When designing an arts integration or STEAM lesson, a common concern for teachers is always assessment. When teachers work through Arts Integration for the first time, the idea of assessing both content and fine arts objectives is scary.
Throw in the understanding that the assessments look different, we start to get an image looking like this:
It’s true in a high-quality arts integration lesson, both areas are being measured. This is so we know whether the students achieved or grew in their understanding of both objectives. However, how those two areas are measured may, and possibly should, look different. As we share in our online class, Assessment for Makers, there is a difference between equitable and equal assessments. Equal assessments means you use the same measurement tool or value for both the content and fine arts objective. Equitable assessments, on the other hand, mean that you measure each objective in a way that is authentic to the learning of that objective.
For example, if my lesson consists of objectives for math in being able to add fractions and for music in being able to identify and play selected note values of quarter, eighth, half and whole notes, an equal assessment would mean that my students would need to complete a worksheet of adding a variety of fractions and adding note value sentences on the page. An equitable assessment may be that the students complete a worksheet adding a variety of fractions while also creating and performing a musical composition that represents those fraction equations (ie: writing 1/4 + 1/4 as a quarter note and a quarter note and then playing them on an instrument). The purpose of different assessments becomes measuring each area authentically.
Does this mean that using the same assessment for both areas is wrong?
No! There are times when using an equal assessment makes sense. In the example above, you could use the equal assessment and measure both of those objectives fairly and authentically. That’s completely fine. Yet there are times that an equitable assessment allows for a deeper, richer learning experience to continue through the assessment. Rather than having the assessment be the culmination of learning, it actually becomes an extension of the learning.
In the end, as long as the assessment is truly measuring the objectives, the choice of whether to use an equitable or an equal assessment is yours. Just know that you have the freedom to choose the type that works best for your selected objectives and students in order to measure their true understanding of both areas.
Susan Riley is the founder and CEO of EducationCloset.com. She focuses on teacher professional development in arts integration, Common Core State Standards, 21st century learning skills, and technology. She is also a published author and frequent presenter at national conferences on Arts Integration and STEAM education.
Susan holds a Bachelor of Music degree in Music Education from the prestigious Westminster Choir College in Princeton, NJ and a Master of Science in Education Administration from McDaniel College in Westminster, MD. She lives in Westminster, MD with her husband and daughter.