Of great concern among many teachers I work with is the question of how art should be evaluated. Implementation of any sort of art program — no matter how large or small — should involve careful evaluation of the students and their work, just as any subject of study in school does. For many people though, their first and only thought about art evaluation is, “How does it (the finished product) look?” or, “Does it look good/real?” These are the kinds of responses we’ve been conditioned to think about because many of us equate making art with some sort of “contest”. The problem with this type of thinking is that it is extremely limited. To restrict one’s evaluation of a piece of artwork to the end product alone, leaves all consideration of the process out of the equation. In my experience, it’s during the process of making art that much of the “good stuff” — critical thinking/problem solving — happens!
In my years of teaching, I have found it makes sense to consider the process of art making as well as the end product. More specifically, I believe that both process and product should be considered within the framework of each student individually. This is not as overwhelming as it sounds. Effort and involvement are key considerations when looking at the process a student goes through when creating any piece of art. The teacher should ask him or herself things like, “How involved did this student really get with the art experience? Did they explore many possibilities, or rush to get through it? Did they explore the materials made available during the experience? Did they take any artistic risks? Did they challenge themselves? What type of thinking did they do while working on the piece?” … and so on. It doesn’t matter how much — or how little — art background an individual has, everyone can and should be expected to put forth his or her greatest effort during an art experience. Different individuals will most certainly bring a wide variety of skills and prior experience to the table, but an evaluation of their process — including their effort and involvement — instantly levels the playing field, no matter what the final outcome (product) “looks like”. (And really, who among us is qualified to “judge” the outcome only of an art experience when the expression is so personal, coming entirely from within the child?)
“When individuality appears, that’s the beginning of art.” — Pablo Picasso
Artistic expression comes from within. Perhaps more than any other subject in school, art allows children to explore and to express who they are…as well as who they want to become.
When we teach our students math… 2+2 =4… always. When we teach our students history… the people, places, and dates remain fixed in time. When we teach our children spelling and grammar… there are rules to be mastered and followed. All of this learning is “external”… originating outside of the child. But when we teach our students art, the work comes from inside them… their expressions are unique… individual… authentic. The level of creative thinking and problem solving that’s involved in any legitimate art experience is extraordinary, and if students are demonstrating their full effort and involvement in an art experience, who’s to say the outcome is “wrong”? This type of artistic expression naturally leads to authentic success, which is a profound way to motivate our students to engage in greater learning challenges.
Providing your students with frequent opportunities to authentically and successfully express their learning across the curriculum through art, will yield benefits beyond your wildest imagination.
To get started, click on the Fresno Pacific University link at the top of this page to register for one or more of my 3 unit, distance learning, independent study classes. These courses will show you how easy it can be to bring the power of art into your classroom.
Whether you’re a teacher still enjoying his or her winter break — or you’ve already made the jump back into school — now is a great time to consider how you can make art a foundational part of your classroom curriculum in the coming months.
Perhaps you might consider setting a simple goal of incorporating one art experience per month into a lesson you already plan to teach, for the remainder of the school year. You could continue this creative trend by involving yourself in some art experiences every month through your summer break. Might I be so bold as to suggest that you sign up for one of my Professional Development courses through Fresno Pacific University? You’ll learn a lot about incorporating art into your classroom and you’ll have fun while doing it! (Click on “Courses for Credit” at the top of this page.) When fall comes around and brings with it a fresh new school year, you’ll be prepared and confident, ready with the skills you developed while working with me over the summer.
This could be the start of something wonderful and very creative…