MAEA Research Commission


Transforming Assessments: Assessment Tools Inspired by the Big Idea

By Lillian Chun (published 1/25/2015)

Increased engagement, a greater level of self-reflection and enhanced differentiation are some of the greatest benefits I naturally discovered as a result of developing and implementing formative and summative assessments inspired by its big idea.  Standard rubrics such as criteria tables and checklists felt like time wasting failures in my elementary art room after realizing over time how little my students seemed to actually engage in the process of self-assessment through these typical forms of assessment.  When you only see your students once a week for an hour, the very last thing you want to be doing is wasting time.

From my experiences of collaborating with an online study group of other K-12 art educators throughout the past year, my relationship with assessment has completely transformed with a newfound open perspective to generating more creative and effective methods.  The formative assessments that I have been exploring with my students such as a third grade “business plan” (handmade worksheet for a unit on innovative architecture) or the “limited process homework” for a fourth grade unit, help guide my students’ thinking through their work while more summative methods such as the “Final Architecture Assessment” or “Abstract Sculpture Checklist” help students check back within their work to see if they have applied their learning to their artwork before completion.   These more process-based assessments are not only valuable in providing evidence of their understanding, but they also help bring awareness to their own artistic process and whether or not their artwork changed or fulfilled their original ideas and plans.

Doc - Nov 25, 2014, 7-53 PM - p2

Limiting Process Homework


Process Checklist: Abstract Sculpture


Final Abstract Architecture Assessment


Becoming a Business Architect


Who Is Your Hero?


Peace Sign Assessment


Business Architecture Design

Lillian Chun 

Lillian Chun, (formerly Raab), is currently in her third year of teaching elementary art with Anne Arundel County Public Schools and has taught a variety of courses throughout the past three years with Young People’s Studios (YPS) at the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA). Lillian graduated from MICA in 2012 with a Masters in Art Teaching (MAT) and Bachelors in General Fine Arts (BFA) in 2011. Lillian is currently enrolled in a Post-Baccalaureate Certificate program in Arts Integration through Towson University. (e) (w)


Transforming a space with light: Design Lesson for grade eleven

By Ben Tellie (published 1/6/2015)

ACTIVITY – Students are preparing to select a space within their school and change it by creating a light source (i.e. lamp, hanging light, ect). Students will draw a hallway space from inside the school and change it by creating their own light source.

OBJECTIVE – Through the exploration of qualities of drawing materials (paper, pencil, marker, etc.) students will work individually to create a drawing of a hallway space inside the school and change it by designing a specific light source for that space.

MATERIALS – Photocopies of space (to use for a reference), 9 x 12 white drawing paper, pencils, sharpie markers.

MOTIVATION/TOPIC QUESTION – Students will lead a discussion about different ways they can create a light source to use in a particular space within the school. The following questions will be raised:

  • What spaces can we use in the school if we were to add light to them?
  • Who do you need to contact? With whom will you be working? (ex: you need to talk to the librarian if your designing a light source for the library).
  • What materials will you need to design your light source?

PRESENTATION –Following the dialogue discussion the class will leave the room to go into a hallway to see what types of light sources they could create to change that particular space. Students will talk about who they might need to contact in order to prepare for their project.

  • How does this space function?
  • In what ways can this space be changed using light?
  • How can we change the atmosphere further?

Students will then go back into the classroom for a drawing exercise that examines what we have just discussed in the hallway. Students will be given a reference to examine while they draw a hallway inside the school and add their own light sources to change it.

LOGISTICS –Materials will be available to students along the table inside the art room. The instructor will help students who have trouble starting by asking them: How might you begin? Can you tell me about a space other than the school that has lighting? Students will clean their tables and put their supplies away in the proper storage areas when they are finished.

CLOSURE/ASSESSMENT – A small share will take place at the end of class. Questions will be raised: Who can tell us one idea they had for their hallway space? What was one challenge you noticed when starting your drawing?

Instructor Dialogue To Begin Designing (After Lighting Presentation) – Class 1 

EXPLORATION  (15 minutes of dialogue, 20 minutes of exploration)

Topic Question (Spark!) – Association Questions

Ben: We are going to talk about what types of spaces inside the school you will be working with so you can design your own type of lighting for that particular space. We are taking a space and changing it by adding a light source to it. Can someone give me an example of a space in the school where they can provide lighting? (conference room, library, hallway, office, etc.) What type of lighting would you design for that space? (table lamp, hanging light source, etc.) What types of materials can they be made of? (found materials, trays, paper, anything the student can think of that would be interesting)

Recap of Association

Ben: We are talking about designing a light source in a specific space (of your choice) within the school and creating a layout of tools you might need and people you need to work with in conjunction with your project.

Visualization: Visiting the Hallway

Ben:  Today we are going to visit a space inside the school and see if we can take a look at what types of light sources we could use for that space and who we need to work with (who our contact will be for that space) to bring our ideas to life! I am presenting you with a photocopy of the hallway we just examined. Please use it as a reference or a mental model. Also, feel free to use it as a sketch pad to take notes.


  • What are five words to describe this space?
  • How does it make you feel? How does this space function?
  • What are some ways we can change this space using light?
  • Can we change the lighting that is already in the hallway?
  • What types of materials can you use for your light source?
  • Who might you contact within the school to brainstorm with for your project?
  • Remember when working with your light source you can always could add color, remove parts, or add drawings on top.

Recap of Visualization

Ben: Today, we talked about how you can change a space with lighting, specifically the hallway. We have discussed different light sources you can create as well as different materials you could use for your light sources.

Transition: Drawing Activity

Ben: I am going to hand out drawing paper, pencils and markers. Please draw a hallway space within the school and change it using your own light source.

Please take 20 minutes to do so.


Ben: A short share discussion will be conducted. I will ask a few students to share their drawings. How did you bring your ideas together into a drawing to change a hallway space using a light source? What words did you use to describe the hallway space? What decisions do you think worked well?  Why?


Rubric to Make an Art Rubric

by Jessie Nathans (published 12/15/2014)

How might we design a tool for assessing the facilitation of art-based creative understanding?

This work is in response to the exploration of rubric-based assessment. Rubric to Make an Art Rubric is an informative display to visually explain the outcome of our research study group’s visual responses through group discussion and collaborative exploration of teaching art in the research study group. Rubric to Make an Art Rubric was created for the purpose of explaining the discoveries we made as a group. The display is segregated horizontally to help the audience navigate in comfortable, distinct areas of study. My goal is to help visualize the experience of facilitating art-based creative understanding. Success in the art room is difficult to quantify. The variables included in this table are firm descriptions meant to guide an often amorphous navigation. By viewing the information in one comprehensive display it reveals the importance of each individual belief, yet seeing them all together reveals that each data point is valuable individually and as a whole.



Jessie Nathans, Rubric to Make an Art Rubric, Digital Media, Demo Studio: Teaching as a Design Process, D Center, August 2014.

The Process to Display of Information

My first responses to our study group’s research were marks and sketches on paper. This was an intuitive process to transcribe the details of our explorations about assessment into form. Ironically, the freedom to expand the form beyond the rubric brought me through many formats but in the end I came back to the traditional table. Through drawing and thinking visually, I began to understand the value of a visual response as a way to further understand assessment.

The data I collected came directly from what my colleagues discussed as the most important aspects of classroom assessment. How were we to best support and witness the transformative experience of our students becoming more fluent in artistic expression? How could we best explain our teaching experiences?

During my explorations of assessment, I began to collect bits and pieces of essential aspects of teaching highlighted by my colleagues. The fluid form of these Sunday study groups provided an informative backdrop for me.  I collected data from teachers sitting in their their homes in Maryland and Florida. Each participant appeared on the screen (through Google Hangout) from their unique life situation. A young mother with her child asleep on the couch,  a jet-lagged traveler just in from Greece, an artist/educator on his way to the forests of Portland, OR to teach art beneath a canopy of tall trees.

Each week (or two) we brought field notes to the on-line meeting. These could be digital files of discoveries we had made, snapshots visually documenting the beginning of an idea, sometimes breakthroughs, often scraps or artifacts. All visually based responses.  We explored and recorded the field of art education individually and collaboratively. We shared gifts of visual perception, expansive thinking, personal context and responses to our own worlds with various dimensions of visual clarity.

We live differently, are at different stages of life, teach art in different neighborhoods; urban, rural, wealth, poverty. This diversity provided an essential element of assessing; the context of our lives and the decisions we make as people and artists has an impact on our experience.

Jessie Nathans

is an artist and art educator at the Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School, Rockville, MD.


Assessing Through The Art Blocks

by Lillian Chun (published 10/27/2014)

How might naturally engaging tools be used for assessment within cultivating a growth mindset in art?  These timelessly familiar, invitingly playful, but yet manipulated ‘art blocks’ bring out the inner child in whoever dares to play.  Combinations of “beautiful randoms”, photography from personal travels, and extensions of their compositions through drawing, were used as surface treatments among a majority of the art blocks.  Key standards from the new National Core Arts Standards such as create, connect, respond and present are hand written throughout several blocks while small pieces of traditional forms of assessment are adhered to others.  As a result of the evolution of these art blocks, there are several others that are seemingly unrelated from the investigative stage of my process with this work such as wood burned blocks, relief printed with letters, oil painted, spray painted and blocks with mosaic phrases.

Theoretical Context

While the blocks may appear to simply exist as forms of play, the manner in which one might create, connect, respond or present with them may naturally expose their artistic style and approaches in art.  Asking our students to create and embrace their individual artistic style with confidence, find connections to deeper meanings within their work, respond through communicating messages through art and finally, thoughtfully presenting their artwork, are some of the most challenging aspects of teaching art. Finding engaging and effective ways to assess elementary art students throughout these processes can be a challenge.

In Sir Ken Robinson’s TED talk, Do Schools Kill Creativity, an online interview, Can Creativity Be Assessed? and his book, Out of Our Minds: Learning to Be Creative Robinson suggests that the educational systems’ over stigmatization of making mistakes is educating people out of their creative capacities. Therefore, my primary goal within this research was to discover and develop naturally engaging tools for assessment as well as approaches that I could use for my students to help teach and nurture a more growth mindset as Carol Dweck suggests in her book,  Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, “…to love challenges, be intrigued by mistakes, enjoy effort, and keep on learning.”  She believes that as a result, “they will have a lifelong way to build and repair their own confidence” (Dweck, 2006, p.177).

As we experience the age of distraction among our students within the ever growing visual culture and technologically-based society, it is crucial that we open our minds as educators, to finding and applying new perspectives and approaches that will allow us to provide the most optimal learning experiences for our students. Flow, a book compiled of research on the psychology of optimal experience by Mihaly Csikzsentmihalyi, was a great influence on this work by offering insights on helping ourselves as well as others, find our own flow and enjoyment within our personal practices and everyday experiences in life. Within his text on activities of flow, Csikzsentmihalyi mentions the interesting conditions that often occur within flow, such as forms of play. “The rules of the games are intended to direct psychic energy in patterns that are enjoyable, but whether they do so or not is ultimately up to us.  And the opposite is even more likely – that a person will deeply enjoy activities that were intended for other purposes” (Csikzsentmihalyi, 1990, p.76).

How It Looks in Practice

Although these art blocks may not be the typical evaluative tools such as rubrics or strategic questioning that a teacher might use, they offer an exciting potential for bringing students into a creative state of flow through assessment. After experimenting and playing with many different structured formats of assessment within my classroom throughout my first two years of teaching, I struggled to find meaningful responses or much engagement from my students and often found myself apprehensive towards continuing to focus more creative energy and thought towards it as a result.  On the contrary, my personal mindset is always evaluating and assessing my abilities within teaching and art as I strive to grow and continue to develop my own true rhythm and style within these practices.



Lillian Chun, Art Block Installation, Mixed Media, 2014, Teaching As A Design Process, D Center, Baltimore, MD. Photo by Estelle Kline.



Lillian Chun, Art Block Installation (Detail), Mixed Media, 2014, Teaching As A Design Process, D Center, Baltimore, MD. Photo by Estelle Kline.



Lillian Chun, Art Block Installation (Detail), Mixed Media, 2014, Teaching As A Design Process, D Center, Baltimore, MD. Photo by Lillian Chun.


My first encounters with the wooden blocks consisted of exploring and playing with as many different types of surface treatments to them as possible within my studio.  Throughout the process, I would experience an uneasy frustration with not knowing which direction my work was heading towards.  It was pure play and experimentation that later became much more intentional, which is often the experience of the ideal creative process.   However, after sharing these art blocks at this year’s annual Artscape art festival in Baltimore, what first seemed to be meaningless play, became unexpected action research, exposing incredible findings and connections that were entirely naturally occurring across all ages within participants – a love to create, play and connect with these small artistic forms.

A great deal of knowledge, skills and attitudes could be evaluated and assessed from the participants such as the older man who asked, “Do they come in sets?  I would like one for my office.  Can I build a set?”  The three siblings (as seen in the photographs) each excitedly constructed their own artwork, yet fought over specific blocks by stealing pieces from one another’s work and taking a surprising amount of pride in their creations.  An elderly couple had approached by saying, “Oh, art blocks, how lovely!” One of the most notable comments was a shared thought from a middle-aged woman who had picked one up and said, “You know, these would make great conversation starters.”  Between the reminiscent connections to early childhood play as well as their overall simplicity in form and engagement, the blocks quite naturally enabled creativity while somehow disabling any apprehension or anxiety that one might have within the creative process, which is often the greatest, yet challenging goal that any art teacher strives to provide for their students.  Whether they might be used as a means for students to physically hold a block that has the different arts standards to identify and consider in relation to their artwork or within the planning stages of its process, or if the more artistic blocks are used for students to respond, connect and communicate with in their own individual way in response to a prompt or an evaluative question, the many possibilities remain and will continue to be explored.


Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1990). Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. New York: Harper & Row.

Dweck, Carol S. (2006). Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. New York: Random House.

Davidson, H. (2013). ”Can Creativity Be Assessed?” CUE Inc. Retrieved from                                         

Robinson, K. (2011). Out of Our Minds: Learning to Be Creative. Oxford: Capstone. Print.

Robinson, K. (2006). TED. How Schools Kill Creativity? TED Talks. Retrieved                                                                           from

Lillian Chun 

Lillian Chun, (formerly Raab), is currently in her third year of teaching elementary art with Anne Arundel County Public Schools and has taught a variety of courses throughout the past three years with Young People’s Studios (YPS) at the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA). Lillian graduated from MICA in 2012 with a Masters in Art Teaching (MAT) and Bachelors in General Fine Arts (BFA) in 2011. Lillian is currently enrolled in a Post-Baccalaureate Certificate program in Arts Integration through Towson University. (e) (w)


Darkroom, Pd. 1, 7:25 – 8:14 AM

by Caro Appel (published 10/16-2014)

“When we first went down to the darkroom and the [red] lights went on. I love how different the room looks when those lights go off and on.” – Phoebe S.

“Just being in the dark room in general. I loved it when it was so quiet that when you picked up a grain focuser you could hear the sound the metal from the bottom of it made when you swiped it off the counter. I always liked doing that.” – Leah W.

“The first time i saw a photo get developed because what was previously a white piece of paper became an image.” – Scott H.

 How do we value the journey as much as the destination?

This piece is inspired by my photography students’ answers to the question “what was your most memorable moment in class this year?” Response after response articulated the importance of the tactile, visceral experience of photography for my students, and I was captivated by their answers, in particular their celebration of the small details of physical sense and process. As George Lakoff and Mark Johnson articulate, “our sense of what is real begins with and depends crucially on our bodies” (1999, p. 17). Our culture defines itself with speed, efficiency, and automation, but my students selected away from those values when asked what had been most memorable to them.

The piece is interactive, which simulates a selection of the experiences my students found most memorable.

Caro Appel, Darkroom, Pd. 1, 7:25 – 8:14 AM, Mixed Meida , 2014, Photo by Estelle Kline



Caro Appel, Darkroom, Pd. 1, 7:25 – 8:14 AM, Mixed Meida, 2014, Photo by Estelle Kline


Theoretical Context:

To investigate these ideas further, I have been reading about process, physicality, and experience. John Dewey (1934) warns that our tendency to separate the final product from the process by which it was created also separates us from understanding the work. As I discuss below, I am excited to renew my focus on assessing and celebrating process – allowing it to remain fully interconnected with – rather than artificially removed from – the final product. I love how Anne Thulson (2013) puts this to words when she writes “instead of filling the halls with artwork like an art gallery, I put up documentation of the process, like a history museum” (p. 29). I think about George Szekely’s work as well, in which he argues that the education system values “the intellect rather than…the sense or emotions,” causing “children…to distrust the senses as a basis for discovery and communication” (1988, p. 49). Szekely’s strategies for encouraging play, exploration, and material experience are inspirational.

How it looks in practice:

As our study group has been contemplating assessment, I have realized how important it is to me that process is not only emphasized in assessment, but that it is also given greater value in how art is presented. During student art shows, we teachers often hear “oh, your students are so talented!” This can be a frustrating encounter because it seems to ignore students’ hard work and participation in the learning experience (Dweck, 2006). And yet, in most cases, what is visible to the public is only the final product. It is therefore logical that a viewer would react this way, seeing only the very last step of the journey. Furthermore, as Jack Richardson and Sydney Walker explain, even when process is considered or presented, it “typically has been associated with a movement toward predetermined and identifiable qualities… [rather than] a movement through the immeasurable intricacy of relationships produced by the experience of making art” (2011, p. 9). I am excited to pursue both assessment and exhibitions for my students which truly value the depth and complexity of their processes as well as their products.


Dewey, J. (1934). The Art of Experience. (1980 printing). New York, NY: Perigree Books.

Dweck, Carol S. (2006). Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. New York: Random House.

Lakoff, G., Johnson, M. (1999). Philosophy in the Flesh: The Embodied Mind and Its Challenge to Western Thought. New York: Basic Books.

Richardson, J., Walker, S. (2011). Processing Process: The Event of Making Art. Studies in Art Education, 53(1), 6-19.

Szekely, G. (1988). Encouraging Creativity in Art Lessons. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.

Thulson, A. (January 2013). Contemporary Practice in the Elementary Classroom: A Study of Change. Art Education, 16-23.

Caro Appel 

Caro is a high school art and photography educator who has been teaching for 5 years, all of them at River Hill High School in Howard County, Maryland. Caro holds a BFA in Painting and Printmaking from Virginia Commonwealth University, and earned her MAT from the Maryland Institute College of Art. She has presented on a range of topics at NAEA and MAEA Conferences. Caro strives to design experiences for her students which expose them to contemporary art practices, divergent thinking, and ideas of empathy and cultural proficiency.


Assessing Teaching Practice

By, Alissandra Seelaus (published 10/6/2014)

How can our assessments of students inform our own self-assessment of our teaching practice?

My exploration into the format and usability of rubrics stems from my high school students’ focus on achievement and “earning the A,” where rubrics quickly devolve from frameworks for thoughtfully reflecting on one’s learning and progress, to calculators that deliver the desired number of points needed to maintain one’s GPA. By moving away from numbers-based rubrics and into more qualitative assessments, students are unable to simply “crunch the numbers” to determine their success, and are encouraged to engage with the questions at hand.

I have similar concerns about the push for quantitative assessment tools used to determine teacher effectiveness. When teachers who are highly regarded by students, administrators, and fellow faculty score poorly on standardized teacher evaluation algorithms (and vice versa), it stands to reason that the “rubric” itself may be flawed (Layton, 2014). In order to combat this ironic inability to accurately assess educators, I designed a non-traditional assessment format to self-assess my planning and preparation as a teacher. How can I tell when a lesson is successful? How can I hold myself to the same standards of self-reflection of my teaching practice as I demand of my students and their artistic practice in my classroom?

Theoretical context

As we began to closely examine the implications of assessment in the art classroom, it became quickly apparent that the structures most commonly used to assess students in the classroom were frequently ineffective and sometimes even inappropriate to the goals for student learning. Olivia Gude made a salient point in a recent interview in Art Education, stating “it is not our job to assess student artwork… it is our job to assess student learning” (Sweeny, 11). This obvious, but important distinction led me to look critically at not only the criteria for assessment, but also at how rubrics are structured. As a teacher, I worked to integrate Lois Hetland’s Studio Habits of Mind (2007), which more broadly assess the “how” of making art, rather than the “what,” with Daniel Pink’s intrinsic motivators of mastery, autonomy, and purpose as a way to reframe the relevance of the content of my assessments (Pink, 2009).

As a designer, it was important for me to consider the impact that the visual structure and user interface of a rubric has on the assessment process itself. Gude also pointed out, during her Manuel Barkan Award lecture, that a typical gridded rubric, the kind that plagues classrooms in nearly every discipline and grade level with rows and columns of nuanced criteria delineating Excellent, Above Average, Average, and Poor quality work, dedicates 75% of the visual space to not-success. I wanted to ensure that the structure of the rubric reflected art-making as a process or journey, rather than a to-do list.

How it looks in practice                                                                                                            

As a naturally self-reflective educator, I am interested to see if/how others can access and relate to my internal dialogue externalized as a participatory installation, or how this structure might allow for others to map their own self-evaluative thinking.

I am also eager to test-drive this flow-chart style “rubric” with my students to see how the change in design impacts their engagement with the self-assessment process. I am also interested to develop other rubric structures specific to other units of study in my classes, to determine if/how the design of the rubric can better shape the assessment process in each unit.








Gude, O. (March 2014). Manuel Barkan Award Lecture: Skeptical Assessment Society. National Art Education Convention. Lecture conducted from San Diego, CA.

Sweeny, R. (January 2014) Assessment and Next Generation Arts Standards: An Interview with Olivia Gude. Art Education, 6-12.

Hetland, L., Winner, S., Veenema, S., & Sheridan, K. S. (2007). Studio Thinking: The Real Benefits of Visual Arts Education. New York: Teachers College Press.

Layton, L. (May 12, 2014) Good teaching, poor test scores: Doubt cast on grading teachers by student performance. Retrieved from The Washington Post online on August 11, 2014.

Pink, D. (2009, August 25th). The Puzzle of Motivation [Video file]. Retrieved from on June 1st, 2014.


Alissandra Seelaus

Alissandra is an artist and art educator. A graduate of the Maryland Institute College of Art Masters of Art in Teaching program, Alissandra has taught middle and high school in Baltimore County. She currently teaches Fundamentals, Digital Art, and Clay at Dulaney High School. An arts educator through and through, she enthusiastically attends and presents at local, state, and national art education conferences annually.


Photography: Estelle Kline 

Estelle Kline is a Senior at the Maryland Institute College of Art, where she majors in photography.


Rubrics: Outgrowing the Grid

By, Lisa M. Perkowski (published 9/28/2014)

Summary of Artwork

The following works are a reactionary and reflective response to the structures of rubrics shared in our study group, meant to provoke ideas around one’s perception of student work and growth in relation to assessment structures. The question explored through this visualization is this: if the growth of a child is organic, then why doesn’t the assessment structure itself take on an organic form? Wanting to abandon the grid structures of rubrics, the works depict representations of organic structures gathered, observed, and analyzed from my surroundings, so as to internalize these structures for potential innovation of future assessment structures.


Portrait through a flower structure, Digital Media, 2014

The first piece, “Portrait Through a Rose Structure,” a visual response to one of Benjamin Tellie’s rubrics, evolved out of experimenting with the digital manipulation of images. The goal of this manipulation was to build a larger organic form as an alternative portrait. Next, “Tulip Structures” and “Gardenia Structure” are representations of organic forms constructed by digitally warped images of student artwork. Through these structures, I express a desire to not conform students’ work and learning to a set table of criteria but to develop more flexible models of assessing each individual student’s growth. Lastly, in “Structures: Excogitation, Reflection, Manipulation” I attempt to synthesize my experience of the study group, allowing grid and organic structures to coexist together visually, as the questioning of assessment structures in relation to student growth continues to unfold.

Theoretical Context

The digital series contains artistic “products” within each form; however, in the bigger scheme of things, the products are simply marks of progress—visual benchmarks—of a larger, more complex process of student growth. Eric Jensen (2001) recognizes the complexity and slow process orientation of student growth in and through the arts and admits the challenge to quantify such growth in assessments in his book Arts With the Brain in Mind (p. 113). Do we teachers perceptually distort our students’ work and development when we try to fit each student’s growth into the same assessment structure? A possible solution is Jensen’s idea of a “pass/fail” system for art courses, so as to emphasize feedback rather than grades (p. 114). Another way to consider students’ products within a larger picture of their growth is to use a holistic or modified holistic scoring approach (Beattie, 1997). Both approaches allow for evaluating student growth or performance over the course of a class, rather than grading individual artworks. However, Donna Kay Beattie (1997) proposes: “when the portfolio is perceived as a repository of different types of knowledge, each requiring its own remark, then an analytic scoring approach is preferred” (p.18). Perhaps creating an assessment structure that combines the flexibility of individualized student feedback with both holistic and analytic scoring approaches, set in a more organic structure (p. 133-137), would place more value on the student growth process without quantifying it.



Perkowski’s work on exhibit. Teaching as a Design Process, D Center, Baltimore, MD.


How it looks in practice

During the course of this study group, I modified my typical scoring rubric for student work. I merged six criteria into 3 more holistically described criteria and changed the terminology connected with scoring, so as to begin to de-emphasize quantifying the artwork. I used the rubric for my 2D Art classes’ final projects and artist statements this spring semester. As I used the rubric, I found myself looking for the evidence in the student work that met different degrees of the criteria. I either described evidence I saw or gave feedback about this evidence in the open spaces of the rubric itself. I gave more individualized and objective feedback, yet I still struggled with where to place the feedback quantitatively. At times my written feedback crossed over the boundaries of the open grid I made, visually suggesting that I needed to evolve these stacked grids into more open columns—or even stems. The experience of using this rubric and reflecting on it has become a launching pad to create an even more organic, process-oriented rubric. Through reflection and conversation about my assessment practices and artwork with the study group, I am coming to a deeper understanding that I am not assessing student’s artwork as a product unto itself. I am viewing student work as a fruit, as a means of seeing a student’s growth.



Beattie, D. K. (1997). Assessment in art education. Worchester: Davis Publications, Inc.

Jensen, E. (2001). Arts with the brain in mind. Alexandria: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.


Lisa Perkowski

Lisa M. Perkowski currently teaches high school visual arts at the Academy of the Holy Names in Tampa, Florida. She is a graduate of the Maryland Institute College of Art MAAE program. Prior to her current position, she taught art several years at Mother Seton Academy in Baltimore, MD.  


Demo Tool Kit

By, Rachel Valsing (published 9/14/2014)

What can we learn about artistic thinking through the selection and organization of tools?

Summary of the Artwork

At the end of the past school year I created an art making kit as I was cleaning out my classroom. The components are collected from demonstrations, media, student work, and resources that accumulated in the room throughout the school year. As I created the kit, I was forced to make decisions about the media that were most important to making art, what work could become a source of inspiration for new work, and what objects had merit for their beauty and interest to me as an artist and teacher. This art kit is designed to make art demonstrations for students, and the experience of assembling these materials evoked many of the questions that frame the assessments I use in teaching art. In the classroom we work with our students “to see better, to envision, to persist, to be playful and learn from mistakes, to make critical judgments, and justify such judgments” (Hetland,2007). Like many artists and teachers, I have found that my entry into making and thinking critically about art is based on an affinity for media. As I assembled the left over pencils, handouts, sketches, demonstrations, and other items that had taken residence in my classroom, these three questions formed in my mind: What does the collection of these materials tell about me as an artist? If students engaged in this kit making process would they feel more ownership over their choice making? How could the varying choices of media by students provide a visual means to assess their preparation for and engagement in studio thinking?

Theoretical Context:

The studio habits outlined by Lois Hetland and Ellen Winner include: develop craft, observe, envision, engage and persist, express, stretch & explore, reflect understand the art world. Designed to describe the observed learning occurring in art classes, the studio habits “help (teachers) to see more in their classrooms and to assess the understanding their students develop in a more informed fashion” (Sefton-Green, 2008, 56). In designing meaningful assessment for the art room, it is necessary to not only address goals for understanding but also have our students develop agency in their choices as creative individuals.

Demo Kit

How it Looks in Practice:

Rather than assessing the product of art making, perhaps it is best to examine the tools that were used in its creation. Thinking critically about my professional development always leads me to reflection on media and message. In the coming year, I look forward to providing my students a greater variety of choices in the creation of their work. I am hopeful that through this assessment strategy it will be possible to evaluate a student’s processes and development of systems essential to creative making.




Hetland, L., Winner, E., Veenema, S. & Sheridan, K. M. (2007). Studio thinking: The real benefits of visual arts education. New York: Teachers College Press.

Jaquith, D. (2001). “When is Creativity: Intrinsic Motivation and Children’s Art Making” Art Education January 2011.

Sefton G. J. (2008). Ed. Creative Learning. Arts Council England.

Rachel Valsing 

Rachel Valsing has been teaching in Baltimore County since 2007 and currently teaches at Towson High School. An avid supporter of the arts, she is a National Art Honor Society advisor and has worked in collaboration with teachers and professionals to create interdisciplinary art programs and outreach. Valsing has presented at MAEA and NAEA conferences on a variety of topics and is a founding member of Demo Studio, a group of art educators whose mission is to present the work of art teachers to new audiences through exhibits and design.


How do we develop our artistic voices through our choice of media?

By, Kathleen Mazurek (published 9/3/2014)

This past year, I have focused my instruction on building creative confidence and self-awareness within my students. Working as a K-8 educator, I witnessed students losing their natural sense of inquiry and exploration, of which I attribute to years of high-stakes testing.  I observed many students struggling putting pencil to paper and constantly second-guessing their decisions.  I finally came to a realization that art is not a routinely practiced skill like reading, writing, or math.  I found that meeting with my students once or even three times a week affected how well a student mastered and retained a skill or concept.  Students were overly concerned about creating a perfect reproduction of my example, and I felt that it was my responsibility to foster a sense of creative agency within them.

After trying a variety of media with my students, I noticed my middle school students started to request specific projects. They were identifying their own strengths! I observed students who were reluctant to participate in drawing were actively engaged when involved with weaving.  After working within their chosen medium, students continued to suggest more ideas for projects and were more open to trying new techniques.

This new enthusiasm exhibited by my students prompted me to focus my instruction on fostering artistic behavior and independent work skills.  In order to help them develop a level of autonomy and self-awareness, I created workshop stations.  Each station focused on a different artistic process — weaving and sewing, comic book writing, painting, and art research.  My artistic representation in the DEMO STUDIO exhibit focuses on the exploratory and self-reflective aspects of our pedagogy and relate it to language development.

Theoretical Context

Through my previous experiences teaching special education and observations of general elementary classroom instruction, I’ve incorporated Project Based Learning and TEACHH stations within my pedagogical practice.  According to Stephanie Bell:

“Project-Based Learning (PBL) is a student-driven, teacher-facilitated approach to learning. Learners pursue knowledge by asking questions that have piqued their natural curiosity. The genesis of a project is an inquiry.

Students develop a question and are guided through research under the teacher’s supervision. Discoveries are illustrated by creating a project to share with a select audience. Organizers support systematization of the processes that will be implemented throughout the research and project phases of PBL.

Student choice is a key element of this approach. Teachers oversee each step of the process and approve each choice before the student embarks in a direction (Bell, 2010, p. 39).

In a British study done over three years investigating math education, researchers compared students taught at a traditional school and at a PBL school. The PBL school had three times as many students achieve the highest possible grade on the national exam: it also showed that the students were superior in answering applied and conceptual problems (Boaler 1999: as cited in Bell, 2010). Thomas (2000) also points out that in Boston, at an inner city, racially diverse school, 8th graders showed marked improvement as well as in Maine at a middle school after only one year of implementing PBL learning (Overby, 2011, p. 110).

In a public school setting, many kindergarten teachers have adapted the PBL student-directed approach in their classrooms. Students choose a station to work on reading or math skills.  Each station has a different activity, such as games, videos or puzzles, and students work in small groups for small increments of time.  Since students were becoming more aware of independent working periods and reassessing mastered skills in a different context, I wanted to build these social skills into my arts curriculum.

Gary Mazibov and Victoria Shea best explain the components of the TEACCH method in their 2009  article “The TEACCH Program in the Era of Evidence-Based Practice.”  TEACCH (Treatment and Education of Autistic and related Communication-handicapped Children) is a clinical service and professional training program. This model of teaching operates within the same model of PBL, focusing on student choice to guide instruction. The TEACCH approach is called “Structured Teaching.” This method is based on evidence and observation that individuals with autism share a pattern of neuropsychological deficits and strengths, such as attaching to routines, a strong eye for detail and very intense interests (Mazibov and Shea, 2009, p. 570).

The essential mechanisms of Structured Teaching are (a) structuring the environment and activities in ways that are understandable to the individual, (b) using individuals’ strengths in visual skills and interest in visual details to supplement relatively weaker skills, (c) using individuals’ special interests to engage them in learning, and (d) supporting self-initiated use of meaningful communication.  The teacher provides a workspace, visual schedule, and a series of mastered, motivating tasks for the student to complete over a classroom period.  Learning meaningful language is not equivalent to simply learning to say words during drills.  Through choice, individuals learn expressive language.  Through making choices available, the individual is moved toward initiating choices, rather than relying on teacher prompts.

A major component of the TEACCH method is the physical environment, in this case, a station, and establishing a routine of initiating a task, working independently, receiving light guidance from an instructor, and finishing the task without rushing. Across age groups (6, 7, and 20), structured teaching documented increased rates of on-task student behavior and marked reduction of teacher’s prompts. Students were also more likely to generalize the process to other conditions. (Mezibov and Shea, 2009). By allowing students time to practice at their own speed and develop their own projects within a model, students with advanced abilities can further challenge themselves through independent research while other students can use the time to further practice a skill and gain confidence.

How It Looks In Practice:

My middle school art students were responsible for completing weekly objectives related to their station’s choice of media for a month.  Their progress was recorded in a weekly chart that identified areas of growth and strength.  The objectives sheet also contained a brief rubric of observable artistic behaviors. Because they were working with a medium that  they identified as their strength, students were able to start building a visual vocabulary that was personally relevant, rather than producing a variation of the teacher’s example.  Diamento Filipatou’s research on PBL (2010) highlights how this practice leads to student autonomy. PBL projects promote meaningful learning, and connect new learning to student’s past experiences and prior knowledge.  PBL also increases self-direction and motivation, since students are responsible for their own learning utilizing a multi-sensory approach.


Artwork at Demo Studio: Teaching as a Design Process


I felt that, within the context of a show that focuses on teaching and assessing the creative process, creating a station within the gallery would best synthesize the work I had focused on in our study group,  The viewer/participant has a choice of materials for creating a composition on the overhead projector.

After the participant creates a finished piece, I would ask the following questions for reflection:

  • Why do you feel that you communicate more effectively through painting rather than collage?
  • Did this opinion change after exploring a new process?
  • To what aesthetics do you feel personally drawn?
  • What is your baseline for ‘proficient’?

Artwork at Demo Studio: Teaching as a Design Process

Lastly, this piece reflects the amount of risk an educator takes at the start of each open-ended unit.  Gallery attendants could easily choose to not engage with this installation and by the end of the show, the homasote could be bare.  Choice can be both alternately terrifying and liberating, and I want my students to approach choice with purpose and without fear.


Filippatou, Diamanto; Kaldi, Stavroula. (2010). The Effectiveness of Project-Based Learning on Pupils with Learning Difficulties Regarding Academic Performance, Group Work and Motivation.  International Journal of Special Education, Volume 25, Issue 1, p. 17-26.

Bell, Stephanie. (2010). Project-Based Learning for the 21st Century: Skills for the Future.  The Clearing House: A Journal of Educational Strategies, Issues and Ideas.  Volume 83, Issue 2, p. 38-42.

Mesibov, Gary, B.; Shea, Victoria. (2009). The TEACCH Program in the Era of Evidence-Based Practice.  Journal of Autism and Behavioral Disorders. p. 570-579.

Overby, Kimberly.  ( 2011).  Student Centered Learning.  ESSAI; v9, Article 32.  p.109-112.


Kathleen Mazurek

Kathleen Mazurek holds a BA in Art Education from Towson University and holds dual certifications in Art and Special Education from Notre Dame of Maryland University. From 2012-2014, Kathleen taught K-8 visual arts in Baltimore City Public Schools. She has presented at the New Teacher Institute and currently has her work showcased in Demo Studio: Teaching as a Design Process exhibit at D Center, Baltimore, MD. Kathleen has taught visual arts at a variety of different organizations, group homes, and family outreach centers such as Art With a Heart, Tuttie’s Place, Columbia Art Association, and the Kennedy Krieger Institute.


Play in Early Childhood Art Education

by Ben Tellie (Published 7/16/2014)

The idea of play can sometimes be a confusing topic in elementary classrooms. I wanted to write a bit more on play in early childhood education from my experiences working and observing in the elementary school setting over past few years through various part time teaching jobs.

According to Efland (1990), Friedrich Froebel’s philosophy of education is based on the idea of harmony, and has incorporated the notion of play into his own curriculum.  For Froebel, play was so important that he felt it revealed the child’s self expression, which in turn, impacts the child’s own development as well as exposes their future actions (Efland, 1990, p. 122). Froebel’s philosophy of play is instrumental in the notion that we should think of children’s art work as play and not of a means of inculcating serious work upon them.

What are the boundary lines between play and work in the elementary classroom?  Shouldn’t play be used out in the open as it relates to learning? Or should the term play be disregarded altogether, only used as a reference to recess or outside activities?  If play is not mentioned to students in the classroom setting, will this have an effect on children’s artistic and emotional development? I would agree, along with most early childhood professionals, that play is critical for social, educational, artistic and academic development.

From my observations of elementary classrooms and working with elementary students, play is not a term often times mentioned naturally as it relates to students’ work ethic at this early stage of development. It is fair to say that children should be thinking in terms of playing with their materials and projects, and experimenting to stumble upon possibilities. One of the most important reasons that play is critical in early childhood development is that play proves to be essential to children’s linguistic development.  Research by Ely and McCabe (1994) support that in past history, play has been hypothesized to have a crucial role in the development of children.  Children’s admiration for the arrangement and organization of language is increased when children play.  Children’s linguistic and literacy develop as a direct result of exposure to puzzles and poems (Ely & McCabe, 1994, p.3).

It becomes the teacher’s mission to really develop a sense of what play means in children’s development and push the boundaries of this definition further.


Efland, Arthur F. (1990). A History of Art Education. New York and London. Teachers College Press.

Richard, E., & McCabe, A. (1994). The language play of kindergarten children. First Language, 14, 19-35.