Friday, October 31, 2014

Objective or Subjective Assessment Data

Greetings, I originally posted this as a comment, but see that comments can get lost in blog format so I'm re-posting as a Post. 
I was touched, saddened, maddened and "get it" when I read this response on the teacher reflections list:

"Lessons that are easy to assess and show “data” – Even though we are evolving as art educators, we are being pressured more and more to show “data” and “evidence of learning.” I love the new approaches I’ve adopted and the students are being more reflective of their process, but creating ways to measure this practice is a tough task so I’m still embracing some of those old lessons that are easier to show datA and all the other accountability admin wants."

Remember that the use of the term "data" is a fad. 

If questioned even the most hardboiled administrator will explain that what s/he wants is clear evidence of learning that is summed up in numerical form. 

A typical criteria for an "old school art style project" might state that "Shading creates a 3D form" or "Use elements and principles to create expressive meaning." One can then write out a rubric--which usually amounts to 
"doesn't, somewhat does-does well-does exceptionally" 
and then assign numbers to these categories. One is still making (professionally informed) subjective judgments and then correlating these with numbers. 

The weird illusion is that somehow we now have objective data when we quantify subjective judgments.

Here's one criteria from the Model Cornerstone Assessment for Visual Arts High School Proficient : 
"Apply relevant criteria from traditional and contemporary cultural contexts to examine, reflect on, and plan revisions for works of art and design in progress."

*  How to implement: As projects near completion teacher and students review the different sorts of criteria that seem to apply to a particular work.
* Students then describe and analyze what this criteria suggests as a way to bring a work (their own and the work of others) to a higher level--what is good and meaningful about this work-in-progress? What might be done to make it even better? 
*  A teacher could then easily create a score for how well a student participated in this activity with regard to his/her own work and to the work of fellow students. 

New paradigms for assessment may seem strange and complicated, but it's really a matter of habit, 
of making and re-using rubrics and forms, of educating students and admin about what we are assessing. 

It's important to recognize that quality summative arts assessment of the future will summarize data gathered through in process formative assessments. 

I don't think Art Education can remain credible if the only evidence of learning we base our evaluations on are projects made in response to assigned art exercises. 

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