoveries and conclusions about the art they are making.  At the midway point of art work creation students have to write a short reflection about their progress to that point and what they think they still need to do.  They also write how they are utilizing the specific concept or technique that was presented at the onset of the unit.  At this point if a student is not where they need to be I can offer more specific direction. 
            At the end of a unit I use multiple types of summative assessments to evaluate student learning.  Quizzes and tests are used to give students an opportunity to articulate what they know and understand about the specific topic.  These tests combine various formats like short answer, essay, and multiple choices or fill in the blank.  The content of the information and the desired learning outcome drive the style of test for a given unit of instruction.  While I do give written tests, they do not weigh as much as the final evaluation of an artwork.  I have found that students are often better able to communicate what they know and understand about a concept or technique through the creation of original artwork.  What is necessary for effective art evaluation is a well designed grading rubric.  I give students the grading rubric at the onset of a project.  This allows them to self regulate and determine how they will meet the standards that have been set.  When students know what they need to do they are better able to meet the end goal.  The grading rubric is broken down into content specifics for each assignment and defines what is excellent (meets all goals and demonstrates high level of knowledge), good (meets most goals and demonstrates acquired knowledge), needs work (missing some information or technique, slight or no reference to material presented from the unit instruction), and unacceptable (does not demonstrate knowledge of the concept, is incomplete or did not meet the standards presented at the beginning of the assignment).  Student will use this rubric to assess their own artwork.  Along with the grading rubric for artwork creation is a student written evaluation of their work.  This has its own grading rubric and gives the student the opportunity to explain how they utilized the concepts or techniques presented.  If they chose not to use something this also gives them the opportunity to justify why they did not.  Sometimes that justification is essential in determining a higher level of understanding by substitution of one thing for another.
            Articulating what is an acceptable demonstration of student knowledge guides the path of instruction.  As teachers we want students to learn so we have to have a method of assessing their learning.  This assessment method has to be multidimensional for a true depiction of student learning. This is why I utilize both formative and summative assessment strategies in my classes.

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