Assessment in Art

It always amazes me when I hear others appear surprised that art would be assessed. Despite many people viewing the ‘skill’ behind the making of an artwork or the ‘appeal’ to be completely subjective there certainly are fair ways to assess it. Here are some tips of what has worked well in my classrooms.

Teachers: Think about all the ‘normal’ assessment tools you already use and simply apply these to art making or responding to art.

What are you assessing?

Consider what you are assessing. I always ask myself…..am I checking to see if their fine motor control is improving? Do I want to see how well a student can draw? Am I assessing their thinking skills? Ability to compare two artworks? Am I checking in to see if they can work independently or with a team? Am I assessing their artistic skills? Their ability to mix coloured paint to create a shade?

Why are you assessing it?

For art teachers and other specialist teachers there is a real catch between wanting to teach ‘skills’ like the elements of art or how to accurately sketch a 3D shape or mix primary colours, and needing to ask yourself HOW or WHY this skill or technique would help a student’s artistic learning. Sometimes I catch myself out here, for example, I might tell myself that I am assessing a student’s ability to mix coloured paint to create a shade.Now this is a valuable art skill, but is it one I need to assess and is it one that parents would want to be informed about, why?

These are definitely worth a second look or pause before committing to an assessment piece.


Who is the feedback from? (E.g. a teacher, a peer, self reflection)

1.Verbal Feedback: The students I teach are normally quite happy to tell their friend what they did well and sometimes we ONLY look at the positives, because all too often we each know what we could have done in order to improve, do we really need someone else telling us that extra step? I regularly give students verbal feedback as I talk with different groups and individuals during any lesson.

At other times I use the classic , Two Stars and a wish strategy’, where students give a partner two positive things about their work and one piece of constructive feedback explaining how they think their partner could improve on their artwork. Giving feedback verbally tends to be fast and somehow not seem ‘as serious’ and therefore the idea that they are being ‘tested’ in anyway seems quite comfortable.


  1. Written Feedback:

This is similar to Verbal feedback only in written form. I find this more helpful when assessing a more formal piece of work.often I give students the option whether they want give feedback verbally or in a written form, after all some of us love to talk and some of us love to write!

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  1. Next Steps/ Targets:

I have to admit I am a fan of the term ‘next step or target. As an adult I like knowing exactly what I am doing well and exactly what I need to do next in order to improve, why would children be any different. Most of us innately want to do well, we want to get better at cooking or cycling or running, painting or drawing.

I distinctly remember talking with grade 5 students once about goal setting and realised the different outlook they experienced ONCE I explained goal setting in terms of ‘normal life stuff’. For example, if I want to home to Australia at Christmas time, it is going to cost several thousands of dollars.If I plan ahead, putting a little bit of money aside I will be ok. If I don’t set that goal, come Christmas time I will struggle financially to get home to Australia.

Another great way to have students understand the importance of next steps or goals was to relate it to sport! You will  see any awful lot of enthusiasm from students when you ask them how you could improve your soccer game or tennis match-linking learning to real life examples that they understand is the way to go.


  1. Rubric:

I find rubrics very helpful when needing to assess particular skills and when comparing a whole class or grade level. Sometimes my students use highlighters to show what they can do or what they found challenging. When I compare a whole class’ rubrics or a whole grade level,  I often find patterns that show me, the teacher what I am doing well and where I need to improve. For example, if almost all my students said they could not ‘mix pain to show ‘value/shade’ in art then I can see that my instruction wasn’t clear and would need to re teach this skill.

I often point these out to my students so that they can see that I am continually reflecting on my teaching practice too.

Often I use rubrics to check pre existing knowledge and then reassess half way through or at the end of a unit of work.

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  1. Continuum:

A lot of people prefer to view a student’s learning along a continuum so that the students and teachers can see that there is a ‘successful range’ rather than a tick box, ‘you go it’, or ‘you didn’t get it’! Here is an example from a colleague.

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SEESAW

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Eportfolios have been around for a while, but SeeSaw has to be the easiest one to use. Signing up is free and the App allows students and teacher to record their learning experiences combining pictures, written text and voice overs which are great for students who are not so keen to write. Being able to reflect upon their own learning both at school and at home is simply magic. Students can use QR code readers to login or or use accounts and passwords. A great tool for teachers too, with 300 students it is very helpful for me to be able to dip in and out of their learning journals while writing reports or planning units of work.


Formative Assessment:

In fancy terms these are the ‘day to day assessments’ that teachers complete and can be oral or written and often include a number of assessment tools mentioned above. Formative assessments can be tricky to maintain if you are teaching a lot of students (as specialist teachers usually are) and so I try to incorporate these as a normal part of my lesson.

Examples:

From informal conversations with students and observations during a lesson I might jot down some notes about a student’s learning or artwork during the lesson.

When completing an investigation, students might share their understanding with a friend on a sticky note and I will keep their ideas in my assessment folder.

Short, simple and highly specific snippets often inform me of what the students are learning and what they are not!


Summative Assessment:

In teacher talk, this means a more final piece of work with the focus being able to see the result of cumulative learning.

Examples: Grade 2-After completing a range of creative investigations and exercises aimed at developing their responsibility and ability to work independently I was curious to see whether or not students could transfer their learning and work on their own. As part of our Giving Back and Taking Action at Christmas time, our school encourages students to create handmade art and craft products to sell at a special Bazaar with funds raised going to assisting refugees in Rome. Students decided on their own to make handmade Christmas Gift Tags and were responsible for completing these during a set time. This highly creative and fun task WAS their summative assessment and I recorded my observations by taking notes, looking at their artwork and talking with students.