Random Thoughts … About Art and Education
by Jerome J. Hausman
We are all engaged in “evaluation” in everyday affairs: How am I doing? What’s the score? Am I on track? How do I rate?
Evaluation involves making judgments based on information, observations, expectations, hopes, desires, etc. We make use of particular values or criteria to make our judgments.
We want to know how well we are doing. Tests are one of the means by which we give focused attention to judging outcomes. Oftentimes, we welcome tests where they affirm or clarify our strengths.
In the visual arts, it is important to recognize that the work of art (painting, sculpture, print, etc.) can be understood as the test itself. What the student does is what we evaluate.
Grades or scores are means by which we can report on test outcomes. Numbers or letter grades can be useful as an indication of performance; but, they should never be confused with the performance itself.
It is also possible to evaluate without using numbers or letters. Educational criticism, like art criticism, can be done through observation and making judgments about processes and outcomes.
Naming things can be confused with understanding them. In education, there should be a connection between what’s being taught and the evaluation being conducted.
Art teachers can take on a leadership role in giving form and direction to our evaluation practices. Instead of fitting our practices into old-fashioned test formats, we ought to be demonstrating other—and more appropriate—evaluation practices. The idea of art exhibitions can be expanded to include video portfolios or self-reporting strategies. Keeping in mind that we are evaluating “what the student thinks and does,” we can document the very processes of thought and creation. These would not be standardized tests. Instead, we would be using our technologies to understand our students’ thought processes in the act of creation.
Like a family photo album, we should be able to gather and reflect on the students’ own records of thoughts and images as they carry on their work in art education. This would be more than looking at letter grades. It would be looking at what they have actually done.
A&A Editorial Advisor, Dr. Jerome J. Hausman, is a lecturer, consultant, and a visiting professor at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago.