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Anthony Lopez Carrie Sippy ENG 1102-070 April 2, 2013 Assessing The Arts: Should Art Education Be Standardized?

Would setting expected set goals for art students affect their aesthetic growth? Should teachers assess their students based on whether teachers should concentrate their efforts on evaluating the student's learning process or solely on the work they make? Lets explore this and more as we first picture this scenario: You are an aspiring art student. You have little experience with 3D design. Your teacher assigns you to craft a 3D sculpture based on the concept of an alligator biting its tail. You sketch and think long and hard about how you're going to structure your piece. How big will it be? How will it stand? What texture will it wear? Hours pass, maybe even days until Ding, ding, ding! You have your idea! You take a different approach rather than follow what is strictly expected, and gather the needed materials from pencils to paper, from wood to glue. You spend endless nights vigorously sawing, gluing, and drilling your sculpture until, finally, critique day comes. You show up to class and present your work to the teacher only to find out that what you've made does not

communicate your idea to the teacher at all. In fact, your teacher does not like it and does not understand your sense of expression one bit. You are left with a poor grade but only because you did what you felt you wanted to do instead of what the stale criteria expected from you. Hold on to this visual. Now before I get further into assessing the visual arts, I want to first mention that over the years, art education has been the butt of most educational systems across America. "In brief, arts education has not been considered an important contributor to the "constructive" goals of U.S. society because the public regards the arts as a play-oriented activity in a work-oriented world." (Welter) Attempts to standardize the arts curriculum is not easy with the concerns of limitations on teachers and students' creative performances and learning. Sincere learning, according to Welter, in arts education comes from a grounded system, not one with unplanned, unorganized class assignments. A lot of people could argue that there is no need for arts when its, as mentioned early, not work but play. In truth though, art is just as hard as any other subject of study, if not harder. It requires time, patience, and discipline along with a tall glass of fresh personality. In fact, art is a lifestyle. Going back to the scenario from earlier, should a teacher even

grade you on what the standard expects or what you have personally accomplished through your own progress? You took a creative risk didn't you? I mean whose to slap a grade on your artistic lifestyle? From my experiences I've seen, teachers use restricted guidelines to help guide students in a certain direction but I've also seen the possible negative effects that limit their artistic potential. Ive seen students get frustrated with the demands of a standard curriculum and the way teachers will go about grading criteria. A lot of students, from my research, actually tend to think that a limit or a restriction of any kind on their education will result in having lost opportunities of discoveries and originality. I've been reading up on Cole H. Welter's essay, Grade-Level Assessment in The Arts, and it has valuable points on why visual arts should be standardized in competing with todays general education. For any artist or student, this curriculum should be taken seriously. Students need measurable, set goals so their outcomes can be tracked and identified easily. Higher level students also need to be evaluated on their growth and intellectual capacity (Welter). Guskey could argue that students, no matter what age level, dont particularly need to strictly use the standards as a base, but rather further expand from it so teachers can recognize the diversity in different students growth

and personal learning. Sincere learning would come from a strong foundational curriculum as Welter would put it. He argues that A standardized and measurable arts curriculum would offer a stable, welcome respite to those, grappling with the demands of daily arts teaching. To eschew standardization would mean a continuation of the presently disjointed assemblage of educational practices with their conflicting aims and scrambled outcomes." (Welter, "Grade-Level Assessment In The Arts: Of Stoppages And Stratagems") In other words, an art curriculum that is organized and planned would benefit teachers and students and essentially put them on a track that is less arbitrary with its results. In opposition of this is Rothstein who believes that in any subgroup, or any population as a whole, even in the set of environments, "challenging" achievement in a particular subject for higher-ability students would be impossibly hard for those who were slower, and "challenging" achievement for slower would be too easy for brighter ones. (55) He would say that standardization, focusing on one goal, would cause more scrambled problems individually to those struggling in certain areas. I think its funny how Welter calls out these criticisms that standardization and assessment limit unplanned educational

opportunities are in themselves as product of narrow thinking when standardization is widely thought of as narrow thinking. He makes a great point that simply because a standardized curriculum suggests the need to focus on predetermined goals, teachers and students as groups or individuals are not denied formal or informal opportunities to plan divergent avenues of educational exploration into the curriculum." (Welter, Grade-Level Assessment In The Arts: Of Stoppages And Stratagems") Predetermined goals sound like bland, artificial goals set by the man that need to be satisfied. Its this thought that many art students have trouble dealing with because it feels like their own talents, skills, desires, or personal goals are diminished into just mere letter grades just like in the earlier example. What Welter does is look at the BIG picture. At earlier elementary grade levels, students will be identifying things like shapes, colors, and textures. Then as they grow older and reach towards the middle and upper- grade levels they will be concentrating on more data-oriented information likes names, historical dates, scales, and techniques etc. that they should be able to manipulate. (Welter, Grade-Level Assessment In The Arts: Of Stoppages and Stratagems") Once they have this down, they should be able to demonstrate the comprehension of these techniques/skills. Its

only through practicing and using what you learn that you can show much youve learned. Thats potentially why schools need the standards. To keep students in line with what they are absorbing from their education. Even art students need this, especially since a lot of us are forgetful and we dont know what were going to do immediately, or what we think we will do, career wise. Its great to be passionate but passion would require us to hold on to basic skills and work on them constantly. Even if artist want to explore different mediums to express different emotions or concept, they would still need some grounded know-how. So what about you, the struggling art student who was graded harshly for exploring his/her own media? I would think that wasnt fair and there should be no need for grading ones personal, hard worked piece. Although, lets think, what if it wasnt graded. What would that accomplish? Gruber addressed in his article that for years, back in the 1960s, art education didn't enforce any grades on student work. It actually lacked any measurement of learning. In fact, art education wasn't considered an academic discipline. At one point, the classical approach to determining grades in art found the terms assessment and evaluation used interchangeably. But now, evaluation encompasses the global aspects of the curriculum while assessment refers to more

tightly focused measurements at the level of the individual student and his or her interactions within the art program. (Gruber, Measuring Student Learning in Art Education.) Thats why Welter was so interested in getting the art curriculum standardized. Art is an academic discipline and it can focus at an individual, personal level with each student. This leads to assessing student work. Guskey made the connection that assessment leads into art criticism which provides students with the methods and content to make works of art more meaningful and satisfying by knowing how to look at art, what to look for, and how to discuss and write about art. Teachers use instructional strategies to involve their students in observing, describing, analyzing, interpreting, and evaluating or judging art . Art criticism promotes sensory awareness, perceptual discrimination, and judgement. (Guskey 81-82) Grades are not just devices to torment students or incentives that will force them to do better but rather theyre points of interest that show where a student needs to really improve upon in their performance. Grades dont reveal everything thats there but its the feedback, the narratives, and criticisms associated with them are what matter the most because they can influence the artist to continue resolving issues in art. Gruber also makes a connection that no single aspect of assessment

can provide a representative and accurate measurement of student learning in art. Art educators call for a variety of assessment strategies that include testing, observation, products, and portfolios. This is a "balanced approach" because it uses like the four legs of a table, the four assessment strategies form a balanced support for a comprehensive assessment plan. (Gruber, Measuring Student Learning in Art Education.) Theres a call for teachers to be able to take into account of their students' behaviors and where their modes of thinking come from. Gruber suggests they use rubrics and checklists to record data to help keep students accountable for their own work. Haller would add that accountability also requires communication. Experts have learned to look at things a different way from non experts but they also need an approach to dening the creativity of products that transcends creativity cultures and can thus be used across disciplines, although it must be understandable to both experts and also inexperienced non experts. (Haller, "Perhaps There Is Accounting For Taste: Evaluating The Creativity Of Products.") There needs to be a system that will identify strengths and weaknesses of students' work so that both parties will understand what needs to be improved and where success can be lead. Overall, the purpose of an art education, of this discipline, is for

students to gain an understanding and tolerance of alternative viewpoints about the merit of art and to encourage them to reflect on a spectrum of criteria and standards of excellence. Today educators expect quality art programs to adhere to basic educational principles in their planning, implementation, and evaluation similar to any other subject included in the school curriculum. (Guskey 82) There is a need for professional evaluation and systems that will build up what students already know. Professionals will assess individual and raise them to become professionals themselves. Narrowed minded schools and accountability dont accomplish anything. That's why students need to follow through and not only accomplish what the standards put down but what individual goals their faithfully working towards. (Rothstein 55) From what Ive researched, these authors make it clear that teachers should be looking at individuals performances and work and should be ensuring that the future of their professional careers can be faithfully invested in them. Students are a reflection of their teachers. And as always communication is key and can help resolve conflict or problems when discussed ahead of time. Grades are simply a matter of keeping track of student learning but shouldnt be the main focus because if it is, well artists may get frustrated and stray off their goals.

But maybe these failures can inspire to try harder. Achieving good grades can definitely be a great goal but art students must think beyond that mode of thinking and think about the long term; how can they use their art for the rest of their lives, and how they can communicate it with their audience- even if its their least favorite, picky teacher in the world. Gaining feedback from different points of view will enhance the artist to expand further ideas or create/interpret new ones.