Sunday, May 18, 2008

Assessment of Student Art

I sat all Friday morning with Mindy Amy and Kristen with the explicit goal of looking at kindergarten student Art and trying to come up with a scoring scheme.
Some people refer to such attempts as "subjective" others resist any attempt to assess student art. My experience shows that these assessments are not more subjective than others we use- as long as we clearly define expectations. If the person making the judgment is well trained and the definitions are clear there is no problem. The only risk is in starting to make assumptions about student intent, that's where our work gets tricky. I have a really hard time attributing intent in art making to young students. We, therefore, tried to limit such attributions and make judgments only based on what is actually present in the artwork. In the future I'd like to accompany some of the work with some audio and a few aesthetic question son we can better understand intent- then again there is always more data to collect.

A few months back we brought an graduate student with Art experience to work with us on assessment. She pointed out that we cannot understand the assessment without knowing the teacher's goals within a lesson. The media and directions controlled the outcomes to the point that interpretation losses validity. While I do not completely agree [in early childhood we observe often like that] tapping into teacher goals has been very illuminating. For example in the attached student art the intent was to focus on secondary colors as students drew apples with watercolors. Despite the explicit goal focusing on colors the art allowed to observe two more features. Many students tried to give their apples a three dimensional feel by using color gradations and lines. The second was that in trying to describe their apples they almost never described the colors in any way...

Looking at the Art provides a window to what students can do. It also provides a window to what teachers are emphasizing in their instruction and what they deem less important. The vocabulary [not presented here] by the way was great.

Our assessment of student art includes now the developmental rubric (originally by Nancy A.) though we are adding to it a parallel space rubric that will apply to still life portraits etc. Then we assess whether state standards are achieved and teacher explicit goals are met. Finally we assess the number of links between the art and language activity. In the case of Apple art the language generated was a list of three descriptors for the apples. Even for a first time I must say that we were incredibly consistent with very few disagreements. We will continue working on this for most of the summer so stay tuned.
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