Assessment Design

Try Mid-Term Triptychs for an Authentic Twist on Assessment

midterm ear

After the first few months of school, I like to assess my students with a project-based midterm in which my students are tasked with creating a series of still lifes. It’s a great chance to see what they have learned and retained. And, it’s one of my favorite lessons because it’s such an authentic assessment tool!

student hallway display

Using a triptych format, I can quickly see if students have learned to do the following things:

  1. To draw from life.
  2. To differentiate between specific color schemes.
  3. To use various media in traditional and experimental ways.

Here are the simple steps you can use to begin this lesson with your students.

1. Review

Review the lessons students have been previously taught to help them build up to this challenge. Remind students that drawing what they see is much more successful than drawing what they think they see.

2. Select an Object

Ask students to bring in a personal object or find something in the room to draw.

mid term book bag

3. Sketch

Have students begin by doing several contour sketches of the object in their visual journals until they feel ready to begin their actual project.

4. Draw the Object and Create the Triptych

Have students take a piece of 12” x 18” white drawing paper and cut it into thirds. They will create one work on each of the three pieces of paper. The first work is drawn from direct observation. Then, that drawing is traced onto the other two papers to create a series of the same image.

midterm ear

5. Select Media and Color Schemes

Once this has been done, students select three mediums they feel comfortable using and three specific color theories to showcase.

For example, let’s say a student chooses to use graphite, crayon, and marker. The graphite drawing could represent a neutral or a monochromatic color scheme. The crayon piece might be done in cool colors. They would select greens, blues, and purples, all the while focusing on craftsmanship. Finally, they may choose primary colors for their marker piece. I have my students “paint” with their markers to fill in their work.

6. Mount Finished Artwork

These three works will then be mounted onto a black piece of paper with approximately one-quarter of an inch in between each one, and a beautiful triptych will appear! I love to have my students hang these midterm assessments in a class display so we can better critique them, and show them off to the school!

Students quickly see they have mastered the three requirements. And the best part? They have also proven they are ready to move onto wet media where they get to explore watercolor techniques, acrylic painting, tempera washes, and printmaking!

I believe once students realize the importance of practicing and mastering the necessity of drawing from life and how crucial color theory is to the success of a finished artwork, the rest falls into place! This assessment lesson is a wonderful tool to see where your students are and helps them move forward through the curriculum. ENJOY!

How do you assess your students’ progress throughout a semester/year?

Have you considered creating midterm assessments to exhibit for all to see?

Magazine articles and podcasts are opinions of professional education contributors and do not necessarily represent the position of the Art of Education University (AOEU) or its academic offerings. Contributors use terms in the way they are most often talked about in the scope of their educational experiences.


Debi West

Debi West is one of AOEU’s adjunct instructors and a former AOEU Writer and NBCT art educator. She loves sharing with others and enthusiastically stands behind her motto, “Together we ART better!”

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