Ann Schedivy-Tollefson, Advocacy Chair
As I look around at my elementary art room full of students, my eyes fall upon a student or two who have complete understanding of the project and finish with their work early. Then I look in another direction, and there are students who are really struggling. What do I do? I need to annotate the success levels of those students at both ends of the student learning goals. I encourage the skilled students to offer their assistance in helping those experiencing challenges achieve success. “Show him what you did to make your Statue of Liberty clay sculpture have the right proportions” I might say. “How do the weft strands in this weaving alternate over the warp strands?”
At the elementary level, when I do oral questioning with students as a review, I know the students answering the questions correctly clearly understand. In large groups, I use my seating chart (in a plastic sheet protector) to record who knew what. I mark their seat position with a wet (or dry) erase marker in a color that matches up with a question I am asking. I can use a check mark or a plus if they get it right. This I consider a formative assessment, as I will move my teaching along after they have shown mastery of content. After the students leave the room, I take the time to annotate in the gradebook the level of understanding each student answering has demonstrated. I look at who did not try to answer, or got it wrong, and give them another opportunity at a later time. When classes are large (and young), I realize I have to do something authentic to record their understanding without making a written test—a tip I got from the Art of Ed blog.
High school students have rubrics that we go over to assess their studio projects. We go over this rubric prior to doing the assignment and they are asked to think about whether the levels seem right. They have the opportunity to ask for clarification and we can make reasonable adjustments. After doing their projects, they do a critique based on the same rubric. I like to critique one of my own artworks (based on the rubric if it suits it) so the students can tell that I can still see areas of improvement that I myself desire to achieve. By placing some of the decision-making in the hands of the students, they feel they are valued and that I am trying to be as fair as possible. It is much better to show them on the rubric where their studio work may not “measure up,” than it is to just say what they need to do to improve it. Students are more willing to accept your constructive criticism when you can show them where the standard is. I don’t like a moving target, do you?
Below are some things to keep in mind when doing formative assessments with students (found on the Teaching Channel). There are four attributes in the formative assessment process: clarify intended learning, elicit evidence, interpret evidence and act on evidence. My interpretation of those four attributes looks like this:
Clarify—What do you want the students to learn?
Elicit evidence—What will show they have learned it?
Interpret the evidence—What does this evidence mean?
Act on the evidence—What are you going to do now?
Some teachers give a pre-test on the information they want their students to know by the end of a unit. This would enable them to save time on content that is mastered and move on to those things not well understood. Whatever the grade level you are teaching your art classes, recognize the developmental age of the student and adjust your formative assessment so they fit exactly what you are trying to measure. I encourage you to look upon formative assessments as necessary to drive your instruction.