Category Archives: Assessment

Art 1: Informal Balance: Wrap-up and Review

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Think back to this post where I talked about bringing in some choice to my art 1 students.  They were able to work in groups and were each given an egg carton to which they could do whatever they liked as long as their final artwork had informal balance.  We worked on the project for about 2 weeks, then we took a week’s break (spring break), and finished up in about 2 or 3 days.  During spring break, I decided not to grade them on the outcome of their project, but instead to grade them on the process and what they had to say about that process.  I had created a list of questions for them to answer.

When it came time to actually figure out a grade, I really had no idea what to do about it.  I didn’t really have a rubric on how to grade what they had written.  They had never done anything like this before, so they had no idea what I was really looking for.  They were honest in their answers.  In the end I gave each student a 100, unless I specifically recalled them spending days not working (which one child did and his partners said something about it in their answers) or they failed to answer all the questions.  The grades ranged from 85-100.

It has taken me a long time to write about the project/process; I’ve been reflecting about it…a lot.  What had I really hoped to gain from this “experiment” of throwing so much choice at the students?  I mean, really, it was all for me.  Yes the kids learned about informal balance.  And I truly believe that many did understand it by the end.  And, of course, there were some that didn’t, but I am not sure they would have gotten it anyway, if I am being honest here.  I had been reading so much about choice that I really wanted to try it out.  I felt the only way to see if I liked it and how I could implement it in my classes was to do a trial run.   I felt this unit was really more for me then for them.  Part of me feels like I shouldn’t admit that, but how am I to know what works and what doesn’t if I don’t try.  Many things look good on paper…

I learned a lot about choice and how to make it work in my classroom and how to make it work for me.  I admittedly am a sort of small control freak.  It is hard for me not to know an outcome.  But, I rolled with this.  I think I need to do some sort of a modified choice.  I think that leaving it so broad was hard for me and for the students.  (Many did say they they didn’t like not knowing what it “should” look like, and that it was hard to come up with an idea.)  I think I would have to slowly bring them into the “choice world”.  It was too much at once.  I think to make it work well, I would need to limit choice to either 2-D or 3-D.  (I have done some choice things in my 2-D and 3-D classes and it has been successful.)  Maybe I should spend some time on different techniques, then go from there where they could expand, explore, and build on things we have already discussed.  I still have a lot to think about.  I like giving them freedom, but I need some sort of control.  I need to find a balance that benefits us both. We (my students and I) need to have a symbiotic relationship if we are all going to thrive.

Overall, it was a fun time in the art room and there was lots of good conversation and exploring going on.  They were doing what I had told them was my motto for the year (stolen from the Frizz of course) “Take Chances, Make Mistakes, Get Messy!”

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Artistic Process Reflections

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Our current project in Art 2 is an altered book.  This is one of my favorite projects every year because it introduces some techniques and ways of art making that students may not have thought of.  It really makes them think and make connections.  They have to plan around a theme.  They have to be creative and interpret.  This year I have many kids that are super excited about this project, which makes me super excited about this project.

And, because of the nature of this project, I figured it was a great opportunity to try out a new way of grading…grading the process instead of the product.  I blogged about this in previous posts–here and here.  We are on our third week of altered books, so that means we have reflected twice.  I typed in the questions that Apex HS graciously shared into Socrative.  I asked my students to answer 2 of the questions based on what they did that week in their book.

I finally got around to reading them (I was a little busy with the art show).  I have learned a lot about my students and how they think.  I was nervous that they would just bullshit their way through the questions, and surprisingly I only got a few responses like that.  For the most part, students were very honest about their work and how they get their ideas, what they learn, how they collaborate, etc.  I have never asked many of them before to talk about their art or their choices.  I know I should.   Most jumped right in.  I am proud of them.

Student Response: “My mother nature drawing symbolizes my depiction of what she’d look like. I wasn’t able to add a masquerade mask like I wished I could have. No mask seemed to fit with the face so I just scrapped it. Mother nature is meant to be mysterious and beautiful. All in one. ”

Student Response: “Well my theme is emotions. I’m trying my best to focus more on the happier emotions rather than the sad ones. Because I am one of those “Negative Nelly’s” and with this project im hoping it’ll bring out the positive side of me in some way.”

Student Response:  “Yeah, I always seem to ask James because he sort of see’s things more imaginative/abstract. I usually see the obvious, but I guess thats because I’m a serious person.”

Student Response: “I wanted to convey an image of chaos through unity of concepts on some pages and an image of peace through random markings and chaotic techniques. I had few issues and this mirrors me because I am both peaceful and chaotic.”

Student Response: “I’ve been trying to step back and analyze my work every time I try to add something new to it. I have been really thinking about how to layout each scene in my book. It’s been a little difficult to work on the backgrounds of each scene without having any real plan on where I’m going to put everything.”

I look forward to reading the responses in the upcoming weeks.

Process Over Product?

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A couple of months ago, I joined an art teacher’s forum on facebook.  It was a great find–a great use of social media.  I am in contact with hundreds, if not thousands of art teachers from around the globe.  It has really got me to thinking about how I run my art room, what is important, what isn’t important, what is art, what is craft, should we have more choice, should technique be the main focus, should, should, should.  In short, it has made me think, learn, and grow…3 things that are important to stay a relevant and qualified teacher.

It is through this group that I was introduced to TAB or choice-based art.  It is through this group that I have been introduced to this group of teachers from Apex, NC at Apex High School.  They have been experimenting with choice this year, and recently they have  brought to the front of my mind the question of process over product.

Is the artistic process more important than the product produced?  I don’t know.  Is the process just as important than the product?  I also don’t know. But as I begin to explore this topic and experiment with it in the classroom, I find I might lean more towards them being equals.

As I began to think about stressing the process in art making and really trying to have my students participate more in the process and making decisions regarding their art just like artists do, I began to think about how do I assess this?  Unfortunately, assessment is always towards the front of my brain. (It’s hard not to think about it when you have to have a minimum of “X” grades per marking period without question, complying with district policy, blah, blah, blah.)   I want my assessment to be fair and meaningful.  I want my assessment to be as objective as can be in a very subjective area like art.  I create rubrics for almost everything.  I have to. Otherwise, I feel like I am grading on a whim.

But back to assessment.  How does one grade process?  How does an artist think?  What actions does an artist do?  Fortunately for me, the very nice people of Apex have sort of figured that out and are willingly sharing their work here.  The questions/artistic habits that Melissa Purtee designed are wonderful and so helpful.

This week I participated in a video art chat and the topic of process over product was the topic.  Ian Sands, a teacher at Apex, discussed how he and the teachers at Apex HS are having the students do what they call a “snapshot”.  Bi-weekly the students go into blogs that they have created and they write about their process.  They must pick 3 of the artistic behaviors and add pictures.  It is a really interesting way to be able to assess the process and to see how the kids are working, thinking, and growing as artists.  The teachers are also discussing using the snapshot as their grades and not grading the final product.

This is where I become unsure.  This is where I veer off.

I decided to give this focus on process a try.  On Monday, my Art 2: P/D students started altered books.  For me, this is a project for the students to really focus working around a theme and trying new ways of making art. (They have prompts to jump off from.  Prompts include things like draw with glue, layers, glazes, burn the page, etc.  I want them to think about doing things other than just “traditional” drawing/painting. )  I have always graded the altered book in a way where each page was graded and then the book as a whole was graded.  I had a rubric that I had created for the assignment, but I wasn’t in love with it.

However, the project has always been more about the process of art making.  Why not then assess it more about the process?

I walked in to class today and told the kids we were trying a different approach to grading this time around.  I told them to disregard everything I talked about regarding the rubric and individual page assessments.  I have decided to have the students do a weekly reflection for the duration of this process instead.

I borrowed the artistic habit domains and wrote up the questions in Socrative. (No time to really set up blogs at this point.) They will answer 2 of the domains each week…their choice.  (I do think I will tell them that they can’t always answer the same two.)  Then that will be their grades.

However, I will still give them an overall product grade based on some basic questions that I outlined for them yesterday…more of did you fulfill the requirements of the altered book type things.   I can’t walk away from the product completely.  I think the product is equally as important.  I think it is important to see things through to the end, even if it is not successful.  Then you can reflect back on the artwork to see what worked and what didn’t.  But this is a conversation for another post.

I am excited to see how it goes.  I am excited to see what students will write. Many are already excited about the altered book, and I think this focus on process over product will let them be more free and willing to try new things.

I will update as we continue with this process process.  (See what I did there?)