Stepping Stones is a monthly column that breaks down seemingly daunting tasks into simple, manageable “steps” that any art educator can take and apply directly to their classroom. Stepping Stones will explore a variety of topics and share advice for art-on-a-cart teachers and those with art rooms.
ASSESSMENTS IN ART
by Heidi O’Hanley
Assessments are important for art teachers because without them, we would not have the tools available to help us reflect and refine our own teaching strategies and assist our students in growing into their own creative abilities. Assessments are even more important for art teachers now for the following reasons:
• “Kids deserve teachers who help them to learn and grow,” says former “Stepping Stones” columnist and The Art of Education (AOE) founder, Jessica Balsley. “Showing that growth is one way we are doing justice to our students and their learning.”
In gathering information on our students, we are learning how they work, what accommodations they may need to succeed, and what they need from us to help them grow.
• Evaluations are becoming more prevalent in our education career. With the implementation of the Danielson model and other evaluation techniques in districts across the country, part of our personal evaluation is how we assess our students’ progress over time.
• We need to provide evidence to show why we are important and why it would be wrong if the art programs were cut in schools across the country. Having the data and proof on hand will back up your claim and build a stronger case against your program’s removal.
• As art teachers, we need to take the lead in the assessment of our own subject. In other words, it would be best if we create our own ways of assessment and prove our accountability rather than allow a politician or test maker decide how your students should be assessed.
There are quite a few ways to use assessments in art that do not require written tests. Your grading design depends on what works best for you and your students.
1. Portfolios are great evidence to measure growth in art. Portfolios not only help students, parents, and administration view the artwork’s growth over time, but students can really reflect on their own progression in their body of work. You can achieve this through collecting the students’ physical artwork over the course of the class, or taking digital photos for an online program, like Artsonia or Google Docs. I personally use Artsonia to upload images of student work, and I’ve already utilized the program to demonstrate students’ growth over time with parents, teachers, and administrators.
There are pros and cons in using portfolios as an assessments tool, such as storage issues when dealing with the collection of artworks. Teachers who work from a cart or travel from school to school may not have the space to store the artworks for a portfolio. Also, portfolios are time consuming, which can be a challenge for many teachers who travel and lack proper plan time in their schedules. Even if you feel you lack the time in creating a portfolio, finding a way to budget that time will help your art program in the long run.
2. Self Reflections are one way to gather information from students in written form. Using self-reflections helps students to look back on their own works and what they can do to improve their own abilities. Since using self-reflections with my students over time, I have noticed an increase in student accountability. Students see what they need to improve upon, practice their skills, and in each project, demonstrate growth in their skills.
3. Artist Statements are another way of gathering information from students in written form. An artist statement tells the viewer information about the artwork created. When a student writes an artist statement, they can reveal vocabulary learned through the process, the steps they use in creating their projects, as well as personal thoughts about their artworks (also revealed through self-reflections).
4. Formative Assessments are conducted informally during the middle of the learning to inform your instruction. We may not even realize how often we check our students for understanding while they are in process with their projects. In order to see how our students are performing with each project, we must constantly check our students’ progress through conversations, notes, and critiques.
5. Tests in Art do not always have to be written. A great method in measuring growth over time is using pre- and post-tests in your classes. For example, as a pre-test, have your students create an artwork demonstrating their artistic abilities, like a self-portrait. Within a given amount of time, administer the “post” test that is almost exactly like the first. You will then have a demonstration of growth that can be used as a test or as a portfolio entry!
If you are interested in more ways to create effective assessments in your class, I would recommend taking the Assessment in Art class offered by AOE. This online class goes over methods you can use to assess your students’ artwork and helps you create your own assessment plan that works for your particular situation.
Arts & Activities Contributing Editor, Heidi O’Hanley (NBCT), teaches art at Brodnicki Elementary School in Justice, Ill. Visit her blog at www.talesfromthetravellingartteacher.blogspot.com.