It’s time of year when the birds are singing and the sun is shining.

The weather is warm and inviting.  It’s also the time of year when we are busy assessing our students and their work.  These assessments take on many forms: from filling in bubbles to writing short answers, our students are tested and tested and tested.  But tested on what?

Are they tested on their synthesis of knowledge, or on rote knowledge?  Do we test them on their growth since the beginning of the year, or their growth since their last quiz?  Or, are they tested on how much they can demonstrate or on how much they can regurgitate?

Assessments are necessary to education – we can all acknowledge that.  But HOW we assess is more crucial than WHAT we assess.  If we truly want to know how much students have learned and what they can do with that knowledge, than we are going to need something other than a bubble sheet and a #2 pencil.  We’re going to need to step out of our 20th century box and into the 21st century network.

I hear all the time that teachers are afraid of arts integration as a teaching strategy because they don’t know how to assess it.  Well, I’m here to tell you that assessing an arts integration lesson shouldn’t be any different than good, formative assessment practices anyway.  Here are some general ideas for what assessment can look like in your classroom:


I love these.  They are a comprehensive look at student growth and what students can do with their knowledge.  They can be personalized so that students can choose their best work from each period and then conference with the teacher so that there can be discussions based upon knowledge and extension.  Students do them digitally with things like LiveBinder or a Prezi, or they can use art techniques on paper to have a physical representation of what they’ve learned.

A simple rubric can be developed with students so that they know what needs to be represented in the folio as well as how it will be graded.  These can be used at conference times with parents so that they can visually see the progress their child is making as well as areas that need improvement.  Why not do what people in the real world are now requiring (aka: Steve Jobs) for a job interview?  A bit time consuming, but really terrific for assessing true student growth.

Rubrics aren’t bad

A standard, simple rubric to assess if students have met the objectives of a lesson through a project.  This is great for project-based learning or for a single lesson.  If you are having the students create something at the end of the lesson with the new knowledge that they’ve gathered, a simple rubric from 1-4 with clear expectations will allow them the opportunity to show what they’ve learned.

Use technology

Use a virtual click-station to poll your students for a quick read on their skill level.  Or, have them complete an online assessment from home.  Or maybe (gasp!) use their cell phones to gauge pre-knowledge.  These are all great ways to assess before and during your lessons to tell if students are really understanding or are at the level you THINK they’re at.  If you’re looking for a more extended assessment, how about students creating a website that can show work they’ve designed using knowledge from class?  The 21st century online world is full of amazing possibilities!

Paper/Pencil Tests

Those standard paper/pencil tests do have a place – as much as I hate to admit it – in our education world.  We do need to have static data every once in a while.  My only contention is that they be used as little as possible and that we understand that it is one test on one day and not the overall picture of what a student can do.  No paper and pencil can do all of that.

So….hopefully these give you a few exciting possibilities to try in your classroom.  Looking for more ideas you can apply in your classroom?  Try our Assessment for Makers online class where you’ll receive templates, checklists and resources for helping you craft assessments that make sense for your own curriculum.

How about all of you?

Do YOU have any creative ways that you assess your students?  If so, please share!  We’ll all do better when we all know better.  I look forward to the conversation!