Assessment has never been my favorite thing. I just love giving students engaging experiences and watching where they go. However, the reality is that there are standards and objectives that teachers are expected to meet and therefore assessment is a really important aspect of teaching. It helps us teachers know if we reached our goal, if the students have met the objective, and if not, what to do about it. Good assessment helps the students know where they are and it helps inform next steps for the teacher.
Arts Enhancement or Arts Integration?
I have found that teachers often are confused about the difference between true arts integration and arts enhancement. Assessment can be a great way to clear up that confusion. Basically enhancement is where the arts are simply supporting the content area but are not being assessed and integration is where both the art and the content area have objectives and both are being assessed.
In one school where I work, the teachers are generally implementing arts enhancement. They are becoming more comfortable with certain arts strategies and are starting to utilize them to support content areas but are not actually identifying an art standard or objective that they are trying to reach and are, therefore, not assessing the art aspect of the activity, lesson or unit.
Many classroom teachers fall into this category and for good reason. They are, generally speaking, not arts experts and are focused on the core content areas for which they are responsible. That means they are teaching and assessing the core content and not the art. The art is acting as an engaging and useful tool to teach concepts and assess student understanding of those concepts.
Arts Integration Assessments
However, there may be times when a classroom teacher wants to move into arts integration to make the art strategy an even more effective tool. As an example, one theatre technique that is popular among classroom teachers is the use of tableau or creating a frozen picture with the body.
This can be a great, quick assessment tool for teachers and students love to make them because it is a fairly non-threatening group activity and can be done quickly. It might be well worth the time of the classroom teacher to teach tableau in isolation so students learn how to use it effectively. Then it will be a strong tool for student self-expression and an even greater assessment tool for the teacher.
An arts enhancement use of tableau might be a classroom teacher trying to assess what students have learned about a particular topic in social studies. The assessment might be a rubric that contains expectations about accurate content and containing a certain number of pertinent details.
However, an arts integration use of tableau would involve the teacher specifically teaching the students that tableau requires: frozen body position, appropriate facial expression, appropriate body position, a clear focal point, and multiple levels. The students could practice that with non-content related topics so they could focus on the effectiveness of the tableau. A rubric would contain the above expectations and the students could self-assess based on a photograph of their tableau while the teacher could use the same rubric to assess whether the students were ready to involve content.
Once the students were proficient enough in creating an effective tableau they could begin to use it to demonstrate understanding. At that point the rubric used to assess the product would contain both the core content area expectations and the tableau expectations. If the teacher’s objective was to assess both the core content understanding and effective use of tableau, the teacher has moved into arts integration territory.
For classroom teachers, the idea of arts integration can seem overwhelming but if teachers start with enhancement and get comfortable with that, they can slowly ease their way into more of the finer points of the art techniques and strategies they are using. As a result the students become more proficient with the art form, and the teacher has gained an even stronger tool to support and assess core content.
Deirdre is a teaching artist and AI coach in the San Diego public schools dedicated to helping classroom teachers make arts an integral part of their teaching. Deirdre has an MEd in Arts Integration and over twenty years of classroom and performing arts teaching experience. Email Deirdre.