Monthly Mentor

R. Darden Bradshaw (July)
Dr. R. Darden Bradshaw is Assistant Professor of Art Education and Area Coordinator for Art Education at the University of Dayton. She holds both a Ph.D. in Art History and Education and an M.F.A. in Fiber Art from the University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ. Dr. Bradshaw is a practicing artist and educator, having worked for six years as an Arts Integration Specialist within the K-12 system in the Southwestern United States. She exhibits her work nationally and internationally, has facilitated Arts Integration trainings across the U.S. for the non-profit Arts Integration Solutions, and shares her research on empathy and visual culture art integration at regional and national venues. Click to read her full bio.



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Tuesday 07.18.17

Selfies, Tourist Gaze and Authenticity: Engaging Middle School Students

From: R. Darden Bradshaw

All teachers, regardless of the age of their student, work toward and often question if we are meeting the needs of those students (Goswami, Lewis, Rutherford, & Waff, 2009).  I frequently wonder if I am doing all I can to prepare them for the complex, contemporary world in which they are living. This iterative cycle of questioning, adjusting my teaching practice, and evaluating the results of said practice supports reflection. For some teachers, especially those of us who work with middle schoolers, students can seem like “aliens in the classroom” (Green & Bigum, 1993 cited in Bigum and Rowan, 2009) and finding the right ways to get through to them can feel daunting.  I have found art integration to be a practice that celebrates multiple answers, encourages various ways of teaching, and results in students developing creative solutions (Bradshaw, 2016).  Art integration serves as a philosophical guide that supports the iterative cycle of reflective practice while also being a teaching process that celebrates the complexity of preparing students for their future.  In the current educational climate that asks teachers to move away from a focus on skills and shine the light instead on ways to help students develop “dispositions” that facilitate and foster the ability to acquire knowledge, respond to the demands place on them in their future work, personal and social lives, and critically and creatively question the world  - art integration stands at the ready.

For example, Megan Newton, a middle school art teacher in Miamisburg, OH has an opportunity each summer to travel abroad with a small group of middle schoolers and their parents through EF tours.  This summer, Megan says she noticed the interactions students (and even the adults on the trip) had with historical monuments and landscapes – specifically in the way in which they used photography.  In this setting, rather than simply extending their arm in a typical pose and snapping a photograph to document the moment, she notes,

“These students on tour were models! They would ask someone to take their photo and they would twist their body into perfect position--turn slightly to camera, bend a leg, tilt head, and put an arm on the hip. It was magical to see them whip these poses out in seconds.” 

Xailey Atkinson posing for her photo. Photo credit: Megan Newton

She continues, “One of the students even instructed another student on tour to take candid photos of her. She wasn't looking for the traditional posed photo. She was hoping for a more authentic photo of her experience. But is it authentic when she's instructing someone to do so?

Newton inquired further and states, “I also noticed that the adults were the ones doing the "typical" selfie. Is the traditional selfie out? Is this only something "old" people do?” 

Selfie of Megan Newton at Stonehenge, UK

Considering these questions, Newton had conversations with students about their photos asking them

* Why did you take that photo?
* Which one is your favorite? Why?
* What photos will you show your parents/post online to depict your 11 days in Europe?

Posing questions and engaging students in deconstructing their experience, Newton demonstrated the way adolescents need social interaction and ‘chit-chat’ to make sense of imagery (Buckingham and Sefton-Green, as cited in Duncum, 2002).  In asking students these questions, Newton states,

“I wondered about their ideas of authenticity. Were they taking tourist-y photos? What was their typical subject matter? These questions led to some great conversations with adults about the selfie culture, especially from the tour director who noted, "selfies are more about the action, not the image."

This statement encouraged Newton to pause and consider how to develop an art integration unit around authenticity, Tourist gaze, and selfie-culture for her students this coming fall.  Using their local community as the site in which their ‘tourist investigations’ will occur, Newton has begun developing the integrated unit as follows:

Lesson 1=tour downtown Miamisburg and take photos. The goal is to show someone who is visiting what Miamisburg has to offer--similar to a visitor’s guide

Lesson 2=print out photos and organize them by common themes in class. Discuss and deconstruct “tourist gaze” and “selfie culture”. Invite students to reorganize photos based on this new information. 

Lesson 3=Return to downtown Miamisburg with our new tourist lens and take another set of photos

Lesson 4=print out photos and reflect on the ways in which new information informed, challenged, or confirmed our ideas of “tourist gaze” and “selfie-culture.”

Newton was not just inspired by her interactions with students but she used her experience and their engagement as a springboard for curricular investigation.  The questions she is asking students to answer through this integration unit will allow them to become agents in their photographic choices, not necessarily followers and unconscious participants. 

This is a perfect example of the power for classroom transformation from one of the “emphasis on teachers covering material, getting through curriculum and transferring knowledge from their minds into the vacuous minds of students who must perform well on standardized tests” (Hinchey, 2004, p. 92) to one in which students are engaged in active creation of meaning, problem-posing and solution, and critical analysis of authentic understanding.   


Bradshaw, R. D. (2016). Art integration fosters empathy in the middle school classroom.  The Clearing House:  A Journal of Educational Strategies, Issues, and Ideas, 89(4-5), 109-117. Taylor & Francis.

Bigum, C., & Rowan, L. (2009). Renegotiating knowledge relationships in schools.  In S. N. and B. Somekh (Ed.), The Sage handbook of educational action research (pp. 131-141). London:  Sage.

Duncum, P. (2002). Visual culture art education:  Why, what and how.  Journal of Art & Design Education, 21(1), 14-23.

Goswami, D., Lewis, C., Rutherford, M., & Waff, D. (2009). Teacher inquiry:  Approaches to language and literacy.  New York, NY: Teachers College Press.

Hinchey, P.  (2004).  Becoming a critical educator:  Defining a classroom identity, designing a critical pedagogy.  New York, NY: Peter Lang.


Sunday 07. 2.17

Art Integration: Reflections on Challenges and Possibilities for Art Education

From: Dr. R. Darden Bradshaw

I began my career in art education sixteen years ago teaching at the higher education level. I worked as an adjunct in Foundation programs teaching 2-D design and art history to freshmen and sophomores in college. It was a challenging and fun place to start my teaching career. Yet the longer I taught these foundation courses, the more I became aware that many of these students had little to no exposure to or classes in art beyond middle school. What happened in middle school, I wondered? As a part of my investigation into middle school art education, I eventually sought and obtained my post-baccalaureate teaching license; I then jumped feet first into the role of an arts integration specialist in a middle school in the Southwestern United States. As a part of my job I was tasked with researching and developing curriculum that served as what Julia Marshall (2006) calls “substantive” art integration in which two or more content areas are taught through a mutually reinforcing pedagogical practice that celebrates and honors the unique aspects of various disciplinary foci. I discovered that art integration was a powerful philosophical approach to teaching art and an even more dynamic means of collaborating across the educational silos entrenched in schooling. It became clear to me that it had the potential to excite students in their pursuit of art beyond middle school. My time as a middle school educator created spaces for me to discover my true joy and passion as an art educator-building bridges between and among the arts and other content areas - and sharing that with future art teachers. 

Over the last few years, art integration has become a greater focus within our field. I have seen a marked increase in presentations on art integration at NAEA and local state art education conferences, as well as publications about art integration including the engaging Art Centered Learning Across Curriculum: Integrating Contemporary Art in the Secondary School Classroom (2015) by Julia Marshall and David M. Donahue. In this month’s Monthly Mentor Blog, I will focus on a different aspect of art integration in each post. These will include the challenges to integrating visual art, the value of art integration for preservice art educators, strategies for teacher collaboration across disciplinary boundaries, the different ways in which art integration supports critical thinking in various K-12 settings, and the power of art integration as a tool within University study abroad programs. I am an art integration practitioner; ever learning and finding new paths to better integrate the arts to foster empathy, support learners in making meaning of their worlds, and creating spaces where students comment on and critique their world through creative visual means. In sharing my experience here, I invite dialogue. Please send your thoughts, comments, questions, and concerns via email at


Marshall, J. M. (2006). Substantive art integration = Exemplary art education.  The Journal of Art Education, 59(6), 17-24.

Marshall, M. & Donahue, D.M. (2015). Art Centered Learning Across the Curriculum:  Integrating Contemporary Art in the Secondary Classroom.  New York, NY: Teachers College.


Friday 06.30.17

Copper Point Drawing and Da Vinci: A STEAM - Renaissance Connection

From: Carrie Jeruzal

As June quickly slips into July, I find myself happily reminiscing about an amazing Professional Development experience that I had last year at the 2016 Summer Teacher Institute at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.

"The Teacher Institute is a six-day seminar that helps K–12 teachers (of all subjects) strengthen their knowledge of art history and integrate visual art into classroom teaching. The program features lectures, gallery tours, teaching strategies, and hands-on learning experiences."

This was my classroom for 6 days:


I would highly recommend this experience to all art teachers, (really any teacher), that can connect curriculum back to the NGA’s featured collection and is looking for an authentic, enriching and inspiring professional development experience.  The variety of instruction, resources and time with the art is really unparalleled.  I met 24 other wonder colleagues from around the country and I am confident they would say the same! 

The theme of the 2016 Institute was, The Renaissance.  Throughout the course I immediately saw strong correlations between the ideals and philosophies of the Renaissance and the methodologies of the Science Technology Engineering Art and Mathematics, (STEAM), art education movement.  I began to see Leonardo Da Vinci and other Renaissance artists like him as the original STEAM innovators.  

I made many curriculum connections from the knowledge that I gained at the NGA Institute, but for this blog post I would like to focus in on one in particular, Copper Point Drawing.  Before my NGA Institute I have to admit that I did not even know that the metalpoint technique existed!  I quickly learned that Renaissance artists like Da Vinci used to draw on a grounded surface, (usually gesso made from ground animal bones), using a drawing instrument that we might call a silver “stylus” today.  It was a kind of pencil with a silver “lead” instead of graphite or charcoal.  The silver would scratch the surface of the gesso, leaving a very fine, delicate, soft image.  Lines scratched in the surface of the gesso would retain residual silver and that silver would oxidize over time thus slightly darkening the image as it aged.  There is no erasing this medium but the artist could draw darker lines over other  lines and even paint over them, allowing the silverpoint drawing to function as a kind of preliminary sketch or as an under-the-painting-drawing.  The silverpoint drawings are minimal in color but communicate artist intentionality in a gentle and intimate way.

Here is a silverpoint drawing by Da vinci:


To begin my Junior High / High School STEAM lesson I introduced my students to the scientific studies and meticulous medical illustrations by Da Vinci.  We discussed the importance of observational drawing for scientific purposes.  We looked at Da Vinci’s drawing of a dog’s leg compared to that of a man as well as other examples from his journals. 

Then I gave students the chance to do the same type of scientific/artistic observation.  Silver was out our price range so I fashioned copper styluses instead by stripping copper utility wires donated by a parent that works in construction.  I cut them 3 inches long or so, and then taped them to thick, unsharpened primary pencils with adjustable electrical tape.  I prepared pieces of gessoed mat boards and borrowed a whole slew of bones, both animal and human, both genuine and faux, from the science department. I discussed with students the importance of treating the remains with dignity and respect as they once belonged to living creatures in order to avoid misuse and inappropriate handling.  Finally, students were given the opportunity to draw the bones from close observation using the copper point technique.  To enrich the experience and authenticate it further to the Renaissance time period, I invited a local guest musician to come in and play Renaissance music on a lute while students drew.  Aside from cell phones and laptops, my classroom began to look and sound like a real Renaissance atelier! 



Because erasing isn’t possible, I gave students a number of days to experiment and build confidence with the media.  I encouraged them to practice with paper and pencil first to warm up.  Students learned that it wasn’t easy and the task required immense focus and intentionality.  Students not only had to address artistic problems such as proportion, value and texture, but they also had to think like a biologist and consider; How does this bone move? What is its purpose?  How does its shape or spatial relationship to other bones help accomplish its function?  How do different bones compare? Etc.

In this STEAM lesson inspired by the Renaissance collection at the NGA, students not only honed their drawing skills, they also practiced discovery through scientific observation and illustration.   Just as my authentic encounters with the art at the NGA inspired this curricular approach, students were given a truly Da Vinci-like experience.     



Monday 06.26.17

Redesign: Make it Bad, Then Make it Better

From: Carrie Jeruzal

Just like great art, great art education is often inspired by personal experiences. But, not always in the way one might expect…. 

A couple of years ago my oldest daughter’s class was holding a bake sale during a community event as a fundraiser for a field trip. I don’t have much confidence or experience in baking so I thought this one “treat recipe” that I found online would be cute, easy and perfect for a busy mom like me. Well, it wasn’t so easy and I messed it up terribly. Turns out candy kisses look the same slightly melted as they do burnt and one should not let them stay in the oven, “just a little bit longer!” 

So I took a deep breath, ate some burnt chocolate, regained my strength and senses and decided to persist by getting creative with my odd sense of humor. So, tongue-in-cheek, I created a new recipe embracing the struggle. I called it,

Mommy Can't Bake Mix

Step 1: Wait till the last minute to make baked goods for your daughter's bake sale. Go to the store at night when most of the other crazies and overworked moms are out. Step 2: Look up easy recipe on phone that literally requires two minutes of baking time. Step 3: Screw up baking and throw tantrum / blame husband for no reason. Step 4: Pout for a minimum of 5 minutes. Step 5: Think to self, "Failure is Impossible,"- Susan B Anthony. Step 6: Throw failed ingredients into a bag anyway along with random treats found in cupboard like pretzels, m&ms, crackers, marshmallows, croutons, cough drops, glitter, etc. Step 7: Get computer genius husband to make cute labels. Step 8: Put it on social media like a legit baking mom would. The end.


If these treats were going to be bad, I was going to make them really bad. It became fun and funny. They became a novelty. I hoped people would buy them, not for the “treat” that was inside, but for the clever concept behind them. I ended up selling 5 bags! Turns out homemade brownies taste and sell better than clever concepts, however, I still counted success points in creativity!   

So, what did I learn from this “lemons to lemonade” moment, and how did I apply it to art education? I learned that when the objective of a problem becomes to make something really bad, the doors of humor and creativity become wide open. That’s where I got the idea for my middle school “Redesign” learning unit.

I start by introducing my students to the concept of object/product design, design thinking and the design process. We look at examples of everyday objects and talk about the differences between good design and bad design depending on factors such as the object’s intended use, intended customer, cost of materials, durability, demand, etc. All students share a story of a time when a product broke or failed. We also look at and describe the evolution of a product’s  design such as a car, the telephone and the vacuum cleaner. Students get concrete examples as to how visual arts have inherent relationships to everyday life through these product designs. Then it’s time for students to engage in a 2-4 day performance task.

I start the task by asking students to all select a different everyday-manmade-designed-object by having them cut one out of a magazine ad. I have also modified the task by asking all students to start with the same object such as a shoe. I have instructed students both ways and by settling on one object for everyone to focus on I do sacrifice the variety of outcomes, but I also save on time and the need for cutting and pasting materials. Either way, once the object is selected students are asked to reflect upon and explain the current relationship of the object to everyday life.

Then begins the fun part. Instruct students to make it bad. Invite them to redesign the product so that it is truly terrible by transforming it into something impractical, unappealing, and/or harder to use. In order to do this, the student must recognize the object’s intended use and successful design attributes and design against them. I tell my students that as long as their ideas are school appropriate, (no potty humor, nothing mean spirited or overly violent), that there are no limits to their creativity! At first some of my more regimented students don’t quite understand me, they don’t believe that I’m actually telling them to make something bad. I have to clarify that they are exercising their creativity in a new way by thinking about a design problem from a fresh perspective. By exploring what makes something really bad, you in turn are also open to exploring its opposite design, what might make it really good.  Then lightbulbs. Then students sketch truly creative results that they can’t wait to share with the class.

One of my favorites created by a 6th grade girl was a design that we quickly knick-named, “Shark Shoes.” What would make a pair of shoes the most uncomfortable shoes ever? Well, the answer is tiny sharks swimming in the bottom of your shoes that would bite your toes all day, of course!  Pair that with slippery seaweed soles and fish hook laces for added discomfort and you have a terribly creative design!


Students overwhelmingly enjoy this part of the process. They will fly around the room to share their ideas with everyone and anyone, each trying to one-up the others. It’s like I’m giving them permission to be silly and a little naughty and they love it! They reflect on their design through this verbal exchange and then in writing.

Then the next day the instructions flip. Students are asked to reimagine the design of their object to be even better than the current design. They must solve the problem of how to improve it. Again, there are no restraints to their creativity and they must reflect upon their design once it is complete. Below is a “good design” for a shoe that can not only adjust the temperature of your feet cooler or warmer depending on comfort zone required, but can emit four different pleasant fragrances including lavender and grape fizz from a secret compartment in the heel.


In conclusion, instructing to develop student creativity doesn’t always take a safe and expected path. Just like in real life, approaching a problem from a fresh point of view can open our minds and force us to think in new and interesting ways. Design problems can be fun and silly. Our best ideas sometimes arise from our failures when we give ourselves and our students the opportunity to flip the measure of success.   

This task is one that I wrote for the Michigan Arts Education and Instruction and Assessment (MAEIA) project. Here are links to the complete task booklets available on the MAEIA website.

Teacher Booklet
Student Booklet


Monday 06.12.17

6 Reasons to have a Stress-free Summer Student Art Show!

From: Carrie Jeruzal

Remember that art show that you put together in (insert month), at the same time you were teaching (insert number), different classes each day, coaching or advising (insert after school activity), as well as dealing with that one personal drama (insert any problem of humanity), all at the same time? Remember selecting artwork, organizing, matting, mounting it on the walls and hoping it doesn’t fall down, labeling, typing up artist statements and filling out other paperwork still spelling that one student’s name incorrectly, sending home letters and invitations to parents, notifying and typing up a press release for the local newspaper, posting it all over social media, coordinating judges, handing out awards, making cookies and punch for the reception, and finally hoping that your students, parents, staff and administrators have time to take notice in between all of their usual duties and disasters in order to marvel at the art and appreciate it all? That’s a lot of work, right? Even though many of us don’t get paid for coordinating art exhibits, and the endeavor of putting together a student art show is completely stressful, I think many of us can agree it is also completely worthwhile. What if you could downsize, regroup and make this process a bit more stress-free by doing it in the summer? Whether you move your one “big show” to the summer season or are looking to add in a “supplementary art show” to reach a wider audience and promote your program, this blog post asks you to consider just that and offers 6 reasons why you might want to give it a try!


1. You have the time.

To say teachers don’t work in the summer is really a farce. In the summer teachers may take Masters level courses, attend or instruct Professional Development sessions, work on organizing their classrooms, plan and write curriculum, get a summer job and/or become full time caretakers of their own families. But the school work done in the summer is typically well balanced, reflective, mindful, and re-energising. It’s not as fast paced or taxing. You can actually choose to focus in on a single task instead of feeling the strain of being pulled in multiple directions. A Summer Student Art Show provides you with the option of putting together an exhibit at a time when you are typically not bogged down with a million other school related duties. You aren’t in a rush. As long as you remember to hold back from sending all the artwork home in June, you actually have time to be mindful of the curation and installation processes. Getting the work done at a slower summer pace means you may even enjoy it!   

Flyer: Social Justice Issues: Art Objects and Installations
Flyer: Traveling Art Exhibit: Character Creature Features!

2. It can be small, flexible, manageable and non-competitive.

The summer art show does not have to feature one piece from each student, keep it small. I recommend that you perhaps discern by featuring a single class, a single assignment or narrow your number of artworks under a unifying theme. Perhaps your selected pieces need to simply fit in the venue space provided or be strictly 2D or 3D. Either way you decide to structure your show, set it for a time that works for you. Set it up when you can and take it down when you can. With three months to choose from, coordinating with a venue in the summer can be much more relaxed than during the school year when other teachers are also trying to “fit it all in”. Consider making the show unjuried; non-competitive. This removes a whole layer of pressure for both you and the students. It’s less work for you and allows for more freedom in selecting conceptual pieces that might not be your typical “judge-pleasers.”

3. The venue needs you.

Get the art out of the school. Select a venue that gets some summer traffic. Contact your local arts council, public library, theater, or bank. The venue can be non-traditional. If it doesn’t work out that you have access to a typical gallery space, settle for alternative display spaces such as lobbies, waiting rooms, and vestibules. You may find that your little art show is just what the venue needed to fill a void while professional artists are busy claiming summer residencies or caravaning through art fairs. Whatever the arrangement, the venue can only benefit from the summer flair of student artwork.  

4. It gives your students’ art a wider audience and advocates for your program.

I first started doing small summer student art shows three years ago when I felt the overwhelming need to offer my students’ work to a wider audience. At first it was 7th grade/3rd grade technology based collaborations that triggered student-made videos through Augmented Reality. And then it was powerful visual metaphors for Social Justice Issues created by my high school students. Their art was so good and so powerful I was compelled to get it out of the school and share it with the world. Also it was a solution to timing and space. Artwork that is created in the Spring was too late to fit into my annual Spring art shows and much of it didn’t actually physically fit into the art display cases. The summer show gave this work and these students the opportunity to share with the greater community which in turn advocates the quality and necessity of my art program.   

5. Reception optional.

Don’t have a reception. Or do. Consider this element of a student art show as a nicety that isn’t always necessary. Try a set it and forget it approach. People are busy in the summer, especially high school students with summer jobs, so allow them and the community to view the artwork at their convenience whenever the venue is open to accommodate its usual summer clientele. If you can arrange the artwork to be on display for a month or more it’s likely that more people will see it over a longer period of time rather than all in the same night or week anyway. This way you can avoid giving a speech, baking all those cookies, cookie fingerprints on the art and all the inevitable awkward conversations with parents (I’m terrible at small talk!). However, if you do chose to hold an official show opening or reception try to couple it with another event at the venue instead of a stand-alone soirée. This way you can share a budget for food and advertisement, accommodate the venue’s schedule and once again attract a wider audience.   

6. It elevates collaborative art.

In education today, we as educators, are facing tremendous pressure to embed collaborative learning in our classrooms. Yet there are very few opportunities for collaborative art to be displayed in traditional art shows. Collaborative artwork is inconvenient to judge and makes awarding prizes, scholarships, and traveling opportunities expensive or impossible. There may only be one ribbon to hand out, one scholarship to award or one opportunity for a free master class. I am happy to report that the Vans Custom Culture Contest and the Meijer Great Choices Film Festival are two exceptions to this rule against collaborative projects, but still, these platforms are very specific in media and process. Plus, they are highly competitive. Collaborative learning is research based, inclusive and offers insight into the “team process” that is practiced by most renowned art contemporaries. Consider that artist Ai Weiwei didn’t make all those ceramic sunflower seeds by himself, so why should we as art teachers only honor student artwork made by a single person? The summer art show offers the perfect solution to promote, highlight and elevate the amazing collaborative work created by my students.    


Tuesday 06. 6.17

Chunk and Bundle: The Bundled Assessment Approach for Demonstrating Teacher Effectiveness

From: Carrie A. Jeruzal

Navigating the world of assessment can be daunting, especially assessment in the arts. Arts assessments come in a variety of forms all dependent upon a variety of factors: resources available, specific arts discipline, grade level, etc. While information and research regarding assessment in the arts begins to mount, and the importance and pressure of reporting data from assessments becomes critical for demonstrating teacher effectiveness, I would like to offer up a “take a deep breath,” “let’s get organized and take it one step at a time,” practical approach to Visual Arts Assessment in the secondary classroom. Chunk it and Bundle it.

I teach K-12 Art in a small rural public school that serves just under 300 students in the entire district. I teach 2 hours of High School Art, 2 hours of Junior High Art, and 2 hours of Elementary Art each day. Just writing that makes me tired! Providing data on all these students at all of these different grade levels is too much and would literally become a full time job on its own. So to keep data management realistic I have selected a small portion of my population from which to pull my data. Since my High School students have a summative exam already worked into their semester schedule, the practical choice for me was to start with a selection of 16-25 high school students from which to pull data. That’s right, instead of trying to pull data from all 200+ of my students, I focus in on a manageable set. 

The data that I collect from these students is a bundle of 4 chunks:
    * MAEIA High School Level 1 Visual Art Performance Assessment Data
    * Digital Portfolio Performance Data using Google Classroom
    * Pre and Post Knowledge Data using Google Forms and Flubaroo add-on
    * Pre and Post Perception Data using Google Forms and Flubaroo add-on

This style of data collection requires forethought and organization at the very beginning of the school year. I often incorporate my assessment plans right into my curriculum maps and I store the data digitally. I also use an Student Learning Objective (SLO) document to serve as a kind of roadmap for my bundled approach. Although this type of document may not be necessary in every district, I do find getting organized in the very beginning very helpful. Also I feel using a bundled approach gives my students many options and chances for demonstrating their growth as opposed to relying upon a single assessment that may not be holistic. It’s comforting to know that my students have multiple opportunities to demonstrate their growth by using 4 different assessment methods.    

MAEIA Performance Task
This year my High School year long curriculum consists of three-dimensional art and design. The MAEIA assessment that I selected was the V.T409 3-D Wire Sculpture. MAEIA stands for Michigan Arts Education Instruction and Assessment. After administering the task to my students, I collected performance assessment data by way of digital photos submitted to students’ Google Classroom Accounts.  I also collected numeric data (point scores or grades), based on the rubric included in the MAEIA assessment. This process lasted approximately 5 class hours. 

Digital Portfolio
The second chunk of data that I collect is actually collected by my students. Students post all of their work into a digital file organized and housed in their Google Classroom accounts. When reporting my data I often have students select, print and document their own pre-proficient work and also proficient work. This method allows students to visually self assess their own learning and report that learning in a visual manner. I use the 5 C’s strategy (Content, Craftsmanship, Creativity, Communication, Composition) to guide students through this evaluation process midway through the year and then again at the end of the year. 

20 Questions Pre and Post
This set of data regards Knowledge Data. Think of a traditional multiple choice exam. I select 20 questions mainly focused on knowledge of key terms, concepts and image recognition. It is given within the first two weeks of school and then again during the final exam. I use Google Forms to administer the test and the Flubaroo add-on to grade the assessment and then chart and report the data. This chunk of data is collected fast; It only takes the students 15-20 minutes to complete. Technology is a huge timesavers and the forms can be reused again when I reteach the same curriculum.   

Perception of Growth Survey
The final set of data I collect and report is Pre and Post Perception Data. This answers the questions: Does the student know and realize when he or she is meeting a standard?, Is he or she trying to meet a standard?, and, how does the learner perceive his or her own growth? This is where a student offers up a short narrative of his or her perceived growth. There is power not only in the numbers and visuals of student growth data, but also in the student’s own story. Confidence, knowledge, experience, goals and learning in the arts are addressed in the student’s own voice. 

Bundle up all these chunks of data in a cohesive digital dossier and present them to your administrator during your final evaluation to demonstrate your effectiveness in not one, but in four different ways. This kind of data bundling presents visual, numerical and reflective narrative that all highlight the growth and learning of your students through cohesive methods.   

For more information on the Michigan Arts Instruction and Assessment project as well as additional assessment resources, please visit




Tuesday 05.30.17

Failing forward

From: Mary Elizabeth Meier

As art teachers work to develop assessments to gather information about student learning, I argue that we should assess habits and concepts which are of great importance in creative idea development. When I ask, “What matters most?” as I plan teaching and learning experiences, I consider the idea of failure. That is, making mistakes and exploring responses to failure. I attend to my role as teacher-facilitator to create a classroom culture of creative exploration in which students are empowered to play, exercise choice, make creative decisions that are not always successful and then work in collaboration to revise.

I remember exploring the idea of failing forward for the first time in a design-based thinking workshop led by Randy Granger, Past President of the Pennsylvania Art Education Association. Randy teaches his high school art students to work through many iterations of designs. Several years later, students enrolled in my art education methods course posed the question, “How should we support k-12 art students who are afraid of making a mistake in their artwork.” Together, we investigated the idea of “failing forward” as a framework for gathering information about student learning. (Students gave me permission to share our class discussion and some of their written reflections here).

One student, Letty, wrote in a reflection, “Instead of allowing failure to be one changeable mark in a whole composition, we [teachers tend to] assert failure as the sole, final mark” (Letitia Cawley, personal correspondence). Letitia observed that we must do more to help students understand creative mistakes as changeable and fruitful shifts along a meandering path of possibility. Therefore, failure is part of students’ experience to engage and persist (Hetland, et al, 2013) in their artistic process. Failure and its ambiguous role in creative process is worthy of our energy to document it. We can work in partnership with students to gather information about the role of creative failure, healthy risks, and momentum in artistic process.

Another pre-service student in our class, Beyona Eckstein, described the value of assessments of process by working with students as they develop a portfolio. Students can evaluate (find value) in their own work and the work of their peers by reflecting on their work as it unfolds over time. She wrote, “The idea of failing forward is about rethinking the way teachers have students document growth, how students are critiqued, and how they are assessed” (Beyona Eckstein, personal correspondence).

Beyona was making connections between “failing forward” as an assessment strategy and its value as part of a teaching philosophy rooted in her artistic practice as a ceramicist. Beyona wrote, “Not only is failing forward a method of teaching I want to practice, it is also a philosophy I want to follow... Art is the expression of human imagination and creative skills; when applied to students it is about eliminating the concept of finished work having beauty. As an artist, I find myself focusing on the making and the steps to a finished work, and rarely is the finished work ever complete. The process and method of failing forward is just that, [a] focus on the experience of creating. Finally, failing forward is about realizing mistakes and making them your motivation to work or create more” (Beyona Eckstein, personal correspondence).

Beyona asserted her intention to facilitate a studio-classroom where students are confident that failure is acceptable and is not permanent. She observed that help student to develop this stance of failing forward would help them grow as individuals in many of their life pursuits.



Hetland, L., Winner, E., Veenema, S., & Sheridan, K. M. (2013). Studio Thinking 2: The real benefits of visual arts education. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.


Thursday 05.25.17

Assess What Matters Most

From: Mary Elizabeth Meier

Teachers and students in k-12 classroom studios can work together to build a culture of creative idea development. The events that unfold are worth documenting. Documentation is a pedagogical orientation that students and teachers can take up together. Teachers can facilitate routines to fuel rigorous, spontaneous, and artful teaching/learning practices in which students’ artistic and creative exploration and growth are of primary importance. By documenting these experiences, we can reflect on them and expand them. By analyzing the information we gather, students and teacher assess what matters most.

Teachers who feel administrative pressure to comply with institutional assessment mandates might use a written quiz to assess students in their ability to identify discrete concepts (e.g., elements and principles of design). However, I urge art teachers to move beyond the format of quantitative, selected response quiz for assessments. We can use qualitative assessments as opportunities focus our attention on broad concepts, habits, dispositions, and events that are indicators of the most important aspects of student’s and teacher’s creative and artistic practice.

I use qualitative assessment design as a means of gathering information about student learning in order to fuel each student in idea development and artistic process. I teach pre-service teachers and coach in-service art teachers to do this work. I also reflect on my experience as an art teacher in elementary, middle level and high school settings. My first task as a teacher-facilitator is to attempt to identity what matters most for students to learn and then find ways to document and describe the qualities of experiences that unfold in the journey of learning. Secondly, I remain open to all of the rich experiences that will unfold in collaboration with students, especially those that I could not predict. Even as I attempt to pre-plan what matters most, I recognize that I cannot predetermine all that each student will learn. Furthermore, my information gathering teaches me what students find to be most important and most interesting about their experiences. My pedagogical orientation keeps me attune, awake, and listening to what students are learning. My assessment practice is rooted in gathering this information. I remain open to what students bring to the learning experience and what transpires in the real-time bustle of the studio classroom experience. Assessment is a back and forth process of gathering information as the story unfolds. Together, we assess what matters most, not what is easiest. We use the information we gather (students and teacher as collaborators) as an integral part of creative idea development. In this way, our assessment process is aligned with what we believe about art education. It is a contemporary, emergent process.

The ideas I set forth here correspond with an invitation to re-think assessment literacy for k-12 studio classroom contexts. I am developing open-ended assessment tools to empower art teachers to design their own information gathering methods. Our field is in need of bold art teachers who can advance new assessment practices. These practices will support what they believe is most important about working through artistic practice and advancing the unique work of art education in the art of teaching-learning.

I believe the creative idea development and processes of thinking via making are worth teaching, and therefore worth assessing. What do you believe about art education? What are the most important concepts and experiences, which are tied to your core beliefs? If these ideas are worth teaching, then they are worth assessing.


Wednesday 05.17.17

Assessment is Gathering Information About Student Learning

From: Mary Elizabeth Meier

Typically, the term, assessment is associated with numerical grading scales, objective testing, and quantitative accountability measures. In the art studio-classroom, I recommend that we shift toward a qualitative process of gathering information about student learning. When we gather qualitative information, we focus on qualities of experience rather than quantifications or arbitrary numerical representations. I advocate for a method of assessment that moves beyond simplified criterion based evaluation. Instead, rich descriptions and documentation of the qualities of emerging experience, process, questions, thinking, and making that fuel each students’ artistic process are important.

What does this look like in practice for teachers and professors who work in a studio-classroom context? One example of a shift toward gathering qualitative information is to work with students to develop open-ended lists that describe qualities of idea development and artistic behavior. For example, using the Studio Thinking 2: Habits of Mind (Hetland, Winner, Veenema, & Sheridan, 2013) as a framework, teachers and students can work together to explore the ways that an artist can “stretch and explore” or “engage and persist.” Students can learn to identify, analyze and reflect on the habits and dispositions that are related to creative thinking.

When I teach idea development in my University level Printmaking I course, I use the following student learning outcome (SLO).

Student Learning Outcome: Students will creative and revise ideas in stages of creative process.

SLO Assessment task: Students will 1) develop a sketchbook into a research notebook, 2) analyze and reflect on sketchbook entries, and 3) develop a series of prints that grows from individualized research and creative idea development.

Students made frequent entries in a spiral bound blank sketchbook. They used the sketchbook as a place to gather evidence about their individual creative process and in generating and revising ideas in the stages of monotype, monoprint, and relief printmaking methods. There were four opportunities during the semester for students to demonstrate their learning and processes. At two times during the semester they selected 5 pages from their sketchbook to photocopy and share with me, the professor. We conferred about their ideas using their visual and narrative analysis of their sketchbook entries. Students made their analysis visible to me by using sticky notes and marginalia to annotate the photocopies of sketchbook pages they selected. Later, they expanded their annotations to write a reflection paper as an interpretive analysis of their sketchbook work. Lastly, students developed their unique idea development workflow as they created a culminating print project in which they made many choices and exercised freedom in demonstrating 1) their understanding of the process of research in developing imagery as meaning making and 2) creating a hybrid process of making prints using two or more methods (e.g. planographic and relief).

The following are descriptors of habits for creative idea development. I have written them into an open-ended, flexible list that is a tool for assessment. I use these descriptors to encourage university students majoring in graphic design, art education, art therapy, and studio art to use their research notebook/sketchbook in the idea development phases of works in progress. These descriptors appear on the checklist under the heading, “engage and persist” (Hetland et. al., 2013). The list is not intended to prescribe precisely how students will engage and persist. Rather, I use it to provide ideas for a student to begin their own working process. There is also a blank, open field in the list for students to write in their own descriptors of their process.

* Poses new questions, expands an idea that originates in wondering, questioning
* Experiments and refines work with tools, materials, methods, techniques
* Tries new approaches, ideas, with curiosity
* Takes risks and plays with error/failure
* Pushes the limits, imagines more possibilities
* Plays with ideas and concepts using multiple approaches
* Seeks alternatives, finds what is missing, views the problem from a different perspective
* Moves between what is and what could be
* Adapts a known model

This assessment task draws on formative (sketchbook pages with annotated analysis and written reflection) and summative (culminating project) components. To give students feedback about the information we were gathering about their learning, we used one open ended checklist as a scoring tool to give individualized feedback in the form or written comments as relevant to three sources of evidence (10 pages from sketchbook, reflection paper, and final artwork).  To meet the University administrative mandate of the SLO, I set the target/goal for 75% of students show strong evidence of the qualities of generating and revising ideas in stages of creative process. We met our target when 79% students in the Printmaking I course demonstrated proficiency in the following dimensions of the assessment rubric:

* Research and making connections with artists and movements
* Observational drawing and sensory observation
* To engage and persist in idea development and technical methods
* To stretch and explore in idea development and technical process
* To reflect, revise, and refine stages of creative process

I believe that idea development and habits of creative thinking are worth assessing. We must empower art teachers who may feel caught up in institutionalized assessment practices (e.g., grading, testing, SLOs, and teacher evaluation) to find support in contemporary assessment literacy that is aligned with what we believe about art education. I argue that we should assess what matters most. In the next blog post I will expand the idea of failure as part of the principle, “assess what matters.”



Hetland, L., Winner, E., Veenema, S., & Sheridan, K. M. (2013). Studio Thinking 2: The real benefits of visual arts education. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.



Monday 05. 1.17

The Practice of Assessment as Information Gathering

From: Dr. Mary Elizabeth Meier

In the role of University professor, I mentor art educators as they consider structures and routines to support k-12 art students in creative thinking, idea development, and other emergent learning experiences. The process that an art teacher undertakes to design learning experiences for students is related to developing ideas in stages of artistic process. More specifically, I encourage both pre-service and in-service art teachers to think about their process of curricular and assessment design as alike to their own working style as an artist.

Recently, students (the undergraduate art education students enrolled a University course I teach) and I were comparing methods to support high school art students with timely feedback about their work in progress. We debated the role and value of a final, summative critique to fuel students’ process of learning and idea development in art. One student expressed a preference for in-process critiques to occur at the mid-way stage of making hand-built ceramic work. She explained that well-timed feedback could allow a student to implement suggestions immediately. Positive, specific feedback is one facet of assessment that is designed to fuel students in their artistic process.

In this series of blog posts, I will outline a set of recommendations for contemporary art education as related to the practice of assessment as information gathering. These recommendations are those that I teach in my undergraduate and graduate University courses and are the basis for many professional learning workshops that I lead for in-service art and music teachers. The six ideas listed below form a basic framework for a “teacher’s toolkit” in assessment practices that is responsive to emergent curriculum, creative choice, and qualitative methods. Here is a brief look at some of the ideas I will write about this month as the NAEA monthly mentor for May 2017:

- Assessment is gathering information about student learning
- We should assess what matters most
- Assessment fuels each student’s artistic process with well timed, specific feedback
- The work of assessment is shared by students and teachers
- We can develop assessment tools to support exploration and idea development in students over time