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?)