They say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and with that in mind how can a teacher fairly grade something as subjective as children’s art? In fact, if art is about expression, is it even fair to assess the art at all? We explore the issue in today’s blog…
We all know that there is no right or wrong answer when it comes to creativity, and an appreciation of art is always subjective. So as a teacher, how do you assess your students creative work? Perhaps a student has tried hard and produced the best piece of art he has ever done, but it’s nowhere near the technical standard of his peers. Maybe a child has deviated from the project requirements, but has created something really amazing. It’s difficult to walk the fine line between setting consistent standards whilst allowing for creativity and self expression.
High school art educator, Melissa Purtee, says in her Art of Ed blog: ‘Should we stop assessing artwork? Yes, if it’s all we evaluate.
“Finished artwork is a measure of learning, but it’s not the only one. We also need to look at process: how children develop ideas, solve problems, organize concepts, and make decisions. We need to assess how students process artwork: the way they analyze, evaluate and interpret works of art and culture.”
Particularly with very young children, there is a general consensus that the focus should simply be on the act of creating and expression. However, as children get older, most teachers have no choice but to introduce a method of evaluation.
In the USA, national standards call for teachers to assess the following behaviours:
To assist with this, many create their own rubric (consistent criteria for grading). The logic is that it not only makes grading more consistent and fair, it can also improve the student’s work as they know exactly what is expected of them. You can find some excellent examples of rubrics on Incredible @rt Department’s site.
There are an infinite number of grading tools you can find on the internet, measuring any number of behaviours. But nearly all assess three basic key points:
Did the student show care and effort when creating his or her work? If the project was a group effort did the student display an appropriate level of teamwork? Did they give appropriate time and thought at the planning and research stage of the project?
How was the design and composition? Did the student use the techniques taught? If it was a model, did the arms and legs stay on? Did the student fulfil the set objectives? Are variations from the assignment made for a valid reason? How original and innovative is it?
How well does the work compare to previous work? Does it show more thought, more skill or more feeling? Does it extend or change from past work done by the student?
Art Teacher Ian Sands, however, finds even rubrics too restricting and has done away with them altogether, as he explains here. Instead he asks his students to write two blog posts about the progress of their projects. Once, during the middle of the project and again at the completion. He says:
“I ask them to answer specific questions and to post images of their work. I use the completion of the blog post as a means of grading. In essence, I no longer grade the project, I only grade that they blog about it.
“ My goal, and I believe the end result in this has been, that my students create art for the sake of creating. They strive to do better, not for a grade but because they want to improve the quality of their art.”
Dallas-based art teacher and author of The Art Curator blog has published an excellent collection of grading techniques that teachers in her network use where you can discover even more methods.
Whatever grading structure you choose, it’s obviously not possible to measure progress and improvement unless you are able to compare a recent artwork to previous work. Which is great if you have a photographic memory or unlimited storage space.
A good method for this is TAG, where students can:
- Tell the artist something they like
- Ask the artist a question
- Give the artist a suggestion
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