Monthly Mentor

Natalie C. Jones (February)
Each month, a different member is the guest writer for the NAEA Monthly Mentor Blog. Natalie C. Jones is an artist, small business owner, and the director of education at the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture. She has 10 years of experience working as an art teacher and teaching artist throughout the east coast and the Midwest. Click "GO" to read her full bio.



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« Looking to Next Year and Beyond...Planning, Planning, Personal Choice | Main | Looking to Next Year and Beyond...Reverse Engineering, the Journey »

April 15, 2020

Looking to Next Year and Beyond...Rubrics are more than GREAT JOB!

By Matt Young

I remember most of the art projects that I did in school because it was my ‘thing’. I was always getting complimented on how I was ‘talented’ and I had a ‘gift’.  And what I remember about most of my work was that I did a ‘GREAT JOB’. My purpose of this opening is to not brag about how I was a good artist, but to make a point that despite all of my ‘talent’, the thing that I remember about my work is that I did a great job. I do not remember what the learning objective of the assignment was, what skills or techniques I had mastered or not, or remember the creative processes that led me to the outcome that later became my ‘Great Job’.

Students need to know what they are supposed to be learning and why they are doing it. We have national visual arts standards and most states have standards as well.  If we as art educators want our work to be as valued as the core subjects, we have to teach and assess the same way as those subjects. We have to move away from vague or subjective rubrics and focus on specific standards so that students (and administration) can easily see what is required for the mastery of those skills.

Now, rubrics can become very long and complicated. You can nitpick at every little detail and make them mind-numbingly long. Not only will students lose interest, but you will be grading these forever!  My suggestion is to keep it short and sweet. No less than 3 and no more than 6 categories; with clear objectives and masteries in each category.  For example one of our categories is GOAL: What is the final outcome of the project?

  • Students followed their plan and had requirements x,y,and z = 100% completion.
  • Students had changes to their plan and had requirements x and y = 75%
  • Students did not follow their plan and requirement x = 50%


This is a clear outcome that everyone can follow.  Students can easily see and fix what they have missed to correct their work.  They are reminded of what the GOAL was for the project.  This also fits in with the National Standard ‘Develop criteria to guide making a work of art or design to meet an identified goal.’ 

I know I have mentioned this in other blog posts, but I work with some really great teachers.  We have all identified the categories that we want to focus on as a department: Goal, Craft, Design(Creativity), Persistence/Effort. The rubric is flexible since the teacher may assign points or percentages to each category with clear objectives for each.  This provides students with clear reasons as to what they have mastered (or not) and why their grade is what it is.

Students can also see where they may struggle and try to do more in other categories. For example I had a student who had palsy, his craft grade would not have been good due to the shaking in his hands.  But what he could do was design and persist.  So where I could be honest with him that his craft level was low, he scored off the charts on the other two categories that pushed him ahead to mastery in the class.

So, looking forward to next year, reflect on how many ‘GREAT JOBS!’ have you given?  Are your kids clear on what they are learning? Do their objectives fit state or national standards? And, are you agonizing over what grades your students have earned?  Set up clear rubrics and make everyone’s lives easier...including yours.

Download a sample rubric here.

Rubric jpeg



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