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Assessment Apart from Grades
When we set up a structure for
independent studio work we
have the luxury of becoming
excellent observers of what our
students know and do not know.
Types of observation
• Visual, while students are working
• Working one on one with a student
• Note taking in plan book
• General observations about classes: action
• Digital photography, teacher and student
• Video, active or passive
• Artist statements
• Long before digital options, my camera was
always in my pocket. It was easy to snap a
quick photo of especially interesting work,
ephemeral events, such as chalkboard
drawings and block construction, and other
art class happenings. These photos became
an essential part of my art exhibits, and
were helpful documentation of studio work
for school committee presentations and
discussions with my administration.
Diane Jaquith made photographs of her
students’ acrylic paintings in progress,
documenting their evolution over time through a
number of layers. She displayed these photos
along with the finished paintings.
In the past few years a number of TAB teachers
have experimented with stop motion
photography to capture the evolution of art
pieces, particularly group murals.
• Toward the end of my career I had the use
of a digital camera. It took me too long to
realize that cameras should be in student
hands! The next slides are of photos taken
by a group of boys who were building pirate
ships as backdrops for their action figures’
battles. Given more time (this was just
before I left due to illness) these students
would have gone deeper into the
photography aspect of their work.
• At the elementary level data collection can
be difficult with short time periods and
large class sizes. Teachers work to create
systems supported by student inputs.
• Diane Jaquith developed surveys in where
students answered questions by attaching
stickers. Different colors separated the
answers by gender.
• When Bonnie Gause student taught with
me we brainstormed easy ways for her to
track student center use. She has used this
system for years, and it is a feature in many
TAB classrooms today.
• (Photo one courtesy Diane Jaquith)
• (Photo two taken in Bonnie Gause’s
classroom, grade 2 or 3)
• Diane also developed mini-journals for her
elementary students, built from Post it
notes held together with binder clips. Her
students were tasked with drawing or
writing something to indicate what they
had worked on that day. I used them one
year with my grade 3’s. They enjoyed
having the record of their work, but my
classes were too short to use them to their
In 1990 I borrowed a large video camera and
began filming some of my art classes. The video
was very rough and never used in presentations,
but it was very informative for me. I viewed
classes I saw as “difficult” groups, but viewed
with the sound off, I realized that the children
were very productive, but just a bit loud for my
taste. Reviewing film let me look, and look again
to see what I’d not seen before.
• My students spent three years in my school. The
culmination of their art classes was the spring show which
was hung during parent conferences and stayed on the
hallway walls for about a month. In advance of the show I
and my parent volunteers scribed artist statements for
each piece that the students had chosen.
• Both I and the parents were impressed each year by the
depth of thought and insight that students had in to their
own work. The work showcased was what students felt
best represented their time in the art studio.
Learners show us what they need and we can
schedule our response to suit the situation by
assigning a peer coach, by assisting one on
one, by gathering a small group, by referring
the student to visual resources, by modifying
available materials and finally, by scheduling
future whole group demonstrations.