SchoolArts Magazine

October 2018

SchoolArts is a national art education magazine committed to promoting excellence, advocacy, and professional support for educators in the visual arts since 1901.

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A S S E S S M E N T S ince 2004, I have taught art in a large, ethnically diverse public high school. In my ongoing search for a meaningful and reasonably objective method for assessing artwork, I created and spent several years wres - tling with a rubric that would function b oth as a tool for improving student learning and as a method for grading. My Problem with Rubrics For me, the problem with rubrics is one of scope. At one end are those that pro- vide little feedback and are too impre- cisely worded. At the opposite end are t hose that are so lengthy as to be cum- bersome, yet, despite their verbiage, are a lso imprecise and largely confound- ing. An example of the former is the a ll-too-common rubric that tries to address the commonly accepted seven elements of art and seven principles of design as one criterion. Such clustering confounds thoughtful grading and fails to provide useful feedback. To be the most helpful, both teach- ers and students need to be able to u nderstand what more tangible attri- butes the work must possess in order t o achieve the desired qualities. Enter the leveled checklist. The Leveled Checklist Bogged down in grading one day, I thought to myself, "There has to be a better way!" And the comprehensive, yet student-friendly, leveled check - list was born. "Leveled" because, for e ach criterion, students demonstrate mastery at one of three levels: Never/ Rarely/No, Sometimes/Moderately, and Frequently/Always/Yes. Since that original instrument's inception, I peri - odically rework it, a process that will c ontinue ad infinitum as I discover new possibilities requiring me to rethink what, how, and why I teach and assess. Thoughts about Rubrics I contend that it is possible and even preferable to use a thoughtful leveled checklist when assessing all of the above, including "deeper understand - ing," provided that the criteria are care- fully chosen and precisely worded for t he tightest possible alignment with what, how, and why a teacher teaches. In my experience, painstakingly selected, worded, and leveled criteria can transform the lowly did-it-didn't- do-it checklist into a powerful tool for teaching and learning. But, in the end, what works for a given teacher, within his or her teaching context, is what's right because assessment is highly per - sonal, not to mention political. Leveled Checklist Examples The moniker "checklist" implies a superficiality of which a well-written instrument cannot be accused. My admittedly imperfect checklist is divided into subheads beginning with the letter "C": Conception; Creativity & Planning; Core Technical Skills; Contrast of Value; Composition; Color; Consideration/Reflection; and Context (related Art Criticism, History, and Aesthetics dimensions explored via sketchbook journal entries). While space prevents a thorough discussion of each subhead here, a closer look at two provides insight into my approach. F or a checklist to be effective, the teacher must be clear about what is required to achieve quality, just as she or he must thoughtfully weigh and select qualifiers that capture the desired nuances. For me, under Com - position are criteria such as, Domi- nant Objects/Images, Focal Point, n or Empty Space is MOP (Middle of Page) or Focal Point/Main Objects Not Edge-Huggers, both of which lead to a more sophisticated manipulation of space. To be sure, a criterion such as "Overlapping of Major Components is Used Effectively" involves a value judg - ment, but one that is easily addressed t hrough a marginal notation if neces- sary. Exceptions for which the "rules" The Quest for Useful Art Assessment Tools CONTINUED ON PAGE 53. Leveled criteria can transform the lowl did-it-didn't-do-it checklist into a powerful tool for teaching and learning. Betsy DiJulio and Lynn Beck 16

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