Rachel Evans, today’s guest blogger, is a passionate artist and teacher. Her post will prove this. When it comes to the arts, Rachel knows students need to be held accountable. Read on for some great insights into arts assessment as well as assessment ideas. Be sure to follow Rachel on Twitter. ~EMP
It’s no secret: the arts can rev students’ engines and get creative ideas rolling when used in arts integration. Knowing that “create” is the pinnacle of Bloom’s Taxonomy, teachers’ interest in incorporating music, dance, visual arts, and theatre continues to veer towards that destination.
While it’s a comfortable ride to use arts integration as the vehicle to deliver learning goals and objectives to students, it would be really unfair if it were a free ride. There’s a fare to be paid for what the arts intrinsically provide: fuel and service. And that price is the blood, sweat, and tears that only high quality assessment can bring.
Arts integration is more than using an arts-based activity in service of another discipline; it’s meeting two sets of goals simultaneously, allowing students to explore both more deeply. If we integrate the arts into other content areas, it’s essential that the arts component have identified objectives with discrete methods of assessment. To neglect assessment of the arts is to contribute to the “the arts are easy,” “the arts requires talent you’re born with,” and “the arts are soft subjects” mentality. The arts have rigor, need scaffolded sequential instruction, and possess assessable knowledge, skills and values like every other subject.
I am not professing that we need to test the fun out of the arts. But just like any other educational endeavor, students and teachers alike must be held accountable for progress towards achieving objectives. Arts assessment may take many forms; checklists, rubrics, reflective writing prompts, peer critique, and oral presentations are just a few options available to the educator using arts integration.
Constructing an assessment plan inclusive of arts learning goals, ones that are fully integrated with other content, will take extra effort initially. There is a silver lining: the focus and attention on goals beyond those strictly related to language arts, math, science, social studies, foreign languages or health education may provide much needed variety for learners. Not only do students benefit from variety in instructional strategies, but they also benefit from a broad assessment spectrum, one reflective of all colors of knowledge. As a student, I may get bogged down in repeated spelling drills, but completing the visual arts checklist for an accompanying assignment might help me improve my aesthetic vocabulary—literally!
Additionally, while observing student progress in an arts integration lesson, a student’s lack of proficiency in a content area may be more immediately and more easily remediated than if assessment was confined to a summative, content-only format. Seeing a student’s comfort zone expanded to include arts’ skills may ease discomfort in less familiar curricular terrain. As a teacher, I may not realize that my students are unclear about the cause and effect circumstances surrounding the start of World War I. Rather than wait until the exam to identify the absence of understanding, I might notice this sooner if I ask them to write theatrical dialogue between two historical figures. Synthesis of concepts would be necessary from the first exchange between the characters.
The arts, whether integrated or standing alone, are more inclined towards formative assessment than summative. In the examples above, the students would need to take ownership of their growth as artists and playwrights, just as they do about grades in spelling and history. The teachers would need to be clear about expectations for the visual arts checklist in spelling class and for the playwriting assignment in history. The challenge is for us, as educators, to be able to articulate the knowledge, skills, and values needed to create meaningful artifacts as evidence of learning. It’s a steep fare initially, but the long-term investment will undoubtedly result in a lucrative return. Hop on and enjoy the ride!
Thanks for the excellent post drawing attention to assessment Rachel. I will be sharing this with my art education students.
I especially like your description of arts integration: “Arts integration is more than using an arts-based activity in service of another discipline; it’s meeting two sets of goals simultaneously, allowing students to explore both more deeply.”
Differentiation among teaching with, in, and through (Cornett, 2011)the arts can be difficult for the elementary teachers striving to effectively integrate.
Rachel – I love this post! Really! Your passion for the arts shows here and you send a very important point home: that the arts cannot be “second stage” in relation to other areas – and that means in assessment too!
So many teachers who want to do integration fall apart when it comes to assessing the art part too. It is hard for some and we need to help people to find the resources for this.
Thanks again for your contribution to The Inspired Classroom. You can join me again anytime!
Even though it is overwhelming to plan out assessments that test both content and the arts, I agree that it is important. I like how you say that arts have innate rigor. To avoid the perception that the arts are “fluffy,” teachers must assess students via rubrics, presentations, written reflections, and so forth in order to give lessons credibility.
I agree, Jen. It can be hard to thing of assessing something you may not be trained in, but with our own life experiences and basic understanding of arts standards, it is totally possible. You offer some good assessment suggestions.
I feel I am seeing this from a whole different point of view than most – working in a childcare setting now, and never having been a classroom teacher, I have a much easier time using arts to teach. The little kids I work with are all about arts – we don’t have strict standards to meet (except the ones we create for ourselves of course!) so it’s easier for us to “play” and go with the flow – create and be free to explore all the wonderful arts aspects, but get the learning in as well. I have a whole new respect for classroom teachers – both as a professional and a parent!
There are so many things I enjoyed about this article; from starting with ‘create’ being at the top of Bloom’s taxonomy to the synthesis of concepts that is necessary before the art form even begins.
I’m realizing that this process is about meeting two (or even three) sets of goals simultaneously.
Thinking deeply is so important for children and I’m glad this methodology encourages and allows for that.
My favorite quote from this article is “The arts have rigor, need scaffolded sequential instruction, and possess assessable knowledge, skills and values like every other subject.”
Lastly, I was so grateful to see the many forms that arts assessments can take listed (checklists, rubrics, reflective writing, peer critique, and oral presentations). Even if we just use one of these assessments in an exit ticket, we are getting valuable data.