How Do You Assess Learning?

How to make assessments and rubrics that capture your students' thought process.
I read a blog post by Melissa Purtee that asserts that we should be assessing learning, not just the work.  Or at least using a balanced approach that includes assessing both the learning and the work.  

In this article, according to the National Standards, under the category of "Creating" the behaviors we should be evaluating are:

generate ideas

solve problems

make decisions


communicate ideas

develop art-making skills

It's very hard for a teacher to evaluate a student on their thinking skills by just looking at a finished work of art.  Having students self-assess not only helps the teacher understand the student's learning process, but it also helps the students to understand the art-making process and how important thinking skills are to the success of the finished product.

Having students write about why they chose that particular level helps students to be more thoughtful and honest when choosing a level. It also helps the teacher understand what the art is about and what the student learned while making the art. 

In the first self-assessment pictured above, students are asked to indicate their level of achievement by coloring in a smiley face that represents how well they "experimented with ideas in their sketchbook".  Then they are asked to explain why they choose that level.  Prior to having students self assess, the teacher could ask students to share why experimenting with ideas is important and what a successful amount of experiments would look like.  It might look different for each student.  To be at the "Love it" level, maybe the students need to experiment more than they ever have before, or maybe that means coming up with more than one great idea.

The second half of the assessment asks students to assess how they did use original ideas, and then explain why they chose that level.  Students might tell how they came up with the idea, or how their idea was different from any examples used in the demonstration or presentation.

The middle assessment asks students to "Explain a problem you solved" and answer the question, "What does your art communicate?" Both answers will be helpful to the teacher when trying to ascertain how much a student learned by doing the project. 

The last assessment asks students to indicate their level of achievement on "creating meaningful art" and "solving problems".  Writing about how their work is meaningful and about problem-solving will help the teacher understand how much thought the student put into the work.

Here are some criteria that assess thinking skills and are included in my Rubric Kit

While assessing thinking is helpful in many ways, it's also good to mix it up a bit and have a different mix of questions and criteria for each project throughout the year.  Building art skills is also important for a student's fine motor development and enjoyment.  Students can feel proud of their progress learning drawing skills and mastering the use of different media.

The criteria that assess skills in the graphic above are included in my Rubric Kit.  You will also get the images without the words so that you can write your own specific criteria for a particular lesson. 

The art room is also an ideal place to practice good learning behavior.  Student behavior can impact not only a student's learning but the climate of the class and the ability for other students to learn and for the teacher to attend to the needs of the entire class. 

The images in the graphic above are included in my Rubric Kit so that you can occasionally add some criteria about behavior to your rubrics.   

The Rubric Kit also contains 8 different styles of rubric boxes for a variety of assessment tools.  Some rubrics just have boxes for choosing levels of achievement.  One style has a place for students to write goals.  Others have room for students to write about their work or write about why they chose a particular level of achievement.

Whether you want to use my Rubric Kit or create your own assessments, I hope you found this information useful and thought-provoking.  I welcome your comments and suggestions about the information and what resources you would find helpful. 

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