Monthly Mentor

Leslie Gates (May)
Each month, a different member and NAEA awardee is the guest writer for the NAEA Monthly Mentor Blog. Leslie Gates, Ph.D. is Associate Professor of Art Education at Millersville University of Pennsylvania, where she coordinates the undergraduate and graduate art education programs. She has taught visual art at the high school and elementary levels in both urban and rural contexts. Leslie's research interests are art educator's professional learning, assessment in the arts, and feminist and choice-based pedagogies. Her research, using participatory and feminist approaches, often means she is working alongside art educators to identify problems and work towards possible solutions. Click "GO" to read her full bio.



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« Assessment is Gathering Information About Student Learning | Main | Failing forward »

May 25, 2017

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.



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