Archives for the month of: April, 2014

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAStudents taking my professional development courses often ask me how to evaluate and grade artwork that their students have made. Unlike other curricular areas such as math or history, art is a subject that doesn’t result in answers that can be marked “right” or “wrong”, so how should a teacher go about grading it? The answer — in my opinion — is easier than you might think.

When I’m evaluating student artwork, I focus mainly on two things: their effort and their involvement.

Where art is concerned, people tend to get caught up in what the finished piece (or outcome) “looks like”, rather than the quality of the process that got them there. Differences in art exposure and experience will produce vastly different outcomes between students, so that hardly seems an equitable approach to evaluation. For example, as a trained artist, how my final art piece compares to the work of someone who has never held a paint brush doesn’t make sense. But EVERYONE can demonstrate a high level of effort and involvement when creating art, and I believe this is the key.

Rather than “getting the right answer” — in the form of a finished piece that looks a certain way — I believe that authentic art experiences should encourage exploration of subject matter and materials. Sometimes this exploration results in an end product that is expected and satisfying to the maker and the viewer… sometimes not. But both should be valued as creative growth and as successful.

With older students in particular, I often list requirements or expectations for a given art experience. This lets the students know in very specific terms what techniques and/or materials I expect them to use during their work. When such a list is part of the assignment, then naturally the use — or omission — of them becomes part of my evaluation process. If a required element is not explored or included, that counts “against” the grade. This circles back to my original premise of evaluating effort and involvement, because if a student hasn’t attempted the requirements, they clearly haven’t demonstrated their full effort, nor have they been fully involved in the assignment.

An example came up this week with a professional development student of mine submitting photos and an evaluation to me of an art lesson she taught to her own students. Of one student’s work she remarked, “His piece ended up just looking like a lot of black on the paper, rather than distinct lines.” Nevertheless, she included that piece in the display, and I applauded her for that. What I said back to her was that for that particular student, his process of drawing the lines — though he did it over and over again until his work was a mass of black — was a more important exploration and experience, than of having a final piece that looked a certain way. Did he demonstrate effort in the creation of his piece? Yes! He took the process of drawing lines so far that they became indistinguishable from one another. Was this student involved in the process? Absolutely! And do I love his teacher for not getting “hung up” on what his final piece looked like, and for accepting his creative effort and involvement for what it was? You better believe it!

If you have questions or thoughts about this topic, please share them in the comments section. If you’re looking for some fun, affordable, and convenient professional development credits, click here to find out more about the distance learning art classes I teach. (No previous art experience is necessary — but your full effort and involvement will be!) Thanks for reading.  😉

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Best AngelI recently received some encouragement from a friend of mine about my blog. Her comments were simple… that she enjoyed reading my posts, that they made her want to teach, and that she thought I was really doing an excellent job. It was her next words that struck me… she said, “I just had to tell you”.

I’d been feeling a little uninspired about my blog, and my friend’s encouraging words, plus the fact that she “just had to tell me” gave my heart such a lift! Not only was my friend enjoying my efforts, but she felt compelled to tell me about it and actually acted on it. Needless to say, her thoughtful words motivated me.

This is an important lesson for us as teachers — not to mention as human beings — but as teachers most especially. We have the power EVERY DAY in our classrooms to lift our students up with meaningful, authentic words of encouragement. Perhaps more than any curriculum we teach, the ability to encourage our students is a gift that should not be overlooked. Our words may be just the thing to help a struggling student have the courage to try something — once again — that has been challenging for them in the past.

In the realm of art education, the idea of encouragement is especially profound. Since art is an area of the curriculum where expressions are highly personal, making oneself vulnerable can be very scary to say the least. Supportive encouragement given throughout the artistic process can provide a safe place for creative thinking and exploration. (Which is not to say “anything goes”, or minimal effort is acceptable, but when an honest effort is being made, it should be recognized regardless of whether or not the final outcome is “successful”.)

So I leave you with the challenge to look for simple, meaningful ways you can frequently share the gift of encouragement with your students. I also wish to thank my dear friend for her gift of encouraging words to me.  🙂

IMG_2684Congratulations to Juliet Z. from Ohio! Juliet is the lucky winner of the last Art Kit I’m giving away as part of a year long promotion. She received her automatic entry into this giveaway by registering for my class ART 900: Drawing Magic.  You can read more about all of the Professional Development classes I offer here.

Juliet will be receiving not only her Art Kit stuffed with fun art goodies, but also a lesson plan developed specifically to use with them. Click here to see the full Art Kit contents. It’s been a fun year giving away these kits… thanks to everyone who played along.  🙂

Though the kits are gone… I’d still love to have YOU register for one of my Professional Development art classes. (No art experience required!) Each of my 5 classes is affordable, convenient, and self-paced. Imagine earning 3 units of graduate credit per class from the comfort of your own home, with full access to me via email. Your course materials will be delivered to you electronically within 48 hours of your registration, so you can begin immediately if you’d like to. What are you waiting for? (You know it sounds like fun!) Hope to see you soon!