Research Summary for Assessment
Performance assessments empower students to assess their work with a view toward developing, experimenting, and expanding their own art and their understanding of the broader context of art in the world. Varied performance assessments measure differentiated learning, resulting in individualized teaching that matches unique student needs (Saphier & Gower, 1997; Wiggins & McTighe, 1998; Brooks & Brooks, 1999; Eisner, 1999; Suskie, 2000).
In constructivist settings, including the choice-based art room, assessment is continuous and constant. Students demonstrate evidence of understandings through the context of their daily work (Barth, 1971; Brooks & Brooks, 1999; Stiggins, 1999). Assessment of students' achievements is collaborative: student to self, student to peers, student to teacher, and teacher to student (Ede, 1987; Dunn & Larson, 1990; Thompson, 2002; Thompson & Bales, 1991; Tinzmann, et al, 1990). In particular, frequent formative assessments increase the learning of low-achieving students (Wiliam & Black, 1998).
Self-assessment is essential to student confidence and, ultimately, success in learning (Barth, 1971). Among the opportunities for self-assessment are rubrics, journals, letters to self, discussions with peers and teacher, artist statements, selection of artwork for exhibition, and goal-setting. One of the most popular assessment tools is the rubric, designed with a range of expectations along the continuum from beginner to proficient user (Wiggins & McTighe, 1998). When students join the teacher in determining criteria for assessment, they take ownership of their learning (Saphier & Gower, 1997; Stix, 1997). Inviting students to negotiate criteria for assessment and to measure their own progress results in greater autonomy and more positive attitudes toward evaluation (Kohn, 1993).
For students to take an active role in their learning, they need to be aware of their status. Teaching students how to self-assess is a vital role of the teacher. Helping them to recognize their current abilities, clarify goals, and identify strategies is the responsibility of the teacher (Black & Wiliam, 1998; Brooks & Brooks, 1993. Wiggins and McTighe (1998) include "self-knowledge" as one of six critical components of understanding.
Knowing when to provide feedback is critical in the choice-based classroom. Holt (1983) encourages teachers to provide time for beginners to explore without intervening questions so they may develop solid understandings through experimentation. Misconceptions are part of learning; by resolving misconceptions, students redirect their learning and move forward (Barth,1971; New, 1993; Saphier & Gower, 1997). Errors are inevitable while learning; in a supportive learning environment, improvement will result from failure, especially if students are actively involved in self-assessing their progress (Stiggins, 1999). Students who are having difficulty making choices will benefit by teacher intervention, when the teacher is able to provide observations of past performance and suggestions for expanding repertoires (Hawkins, 1971). Use of open-ended questioning strategies encourages student inquiry and should be thoughtful and inclusive of all students' perspectives (Black & Wiliam, 1998; Brooks & Brooks, 1993; Wiggins & McTighe, 1998).
Documentation of student understandings must reflect individual teachers' methods for maintaining records. Saphier and Gower (1997) recommend checklists, journals, anecdotal notations, and portfolios. Because children in choice-based art programs determine where their artwork goes, one could substitute exhibitions for portfolios, thereby not requiring artwork to remain at school unless by the choice of the artist. Discrepancies arise when performance assessments must be summarized for grading purposes (Wiggins & McTighe, 1998).
Several researchers recommend that teachers advocate for more representative systems for reporting student achievement and reflecting a range of understandings (Black & Wiliam, 1998; Seeley, 1994). Students should be assessed against set standards, never against one another (Black & Wiliam, 1998). Negative impacts result from objective measures of knowledge (Barth, 1971). Evaluations must reflect multiple assessment measures and information, not just scores. This necessitates a change in public attitude toward grading practices to include formative assessment summaries and to create a climate of success in learning (Eisner, 1999; Franklin, 2002; Saphier & Gower, 1997; Suskie, 2000).
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Brooks, M.G. & Brooks, J.G. (1999, November). The courage to be constructivist. Educational Leadership 57 (3). Retrieved August 2002 from http://www.ascd.org/frameedlead.html
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Ede, L. (1987, March). The case for collaboration. Paper presented at the 38th annual meeting of the Conference on College Composition and Communication, Atlanta, Ga. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED282212)
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Franklin, J. (2002, spring). Are alternate methods making the grade? Curriculum Update Retrieved August 2002 from http://www.ascd.org/readingroom/cupdate/2002/spr02_franklin.html
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Hawkins, D. (1971). I, thou, it. In C.H. Rathbone (Ed.), Open education: The informal classroom. New York: Citation Press.
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Stix, A. (1997). Creating rubrics through negotiable contracts and assessment. Paper presented at the National Middle School Conference, Baltimore, Md. Retrieved August 2002 from http://www.interactiveclassroom.com/articles_006.htm
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Thompson, C. (2002, April). Drawing together: Peer influence in preschool and kindergarten art classes. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, New Orleans, La.
Thompson, C. & Bales, S. (1991). Michael doesn't like my dinosaurs: Conversations in a preschool art class. Studies in Art Education, 33, 43-45.
Tinzmann, M.B., Jones, B.F., Fennimore, T.F., Bakker, J., Fine, C., & Pierce, J. (1990). What is the collaborative classroom? Retrieved August 2002 from http://www.ncrel.org/sdrs/areas/rpl_esys/collab.htm
Wiggins, G. & McTighe, J. (1998). Understanding by design. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.