6 Assessment Ideas for the Art Room (Ep. 363)

In today’s episode, Tim is sharing some ideas for assessments in the art room and how they can be used to engage your students. Listen as he discusses the significant differences between assessments and grading, the value of one-on-one discussions with your students, and some strategies to help you create successful rubrics.  Full episode transcript below.

Resources and Links



Welcome to Art Ed Radio, the podcast for art teachers. This show is produced by the Art of Education University, and I’m your host, Tim Bogatz.

Now, I’ve been thinking a little bit lately about what topics we need to cover more often on the podcast, just some of the things that we don’t talk about enough. And one of those things that came into mind immediately is assessment. And I’ll be honest, assessment is not the most exciting thing in the world. My friend Janet Taylor, who I’ll reference often on this podcast, who I’ve learned a lot from about assessment, is one of the few people who actually gets excited when it comes to talking about assessment. But I think it is something that we should discuss more, because I think it’s an area for growth for a lot of different teachers. And so in keeping with that thinking, I think this episode is going to cover a lot on assessment, and a lot of it will be kind of basic, but I think that that’s where a lot of people are.

But I’m hoping that even with some of those basic ideas, we can talk about how to stretch them, how you can improve upon them, and hopefully I can share some strategies. Hopefully I can explain things well, and we can give you some ideas for what you can do with your students. And I hope that all of these ideas are approachable, and I hope that there’s something in there that you can use for your own classroom. So in just a minute, I have a handful of strategies that I want to share for you. But before we do that, I want to talk just a little bit more about what it means when we say assessment. And so when I use the word assessment, I don’t mean just grades that you give at the end of an assignment or at the end of a semester. This episode is not just going to be about how we grade or how we deal with final projects. It’s also going to be about how you can give feedback to your students, how you can assess what they’re learning and what they’re doing throughout the entire creative process, and how the feedback that you give them during that process can help your students learning.

So when you are thinking about assessment, I want you to ask yourself just a couple of questions. Number one, what do I value? And number two, what do I want my students to learn? I think it’s good for you to reflect on that when you’re coming into assessment. Think about what are the important parts of what you’re teaching? What are the takeaways going to be for students? What do you want to see them do? And I think putting some thought into that is always going to be beneficial for you and in turn can be beneficial for your students. And so I want to read you something that kind of emphasizes this point. This comes from the aforementioned, Janet Taylor, in an article she wrote called Five Tips for Better Assessment. She says this, “The first question you need to ask yourself is what criteria should I actually be assessing? It all boils down to what you value when teaching the lesson. If you value imaginative thinking, emphasize this idea when teaching your lesson and reflect this focus in your assessment. Make sure your criteria points align with the standards you’re putting into practice. For example, if you teach a lesson where risk taking is the focus, then the percentage of points awarded in your assessment must be worth more than other concepts. You can’t be too upset with poor craftsmanship if that wasn’t the point of the assignment.”

So as you’re thinking about assessments, think about those ideas. What are your standards? What do you want students to learn? What do you want them to think about in the process of their art making? What do you want them to think about in the course of their learning? So now that we’ve got those ideas out of the way, let’s chat really quickly about some of the different strategies that I want to share for assessments that can work in your classroom. So I have a list of six that I want to talk about. And number one, first idea for classroom assessment, is exit tickets. Now everybody’s seen exit tickets. Students write down what they have learned or they write down a response to a question or a prompt. And that’s a really good way for you as a teacher to just grasp what students have learned.

And I mean, I always use sticky notes. I know people love note cards, blank sheets of paper. My daughter’s been doing exit tickets digitally through Google Forms at her school. So there’s a lot of different ways to do that. And in the art room, you can have students share something that they learned during their art making, during the studio time that you had, or have them answer a particular question, whether that be about an artist that you looked at, a skill builder that you did, a discussion that you had, and just ask students to share something. And just, I don’t know, a few questions off the top of my head. A few prompts that you could use. It could be as simple as, what did you learn today? Or, what challenges did you face today? You can talk about how did you problem solve during class today?

Or what issues did you run into? How did you solve them? What inspired your work? What made you want to do this type of drawing? Which technique or art element or design principle or studio, habit of mine, whatever you want to approach. Which one of those did you focus on today? How did you focus on that element or technique or principle or habit? Or even, I mean, I always loved the default. What was your favorite part of class today? Have kids leave on a positive note. And so then that may be to assess learning. That may be to sometimes just check in or get a discussion going. But yeah, just finishing things with an exit ticket can be really beneficial, really simple way for you to gauge where your students are and just like I said, a quick way to grasp what they’ve learned, what they’ve picked up, and if that’s aligning with what your expectations are.

Idea number two for assessment. Having a one-on-one discussions, one-on-one grading, and doing student interviews, or interviews, some people will call them conferences, but I would just say that anytime you can have a one-on-one discussion with your students, that can be really powerful. That can be a time to connect. It can be a time to learn more about your student, about the work that they’re creating, about what inspires them, what their goals are. Those discussions can go a million different directions, and there are a lot of ways to do that. Debbie West, teacher that I love, she’s been on the podcast before too, and a lot of you may or may know her, she’s very popular, but she always talks about how she loved to degrade student sketchbooks one-on-one. They had their weekly sketchbook assignment, and as kids are working, she would just pull them up one by one, sit down with them and go through their sketchbook and talk to them.

That’s a great opportunity to have that discussion. She would grade the sketchbook right then, and move through all of her students throughout a class period. And those are short discussions. But like I said, they can be impactful discussions. And you can also do that by sitting down at a table and working alongside your students. Or if you don’t have time or don’t want to work alongside your students, just sit down and talk to them for a little bit. It doesn’t have to be a huge discussion. You don’t have to be there forever, but it’s worthwhile for you to sit down and talk a little bit. I also love doing just one-on-one grading with students after a project is done. When they’re finished with an assignment, I’ll sit down with them and just go through the rubric and just ask them, “How do you think you did on this? What grade do you think you should get here?”

And we’ll just kind of talk through everything. And not only do we have a good discussion, that also helps me get grading done at the same time. And so I think that can be really worthwhile. I mean, you still want to write down that feedback. You want to fill out the rubric while they’re there, but give them something to take with them. But having that discussion one-on-one can give you a little bit more insight as to what they’re thinking and what they’re doing. And that can also give your students a little bit more insight into what you’re looking for, what you’re expecting, and how you’re filling out that rubric. And it gives a lot more transparency to that type of assessment. And during that time, you can find out a little bit more about what kids are learning, what they’re enjoying or not enjoying, what they’re wanting to do, how you can support, what they’re attempting or what their goals are in the art room. And I think when you do that, you can learn how to better support the artists that are in your classroom in all areas of their development.

All right. Idea number three, our take home assessments. I first saw this from a colleague of mine, named Lindsay, and I’m not sure if she came up with it or if she got it from somewhere else, but it’s a great idea. When students made ceramic mugs, she had a take home assessment for them. And so they would take the mug home along with just a one page or a one sheet of paper, and it would ask someone from the family to fill out a bunch of questions that just have to do with the mug, about functional parts of it. What was your experience drinking from the mug? Did the handle work correctly? Did it feel right? Was it comfortable to hold?

What did you think about the thickness of the mug? Just a lot of structural questions as to how functional that is, but also a lot of questions about the visual qualities and what everything looked like, what you thought aesthetically of the mug. And Abby Schukei, also wrote an article with a couple great ideas. It covers that take home assessment with the mug, something similar. And I believe there’s a download for that. And Abby also has a great idea for students who are presenting or hanging work at home. And so the assignment is to take a piece of artwork the student made to take that home and find somewhere to hung that. And she asks them to think about the size of the piece, the aesthetic, the overall presentation, how it fits in the room that it’s being hung in or being presented in. And the goal is to have students practice thoughtfulness and to make some decisions.

And then once they’ve presented that work or hung that work somewhere in their home, they just need to take a picture of it and email it or submit it through your LMS, whatever you may be. But as Abby said, if you’re doing that, not only are your students taking part in assessments, they’re meeting their standards, the national present standard, but your artwork is getting home. It’s not being left in their room. And so that’s always worthwhile as well. So I really like that one. We’ll link to Abby’s article if you want to check out the downloads or those ideas that are in there. Idea number four for assessments, is to have students do some self-reflection. And I love having students talk one-on-one, like we mentioned. I also like having them write self-reflection, just answer some questions about their process. And I do that starting in Intro to Art, because especially as students who are moving on and doing more work, there’s generally more writing that needs to be done about their work.

But even if students are not moving on, even if you’re only going to see them for a semester, it’s really worthwhile to have them think about what they’re creating and share those ideas with you. And there are a lot of benefits when it comes to self-reflection, but I think the simplest way to put it is this, the more students think about their learning, the more they will be learning. If they can talk about how they’re learning, if they can talk about how they’re developing their ideas and working through their problems, all of that is going to improve everything that they’re thinking about. It’s going to tune them in, make them more aware of their learning. And it’s easy to do on a regular basis. It doesn’t necessarily just have to be during that one-on-one conversation or writing some comments on the rubric before they turn in their work.

Kids can write smaller things. They can talk to you informally. They can talk to each other. And it can be at any point in the creative process. It doesn’t have to just be at the end of the project. So just think about different times and different ways you can have them do self-reflection, and that’s going to be incredibly beneficial for your students. Idea number five, critiques. I love critiques. We’ve done entire podcast episodes on critiques, and there are a million different ways to do them. And I know a lot of people only do critiques when work is finished. They hung them up on the wall, sit down, talk about them. But there’s so many different ways to do that. I love doing them with works in progress with advanced students. If they have multiple things that they’re working on, we’d lay them all out on the table and see what are they working on, talk about what’s going on, how things are developing, where they may want to go from there.

And I love involving other students with that because peer feedback can be incredibly valuable right there. And comments or encouragement from other people in class can help push your students to just explore new ideas, take different directions, and maybe find some things in their work that they would not have done otherwise. And yeah, you can do that however you want. I know a lot of elementary teachers love to do, think, pair, share. I know a lot of teachers love to do table groups. You can do a whole group discussion, but it can be any time. It doesn’t just have to be in those end of projects, critiques. And then number six assessment idea would be to develop a really good rubric. And I’m going to take a minute here to talk about the FLEX Curriculum, plug and play rubric, because I think it’s spectacular.

It works as a rubric for just about anything that you need. It’s very flexible, because it’s part of the FLEX Curriculum, but you can adapt it to whatever assignment you may be doing. And there’s space for students to write their name, write the project, leave some comments, all of which are very important. But then there are four major concepts that are part of the rubric, it’s technique, design, critical thinking and refinement. And your job as the teacher is to determine the specific skills, like the targeted skills that support each of those four concepts. You just need to ask yourself the question, what do you want your kids to learn under each concept? And honestly, all you need to do is just kind of look at your lesson objectives and see where they fit. And those objectives hopefully will align with technique, with design, with critical thinking, with refinement.

And if not, you can briefly write in something then that will work for them. And then after you have the skills to go along with each concept, there are just proficiency descriptions where students meet or they’re still developing or they’re seeing those skills just emerge. And you can write descriptions for each of those. And then there’s space for you to give feedback on each of the concepts. So no matter what you’re working on, what you’re needing to do, you can get your objectives in there as skills, you can talk about what it takes to meet each objective. And then you can also show what developing or emerging skills would look like. And then for each of those concepts, there’s space for you to give feedback. And when you combine that feedback at the end of the lesson with all of the assessments that you do throughout the lesson, all of the feedback that you give, all of those opportunities that you give for students to continue learning just creates this comprehensive plan for assessment that is going to be really effective.

And so if you take a look at that rubric, it’s really intuitive. You can see how it works so well for so many aspects of assessment. And I’m not saying the plug and play rubric is worth the price of FLEX Curriculum all by itself, but I’m not saying that either. So if you’re a FLEX member, check out the rubric. If you’re not a FLEX member, check out FLEX. And yeah, take a look at the plug and play rubric, it’s spectacular. So anyway, to wrap this up, what are our takeaways besides the six ideas for assessment? Things to think about, things to remember. Grading and assessment are not the same thing. Assessment can be happening all the time. It can be happening in so many different ways, like we just talked about. And I think as a teacher, just make sure that you’re providing feedback and that feedback should come at multiple points throughout the process in multiple ways for your students.

And there are a lot of ways for you to just really help your students with their learning and help them through assessing. And like I said at the beginning, it’s not something that we all love to do. It’s an area of growth for a lot of us. But there are a lot of opportunities there as well that, like I said, can be incredibly beneficial for our students and their learning. So this is obviously a very quick overview. If you want to dive deeper, we have all kinds of great assessment packs in Pro Learning. We have all sorts of great stuff in FLEX Curriculum. We also have a couple other podcasts as well as a ton of articles in The AOEU Magazine on the website. So there’s just so much you can check out. We’ll link to all of that. Like I said, this is just a quick overview, but there’s so much out there if you want to dive a little bit deeper. And if this is something that interests you, I hope that you will.

Art Ed Radio is produced by the Art of Education University with audio engineering from Michael Crocker. Thank you as always for listening, and I will be back with you again next week.

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.