Teachers talk a lot, especially about teaching and we tend to "speak" for our students a lot in regards to what we think they think, want, enjoy, dislike, etc. I love to survey students because it gives me the reality check I need to realise that I don’t always know what they’re thinking and what they need. I’ve been doing some entries lately about creativity, documenting learning, and assessment and it occurred to me that my former students may have valuable opinions on some of these matters. I sent a list of questions to some of my former students who are now in University, some are now studying art and some are not, and have gotten their permission to post their responses as they trickle in. I cannot thank them enough for taking the time to respond; they are very special kids, students, friends, people.
Response from Erin Bammann who graduated in May, 2012 from The International School of Indiana.
I hope all is well with you and the family! Below are my responses to the questions you provided:
What type of art classes did you take in High School? (Program? Year levels?)
IB Art, Higher Level (years 11 & 12)
Why did you take art in High School? What was your motivation?
I have always enjoyed creating things and exploring perspectives. Visual art allowed me to experience the process of creating something in a variety of media and to think about the role of aesthetic, artistic action, and public reaction within the context of different cultures.
Can you remember and describe two of your favourite units of study in art class in High School? Please explain what you remember the point of the unit was and what you learned and created for the unit.
The figure drawing unit and the sculpture unit. I enjoyed the style of the figure drawing exercise where we used charcoal and/or graphite to draw from life in increasing time increments. In this exercise, we started with very quick, basic sketches of general shapes or value (lasting approximately 30 seconds, I believe) and worked towards drawing a more detailed picture in the final round (approximately 15-20 minutes, I think... not sure on the exact times). This exercise was really great because of the way you organized the picture you were going to create, based on the time that you had. For example, when you have less than one minute to draw a figure, you have to capture the most basic differences in size, shape, and/or value and forget about all of the details of a human that you would otherwise inevitably focus on (facial features, detail in clothing, etc.) We all created several drawings throughout this unit.
The second unit, the sculpture unit or 3D unit, was so fun. I liked the freedom we had to choose pretty much whatever medium or media we wanted. In addition, it pushed me outside of a sort of comfort zone I had developed with 2D artwork. For this unit, I designed a mixed media sculpture, but on its external surface was only cardboard. I based my design on the work of an architect, Frank Gehry. I peeled apart the layers of corrugated cardboard and cutout scales to build a fish on a plaster, paper, wire, and wooden base (core). I was inspired by Gehry's use of texture and the dimension he achieved using scales in his famous Barcelona sculpture.
Can you remember a unit in art that you didn’t enjoy? Please describe why it didn’t inspire you.
I didn't particularly like the still life unit, but that's just because I am uninspired by still life drawings and (usually) subject matter in general. I think they are a great way of practicing basic technique and learning about color and design theory, but, as a student, I have always found them boring. They don't inspire my creativity, rather it just feels like going through the motions.
Please describe the way you used your sketchbook/journal in your high school art classes. What worked well and what didn’t?
I thought the IWB was a great way to document inspiration. I used it as a way to record artists, techniques, ideas, and planning for my own projects. The IWB was an integral part of remembering, learning, and understanding what I was doing at all times. I think it would have been nice to start with doing pages outlining major art periods. However, that's probably just because I have a growing interest in art history now. (And I understand IB art is not an art history course!)
Do you think that using more tech in art class would have made the experience better/more relevant/more innovative? Why or why not?
Innovative and perhaps relevant, yes. As a college student now, even though I am not pursuing a career in art, I am exposed to a lot of different design and career applications that require knowledge of certain programs and technology-based techniques. I think it is crucial for the IB Art program to be well-rounded, since it is an entry-level point of interest for future artists, designers, etc. Incorporating a unit that introduces some form of technology-based art provides a more complete picture of what art "is" and what its applications are.
Do you think that creativity should/can be assessed in art class? Why or why not?
Yes, but only vaguely. Creativity is difficult to assess precisely because the judgement of something being creative is fairly subjective to the evaluator's experience and does not necessarily account for the creator's experience. However, I think it is important to encourage pushing boundaries in visual art because that is when innovative ideas and techniques will emerge.
What do you think is more important in art class, concepts or skills? Or are they equal? Explain.
Concepts are more important, because that value encourages creative, abstract, and critical thinking. I think it is much more important to develop the skill set to describe and understand the meaning of a work of art (whether it is your own or somebody else's) than to be able to replicate something that is considered technically "good". Of course, I think learning some degree of technique in drawing (e.g. perspective, proportion, value) is incredibly useful and should be a part of any art program. However, I think the concepts are most important because they guide the actions of an artist and they might even dictate how a work of art is received by a given audience. In addition, skills and how they are valued are constantly evolving, so it is not a fair point of judgement. For example, with the different art periods, different aesthetics and techniques were valued. For those kind of transitions to occur, new skills emerge, ones that cannot always be taught, predicted, and evaluated.
Do you wish you had had more personal choice in art class?
I feel like we had a lot of personal freedom/choice within each unit, so no.
What are you doing now in school and life?
I am finishing up a BS in Community Health from The School of Public Health at IU Bloomington, with a Spanish minor. I am currently in San Francisco as a Visiting Scholar at the UCSF Philip R. Lee Institute for Health Policy Studies. I have continued to paint and create as a hobby, but did not choose to pursue art academically/professionally (at least for now). Over the past two years I also taught painting classes to children and adults at Wine and Canvas in Bloomington, IN. while attending college. Ultimately, I would like to pursue either a career in medicine or public health, the precise direction of that is still being determined.
What effect did taking art in High School have on what you have done since then? If any?
IB Art guided the development of my passion to create. As mentioned above, I worked at an arts entertainment venue, Wine and Canvas Bloomington, teaching 2-3 hour classes for adults and children over the past two years, and I would not have been prepared for that wonderful opportunity without IB Art. Moreover, IB Art contributed to my development as a student by teaching me how to explain my interpretation of the world around me and how to think critically (about everything, not just art).
I also took some art classes in college, since I developed such an interested for visual arts in high school, but again, ultimately decided it was something I wanted to keep as a hobby and not pursue professionally (for now). I will always enjoy painting, mixed media, charcoal drawing, and the overall process of deconstructing and reconstructing ideas and images.
Anything else you want to share…..
I did get commissioned to recreate a painting the painting I made for Three Sisters Cafe back in Indy for one of their customers! That happened my freshman year of college. Also, I've attached some paintings I did for Wine and Canvas along with some other paintings and drawings I've done for classes and for fun (if you want to see some stuff I've done post high school). Let me know if you have any questions!
Hope this isn't way too much info...
Time for a break from assessment/curriculum talk. Here's some of my favourite mural ideas to consider for art club, community outreach, and project based learning activities. Enjoy!
One of the many positive movements in education today is the move to integrate more formative assessments into our teaching. Too much summative assessment is a creativity and enthusiasm killer for students and a needless stressor for teachers. So much of the meaty learning that takes place in the classroom doesn’t take place at the end of a unit. It’s the daily epiphanies, collaborations, and missteps corrected that truly represent the learning journey of our students. Although summatively assessing criteria is indeed a crucial marker for the learning that has taken place over the course of a year and does allow the teacher and student to pin point exactly where his or her strengths and areas for improvement are in the ‘big picture’. Assessment harmony between formative and summative can be hard to achieve and that's what I am trying to address in this post.
By definition a summative assessment is typically given at the end of the unit, and assesses a student’s mastery of a topic after instruction. Formative assessments are given throughout the learning process and seek to determine how students are progressing through a certain learning goal. In my classroom I try to avoid summatively assessing all of the criteria for a unit at the end and instead spread out the assessment of the different criteria, allowing the students to make adjustments based on feedback along the way. This definitely gives me work throughout the unit because I’m re-assessing work as they make improvements, but, as long as I set boundaries such as having one week from the time feedback is given to resubmit work the system works for me and I believe it’s best practice for my students. An example of how I would stagger summative assessments is below. In this unit all 4 MYP art assessment criteria are addressed.
Formative assessments should be administered throughout the unit and should be low pressure, fun and beneficial to student learning and teacher practice. The results of the formative assessments aren’t just for the students, they can also be used by the teacher to make adjustments to their teaching so that they are meeting the needs of their students. I’ve been to a lot of workshops that talk about formative assessments and the various forms that they can take. I have found that most of the examples I’ve seen are very writing heavy and as an art teacher I wanted to make my formative assessments a bit more creative. Below are some examples of art-focused formative assessments that I like.
The best thing about formative assessments to me is that they aren't written in stone. Planning formative assessments for a unit is extremely important but having some good formative practices in your back pocket that you can whip out when the time is right can take a lesson from good to great in the blink of an eye. Being flexible enough to sometimes let the students drive where the lesson is headed and to have enough humility to change your plans and put the brakes on when it seems that the students need it are both opportunities to bring in formative assessments.
In conclusion, when you ask a student to describe their classroom experience I think we can all agree that it's the day to day activities, conversations, realizations, surprises, and hands-making-great-stuff that we would hope they remember; not what they got on a final assessment. Formative assessments are completely different from what the students think of when they think of assessment and that gives them the freedom to perform without pressure. I'm a fan.
Top universities such as Harvard, (https://college.harvard.edu/admissions/apply/what-we-look/valuing-creative-reflective) are looking for evidence of creativity in student applications. So why do I need to write this blog post about assessing creativity if the word is already out? The reason is that even though most people agree that creativity is important and should be integrated into 21st century teaching practice, the assessment factor is still controversial and until creativity is consistently and appropriately assessed in all subjects it will continue to not be taken seriously as a skill rather than a talent.
The MYP Arts criterion, C) Thinking Creatively, is one of 4 assessment criteria and is weighted equally with the other 3. The IB program also has creativity listed as one of their ATL’s, (Approaches to Learning), and as a Key Concept. In the GCSE art program the words creativity and creative are mentioned only twice in the descriptions of the assessment objectives and not in a manner that considers creativity a skill that is explicitly assessed, (http://filestore.aqa.org.uk/subjects/AQA-4200-W-TRB-IAO.PDF). In reading through the Common Core Arts standards from the USA I found that the word creativity was completely omitted altogether, as seen below.To leave out the word creativity from visual arts objectives/standards, to me, seems deliberate, as if using that word would some how delegitimize the objectives. It seems that the IB may be leading the way in creativity assessment but they still have a long way to go in terms of integrating it as a formally assessed skill in subjects outside of the Arts and an even longer way to go in terms of integrating it at all outside of group 6 subjects in the Diploma program.
The best and most thorough set of descriptors for levels of creativity assessment that I’ve found is by Grant Wiggins, the co-author of Understanding by Design and the author of Educative Assessment and numerous articles on education. He is also the President of Authentic Education in Hopewell NJ.
Andrew Miller, who currently serves on the National Faculty for the Buck Institute for Education and is an avid blogger and writer for a variety of organisations including ASCD, Edutopia and the Huffington Post, wrote in 2014, “Teachers can assess creativity in a final product or in summative assessments. If the unit or project calls for a creative product, a criteria for evaluation might be creativity in addition to the content skills and knowledge students have to demonstrate. However, if teachers intend to summatively assess creativity, they must formatively assess in order to scaffold appropriately and to have students build their creative thinking skills.” This is a hugely important point to make. One can’t expect to fairly assess a final product on creativity if the process has been without guidance and thoughtful editing. At NIST International School my colleague and I designed a formative assessment feedback form for this purpose, a copy is below.
For the students to provide evidence of creativity that the teacher can both formatively assess throughout the process and also summatively assess at the end they need to become really good at documenting their creative thinking. Clearly showing how they came up with their ideas, as well as how and why their ideas changed and evolved is essential. Assessing creative thinking isn’t something that you can do by just looking at a final product, the process IS EVERYTHING. Below are some examples of how your students can document creative thinking for assessment.