Authentic Assessment

How in-depth and accurate are the assessments in your classroom?

For most of my career as an Art teacher, I have prided myself on having what I thought were some of the most authentic assessments in any curriculum in our school. Either you can draw or you cannot. Either your painting looked like a bottle or it didn’t. For simple things this worked fine. I have found that while this can evaluate a student’s ability to paint or draw or sculpt, it does a less accurate job of evaluating learning in conceptual standards like Composition or Engaging the Viewer. I am constantly looking for ways to refine my assessment to glean as much information as possible.

For my latest and most open assessment method, I have come up with what I call “Prove It” assignments. Instead of lecturing for a couple days on rule of thirds or some other topic, I send students out to research on the Internet. I am present to answer questions, and facilitate the self-directed learning. When the students understand the concept, they prove what they learned with a blog post and an art project. When the artwork is complete, I have my students work individually through a series of questions designed to start a conversation about the assigned standard. I meet with students one-on-one to discuss their learning, and ask them to “prove it.”

My questions often sound like this, “Where in your drawing did you use overlapping to create the illusion of space?” or “Tell me about how you used leading lines to draw attention to your focal point.”

This method of guiding my student’s learning sometimes means that I give the same lecture 30 times in one day. The difference is that I am asking kids about their own artwork. Many of these students would have drifted off during a whole-class lecture. It is too easy to shrink back in a class of 15 or 20. Some students plan up front to not answer question. But when it is just me, one student, and their artwork, real learning takes place. This is the most authentic assessment method I have ever used.


What do you think? Do you have a more authentic method in your classroom? I would love to hear about it.

Comments and Critiques are always welcome.



About Mr. Miller

I teach Visual Arts in La Junta, Colorado. I am also an artist and printmaker. But more importantly, I am a husband and father to a beautiful and inspiring family.
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