Assessment Strategies for Arts Integration and STEAM

Created by The IAS Team

Assessment is a measurement of growth. Evaluation is a judgment of mastery. When we assess arts integration, we are looking to see how a student’s understanding and application of knowledge evolved over time.  Assessment is about the process, not the end product.

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When considering assessment strategies for arts integration and STEAM, it’s important to begin with the basics. Assessment is a loaded topic in education. There is often confusion, mistrust and challenging paradigms that need to be addressed. In this topic overview, we’ll explore the types of assessment, how to use them effectively, and provide specific examples to use in your classroom.

Are Your Assessments Aligned?

One of the biggest fears of many teachers when working through an integrated lesson is how to assess the other content area. Part of this comes from just not “knowing” what and how to assess a topic.

Remember that assessment and evaluation are not the same thing. For arts integration and STEAM lessons, we’re looking for an assessment to measure the standards selected for the lesson.

This could be as simple as an exit ticket that asks a question about both the content and arts area addressed. Or, it could be a dance performance that students create to demonstrate the water cycle.

Assessment vs. Evaluation

Assessment is a measurement of growth. So we are looking to see if a student progressed in their understanding and application of the standards from the beginning of the lesson to the end.

Evaluation is a judgment of mastery. This is when a qualified educator determines whether or not a student has mastered a skill. We rarely use evaluations in arts integration and STEAM lessons.

These are typically the final exams or tests that are given that provide a clear statement that either a student has mastered that skill or not. This should be reserved for the educator who is directly and explicitly teaching that skill.

For example, a math teacher should be evaluating whether a student has mastered a math skill. And an art teacher should be evaluating whether a student has mastered an art skill.

But an assessment can be provided by any educator. Any educator who teaches an arts integration or STEAM lesson is able to assess whether students made progress is both content areas during that lesson.

Maintaining the Integrity of Content and Assessment

In order to ensure both the content and the arts area of being taught equitably, we must assess both during the lesson. That means that we’ll need to assess the standards that are being addressed in both areas. The easiest way to do this is to create an assessment alignment map.

An assessment alignment map outlines:

  • the assessments we intend to use
  • include a reason for why they are being measured
  • clearly identifies what we’re looking to achieve
  • and then provides a way to reflect on whether or not that assessment was effective.

This makes assessment a process and not a product. If we go through the assessment alignment process, we are ensuring that we are choosing assessments that are truly measuring the standards we set out to teach. This brings back authenticity to the lesson and allows us to have richer and more meaningful data conversations.

Here’s a sample assessment alignment map you can use:

At first glance, this may look intimidating. Here’s a step-by-step process for using this map to its highest potential:

1. Write your lesson standards in the correct columns.

These should be naturally-aligned objectives for your integrated lesson.

2. What is your essential question that you would like your students to think about?

Remember that essential questions do not contain a right or wrong answer, but rather cause students to think deeply about a topic and explain their reasoning.

3. Write the type of assessment that you will be using to measure student growth in this lesson.

A rubric? A selected response?  Write a brief description about the assessment you plan to use and make sure that it is measuring the objectives you listed at the front of the chart.

4. Give a brief, 1-2 sentence description of your lesson activities.

This could also be a bulleted list. How are you engaging your students in the thinking process?

5. After completing steps 1-4 of the chart, use this to guide your instruction.

Don’t worry about the last two columns until after you finish with your instruction of the lesson.

6. After you administer the assessment, record the scores for that assessment.

You may choose to record the scores of all the students in your class, a targeted group of students, or the class average.  While the choice is yours, be sure that you have enough data to reflect on the effectiveness of your lesson and think about moving students forward.

7. What are the next steps for this topic/concept/unit based upon the data you’ve recorded?

Did your assessment align with and measure the objectives you listed?  Was the lesson clear and cohesive? Were students able to think through the essential questions?  What factors caused this lesson to be a success or to need improvement? Write your reflections and engage in a conversation about this data.

The Types of Assessment for Learning

Now that you know why it’s important to assess arts integration, let’s look at how to do that effectively through various assessment strategies. Student learning and assessment go hand in hand when done naturally.  When we assess FOR learning, it becomes a natural part of the teaching and learning cycle. This idea of assessing for learning allows teachers to use assessments as feedback and guidance for next steps.

Where we’ve gone astray has been in a laser-like focus with assessment OF learning.  That’s when we use assessments to tell us the sum total of knowledge on a topic. When used sparingly, these can give us a single measurement among a broad profile of what a child knows and can do.  But it’s when we put the emphasis on these kinds of assessments that we begin to unravel the true learning experience.

Assessing for Learning

So what can we do to re-shift our assessment priorities?  First, we need to understand what types of assessment are available FOR learning.  These are tools that we can use to help us get a better overall picture of student learning.

There are three main types of assessment that can be used during the teaching and learning cycle:

  • Diagnostic
  • Formative
  • Summative

These make up what I call the Assessment Profile for learning.  Each of these assessment types contribute a piece of the puzzle to understanding what our students know already, what areas they are growing or slowing and their final application of knowledge.

Examples of Assessment Types

In the downloadable below, you can see several quick examples of each type of assessment for learning.

types of assessment for learning 

DOWNLOAD THIS PDF 

 

What you’ll notice is that some examples overlap (like portfolios – available in the formative and summative categories).  That’s because some assessments can be used for multiple purposes. It’s all about your intention – what are you looking to measure with the assessment of choice?

You’ll also see that we’ve included some asterisks to indicate if the assessment example is an authentic/performance assessment.  Whenever possible during the learning experience, we want to encourage authentic assessments that focus on construction and application, rather than “right or wrong” answers.  To truly understand the whole body of learning, we need to be able to see what students can do with their knowledge, skills and processes.

 

Diagnostic Examples

  • Pre and post-tests
  • Self-assessments
  • Discussion board responses **
  • Entry/Exit tickets
  • Interviews **
  • Observations Polling

 

Formative Examples

  • Student observations
  • Homework Reflection journals/ Sketchbooks **
  • Socratic discussions
  • Student/Teacher conferences
  • Peer reviews
  • Informal presentations **
  • Portfolios – on-going **
  • Project phases submitted over time **
  • Think/Pair/Share
  • Visual Thinking Strategies
  • Critiques **

 

Summative Examples

  • High-stakes tests
  • Multiple choice
  • Checklists
  • Portfolios – culmination **
  • Performances **
  • Rubrics**
  • Teacher-created tests
  • Essays **
  • Capstone projects **

** Indicates an authentic assessment

Using Assessments during Integrated Lessons

Finally, one of the concerns of many teachers who are trying to use arts integration, STEAM or Project-Based Learning is in how to assess the lesson.  The options provided in assessments such as these offer any teacher the ability to assess students at any level.  These suggestions provide a full spectrum of feedback and reflective choices for the classroom.

Alternative Assessments

There are instances when these 3 most common assessment strategies might not be best-suited for the task at hand.

The good news is that there are many additional types of assessments that exist as a means to assess student knowledge and learning. 

A research study from the University of Exeter looks at eight assessment types total. For arts integration, just concentrate on these three alternative assessment options: Dynamic Assessments, Synoptic Assessments, and Ipsative Assessments. 

These assessments should not be used on a daily or even weekly basis. But hopefully, they can serve to provide variety and a holistic perspective to your assessment toolbox.  Each of these methods also works well paired with Arts Integration and STEAM learning. Why? Because they lend themselves to creative learning in multiple subject areas.

Dynamic Assessments

Dynamic assessments are meant to measure not only the skills a child possesses but also their learning potential.  They’re complementary to “Static Assessments,” like standardized tests. They’re also usually very interactive between the teacher and student.

These types of assessment are often particularly useful when working with special populations of students. Some examples of special populations include English Language Learners and Special Needs Learners.  

Even students coming from disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds. Like in a diagnostic assessment, dynamic assessments might use pre/post tests to gauge student learning. They also examine how much teaching and what type of teaching was required for student learning, and the degree of transfer of learning.  

So Many Types of Tests!

In a traditional static test, a teacher might rephrase a question or encourage the child to show understanding.  But in a dynamic assessment, the teacher would go beyond simple feedback to provide more elaborate feedback. For example, instead of “that’s correct!”, the teacher could instead say “that’s correct because a noun is a person, place, thing, or idea and a dog fits into one of those specific categories!”.

In a dynamic test, a teacher might also participate during a test by asking a student “why do you think this is the correct answer? How do you know this?” in an attempt to get the student to verbalize the reasoning behind their responses. The teacher might also intervene by testing, teaching, and then retesting.  

For example, an English Language Learner might be asked to tell the story of the Three Little Pigs. The teacher might evaluate initial story narratives. Then, teach specifically to the places where the student’s first tests showed a lack of understanding. The teacher may then ask students to retell the story. The pre/post tests are compared and considered along with listener effort and responsiveness.

More than a specific style of test, dynamic testing is meant to be a method of “active testing” as opposed to “passive testing.” Take a deep-dive into dynamic assessments at this Colorado Department of Education resource page.

Synoptic Assessments

A synoptic assessment is a specific type of summative assessment strategy that tests the student’s understanding of connections between different elements of a subject or different subjects. The purpose of this type of assessment is to teach students how to make connections between topics and to increase student engagement while using a holistic assessment approach.

The key to synoptic assessments is that students need to be able to recall knowledge from previous units of study, and transfer that knowledge to a new subject or area of learning. These can be aural or written assessments. They also tend to be more project based.  

Project-Based Assessments

For example, students might learn about different countries’ geography and culture over several units of learning. For an assessment, they might be asked to create a “mock United Nations” where students role-play and come together to use background knowledge to solve the “problems” established in the assessment outline. Or students might have to utilize the design process and background knowledge of forces and Newton’s Laws to create and refine Rube Goldberg machines.  

In this model of assessment, students can offer peer feedback. In this set-up, they are learning from the way others have approached the task. Learning through assessing the work of a peer helps students to evaluate and benchmark their own personal performance. Teachers using synoptic assessment look for breadth of understanding. In other words, the student’s abilities to see beyond obvious and black/white responses to deeper implications of questions. Students should link relevant ideas and arguments across subject and topic areas.  

Another example of a synoptic assessment could take the form of an essay that requires students to acknowledge more than one viewpoint. Synoptic essay prompts usually start with the words “How far…” or “How valid/convincing was…”. An example of a synoptic essay prompt for secondary students might be “How far was the personality cult of Adolf Hitler responsible for the success of the Nazi party?” This question asks students to think about the leading figures and events of WWII with a broad lens. To find more synoptic essay prompts check out this resource offered by the Historical Association.

Ipsative Assessments

An ipsative assessment compares a student’s achievement against their own previous achievement. One of the most common ways we might be familiar with an ipsative assessment strategy would be at the gym.  You can compare how far or fast you ran this time to how far or fast you ran last time when running on a treadmill. When lifting weights you might compare the amount of weight you are capable of lifting and note how that changes over time.  When using a bicycle machine you may take note of endurance or speed compared to previous rides.

In all of these examples, it is not particularly important how you are doing compared to how someone else is doing, or how you are doing compared to a rubric or standardized expectation (as a criterion-referenced test would do). All of these are examples of ipsative assessments and they serve the purpose of measuring personal progress and development. This type of assessment shows whether a student is taking advice from a teacher on previous tests, learning from past mistakes, and growing as an individual.

Ipsative assessments benefit all student learners. Why?  Because students who may normally test low and become discouraged, can instead take note of improvement over time. This type of assessment also prevents students who are usually very high achievers from becoming complacent with good assessment scores. Instead, they strive to improve their score with each iteration of an assessment.

Creating Arts Integrated Assessments

It’s normal for teachers at any stage to be weary of creating assessments. Educators often feel so burdened by our own assessments in our own content area- showing growth student growth and compiling data- that the idea of taking on a content area with which we aren’t entirely comfortable seems like too much.

Familiarize yourself with other contents

This is the most time-consuming and overwhelming part when taking on arts integration- getting to know contents outside your own. You don’t have to internalize every concept and every standard in every content, but rather gain a working knowledge of the elements, skills, and processes associated with each content area. Here are a couple of tools that might help provide you with some overviews of other contents:

  • Elements of the Arts Posters: These posters break down the elements of each art form (dance, design, drama, music, and visual art), and are a great way to start thinking about making natural connections to other contents!
  • Standards-at-a-Glance Packet: Check out this Standards-at-a-Glance resource – these outline anchor standards for the Arts and Common Core ELA, Common Core Standards for Mathematical Practice and conceptual categories by grade level, and NGSS Science and Engineering Practices, Disciplinary Core Ideas, and Crosscutting Concepts.

 

Keep your options open

Keep your mind open as to what your assessment of another content might look like. It can be as simple as a checklist, an observation, a multiple choice, a short answer, or it can be more performance or project-based, including rubrics, portfolios, or presentations. Keep your options open, and choose the entry point you feel most comfortable with and will have the most success with as you begin! Don’t forget to download the Arts Integration Assessment Toolkit found below.

Maintain fidelity to standards

Change the order of how you plan: standards, then assessment, then instruction. This is definitely a shift from the way many of us were taught to teach, but when we align assessment to standards before planning instruction, we ensure that our assessment is faithful to the standards, and consequently, our instruction will be as well. Standards mapping is a great way to ensure congruency between the assessment and the standards, and will help outline what you want from students.  

Develop an assessment bank

Banks can be used to take the stress out of compiling and creating new assessments for each lesson or project. Make your bank a living document, continuing to compile, write, edit, and refine our assessment tools. 

Develop your own toolkit of rubrics, checklists, etc. in each content area, and then take the pieces you need for each standard or lesson.  Or, if you’re looking for ready-made tools, explore our Assessment for Makers online course.  Inside, you’ll find assessment strategies, samples, alignment tools and checklists.

Demonstrating Student Growth

Giving students a chance to take ownership of their own learning is critical to their overall growth over time. Involving students in the assessment process offers a wide range of benefits.

Measuring for Real Growth

One problem with measuring student growth is that in order to see real growth, it’s helpful to have a real comparison to make.  In other words: have the student perform a very similar task repeatedly.  

How often do we really do this with our students?  We have topics to cover, initiatives to implement, new strategies to try. In a recent example, a teacher in one of our programs shared that she was looking at two drafts of a student’s work. They were attempting to use certain techniques to show the illusion of depth in a drawing.  The second attempt on its own was not all that impressive; there was much room for improvement.  

But when the teacher looked back at the first attempt, she saw just how much the student had grown already.  Suddenly that second attempt was much more impressive! The teacher was able to provide much more encouraging and supportive feedback just as the student himself and his partner had been able to do.

Self-and-Peer Assessment Strategies

So what does work? Creating a self-and-peer assessment that are very similar for both the “learning” assignment and the final project.  This allows students to spend less time understanding the format of the assessment and more time looking critically at the work. Even before the students use the assessment, you can calibrate your grading as a class to be sure you have a common understanding of the assessment.  

A volunteer student and the teacher can share “their” pieces (pieces prepared ahead of time to reflect different strengths and weaknesses).  As a class, the students assess each piece. Then, discuss the different ideas students have about how to grade each piece. They can share out reasoning and come to a consensus on what constituted acceptable application of the techniques and what needs more work.  

Guidelines

To sum up, here are some things to consider when creating assessments to demonstrate student growth:

  1. Assign the same or similar task in order to compare apples to apples.
  2. Keep related pieces of work so you and the students can see the progress and growth over time both in the work (if that is possible) and on the assessments.
  3. Calibrate the use of the assessment so you and the students all understand what is acceptable.
  4. Use a similar assessment over time so students become accustomed to that assessment and can increase the effectiveness in using it to self-assess.

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Assessment is a measurement of growth. Evaluation is a judgment of mastery. When we assess arts integration, we are looking to see how a student’s understanding and application of knowledge evolved over time.  Assessment is about the process, not the end product.

VIEW VIDEO
TAKE THE COURSE

When considering assessment strategies for arts integration and STEAM, it’s important to begin with the basics. Assessment is a loaded topic in education. There is often confusion, mistrust and challenging paradigms that need to be addressed. In this topic overview, we’ll explore the types of assessment, how to use them effectively, and provide specific examples to use in your classroom.

Are Your Assessments Aligned?

One of the biggest fears of many teachers when working through an integrated lesson is how to assess the other content area. Part of this comes from just not “knowing” what and how to assess a topic.

Remember that assessment and evaluation are not the same thing. For arts integration and STEAM lessons, we’re looking for an assessment to measure the standards selected for the lesson.

This could be as simple as an exit ticket that asks a question about both the content and arts area addressed. Or, it could be a dance performance that students create to demonstrate the water cycle.

Assessment vs. Evaluation

Assessment is a measurement of growth. So we are looking to see if a student progressed in their understanding and application of the standards from the beginning of the lesson to the end.

Evaluation is a judgment of mastery. This is when a qualified educator determines whether or not a student has mastered a skill. We rarely use evaluations in arts integration and STEAM lessons.

These are typically the final exams or tests that are given that provide a clear statement that either a student has mastered that skill or not. This should be reserved for the educator who is directly and explicitly teaching that skill.

For example, a math teacher should be evaluating whether a student has mastered a math skill. And an art teacher should be evaluating whether a student has mastered an art skill.

But an assessment can be provided by any educator. Any educator who teaches an arts integration or STEAM lesson is able to assess whether students made progress is both content areas during that lesson.

Maintaining the Integrity of Content and Assessment

In order to ensure both the content and the arts area of being taught equitably, we must assess both during the lesson. That means that we’ll need to assess the standards that are being addressed in both areas. The easiest way to do this is to create an assessment alignment map.

An assessment alignment map outlines:

  • the assessments we intend to use
  • include a reason for why they are being measured
  • clearly identifies what we’re looking to achieve
  • and then provides a way to reflect on whether or not that assessment was effective.

This makes assessment a process and not a product. If we go through the assessment alignment process, we are ensuring that we are choosing assessments that are truly measuring the standards we set out to teach. This brings back authenticity to the lesson and allows us to have richer and more meaningful data conversations.

Here’s a sample assessment alignment map you can use:

At first glance, this may look intimidating. Here’s a step-by-step process for using this map to its highest potential:

1. Write your lesson standards in the correct columns.

These should be naturally-aligned objectives for your integrated lesson.

2. What is your essential question that you would like your students to think about?

Remember that essential questions do not contain a right or wrong answer, but rather cause students to think deeply about a topic and explain their reasoning.

3. Write the type of assessment that you will be using to measure student growth in this lesson.

A rubric? A selected response?  Write a brief description about the assessment you plan to use and make sure that it is measuring the objectives you listed at the front of the chart.

4. Give a brief, 1-2 sentence description of your lesson activities.

This could also be a bulleted list. How are you engaging your students in the thinking process?

5. After completing steps 1-4 of the chart, use this to guide your instruction.

Don’t worry about the last two columns until after you finish with your instruction of the lesson.

6. After you administer the assessment, record the scores for that assessment.

You may choose to record the scores of all the students in your class, a targeted group of students, or the class average.  While the choice is yours, be sure that you have enough data to reflect on the effectiveness of your lesson and think about moving students forward.

7. What are the next steps for this topic/concept/unit based upon the data you’ve recorded?

Did your assessment align with and measure the objectives you listed?  Was the lesson clear and cohesive? Were students able to think through the essential questions?  What factors caused this lesson to be a success or to need improvement? Write your reflections and engage in a conversation about this data.

The Types of Assessment for Learning

Now that you know why it’s important to assess arts integration, let’s look at how to do that effectively. Student learning and assessment go hand in hand when done naturally.  When we assess FOR learning, it becomes a natural part of the teaching and learning cycle. This idea of assessing for learning allows teachers to use assessments as feedback and guidance for next steps.

Where we’ve gone astray has been in a laser-like focus with assessment OF learning.  That’s when we use assessments to tell us the sum total of knowledge on a topic. When used sparingly, these can give us a single measurement among a broad profile of what a child knows and can do.  But it’s when we put the emphasis on these kinds of assessments that we begin to unravel the true learning experience.

Assessing for Learning

So what can we do to re-shift our assessment priorities?  First, we need to understand what types of assessment are available FOR learning.  These are tools that we can use to help us get a better overall picture of student learning.

There are three main types of assessment that can be used during the teaching and learning cycle:

  • Diagnostic
  • Formative
  • Summative

These make up what I call the Assessment Profile for learning.  Each of these assessment types contribute a piece of the puzzle to understanding what our students know already, what areas they are growing or slowing and their final application of knowledge.

Examples of Assessment Types

In the downloadable below, you can see several quick examples of each type of assessment for learning.

types of assessment for learning 

DOWNLOAD THIS PDF 

 

What you’ll notice is that some examples overlap (like portfolios – available in the formative and summative categories).  That’s because some assessments can be used for multiple purposes. It’s all about your intention – what are you looking to measure with the assessment of choice?

You’ll also see that we’ve included some asterisks to indicate if the assessment example is an authentic/performance assessment.  Whenever possible during the learning experience, we want to encourage authentic assessments that focus on construction and application, rather than “right or wrong” answers.  To truly understand the whole body of learning, we need to be able to see what students can do with their knowledge, skills and processes.

 

Diagnostic Examples

  • Pre and post-tests
  • Self-assessments
  • Discussion board responses **
  • Entry/Exit tickets
  • Interviews **
  • Observations Polling

 

Formative Examples

  • Student observations
  • Homework Reflection journals/ Sketchbooks **
  • Socratic discussions
  • Student/Teacher conferences
  • Peer reviews
  • Informal presentations **
  • Portfolios – on-going **
  • Project phases submitted over time **
  • Think/Pair/Share
  • Visual Thinking Strategies
  • Critiques **

 

Summative Examples

  • High-stakes tests
  • Multiple choice
  • Checklists
  • Portfolios – culmination **
  • Performances **
  • Rubrics**
  • Teacher-created tests
  • Essays **
  • Capstone projects **

** Indicates an authentic assessment

Using Assessments during Integrated Lessons

Finally, one of the concerns of many teachers who are trying to use arts integration, STEAM or Project-Based Learning is in how to assess the lesson.  The options provided in assessments such as these offer any teacher the ability to assess students at any level.  These suggestions provide a full spectrum of feedback and reflective choices for the classroom.

Alternative Assessments

There are instances when these 3 most common assessments might not be best-suited for the task at hand.

The good news is that there are many additional types of assessments that exist as a means to assess student knowledge and learning. 

A research study from the University of Exeter looks at eight assessment types total. For arts integration, just concentrate on these three alternative assessment options: Dynamic Assessments, Synoptic Assessments, and Ipsative Assessments. 

These assessments should not be used on a daily or even weekly basis. But hopefully, they can serve to provide variety and a holistic perspective to your assessment toolbox.  Each of these methods also works well paired with Arts Integration and STEAM learning. Why? Because they lend themselves to creative learning in multiple subject areas.

Dynamic Assessments

Dynamic assessments are meant to measure not only the skills a child possesses but also their learning potential.  They’re complementary to “Static Assessments,” like standardized tests. They’re also usually very interactive between the teacher and student.

These types of assessment are often particularly useful when working with special populations of students. Some examples of special populations include English Language Learners and Special Needs Learners.  

Even students coming from disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds. Like in a diagnostic assessment, dynamic assessments might use pre/post tests to gauge student learning. They also examine how much teaching and what type of teaching was required for student learning, and the degree of transfer of learning.  

So Many Types of Tests!

In a traditional static test, a teacher might rephrase a question or encourage the child to show understanding.  But in a dynamic assessment, the teacher would go beyond simple feedback to provide more elaborate feedback. For example, instead of “that’s correct!”, the teacher could instead say “that’s correct because a noun is a person, place, thing, or idea and a dog fits into one of those specific categories!”.

In a dynamic test, a teacher might also participate during a test by asking a student “why do you think this is the correct answer? How do you know this?” in an attempt to get the student to verbalize the reasoning behind their responses. The teacher might also intervene by testing, teaching, and then retesting.  

For example, an English Language Learner might be asked to tell the story of the Three Little Pigs. The teacher might evaluate initial story narratives. Then, teach specifically to the places where the student’s first tests showed a lack of understanding. The teacher may then ask students to retell the story. The pre/post tests are compared and considered along with listener effort and responsiveness.

More than a specific style of test, dynamic testing is meant to be a method of “active testing” as opposed to “passive testing.” Take a deep-dive into dynamic assessments at this Colorado Department of Education resource page.

Synoptic Assessments

A synoptic assessment is a specific type of summative assessment that tests the student’s understanding of connections between different elements of a subject or different subjects. The purpose of this type of assessment is to teach students how to make connections between topics and to increase student engagement while using a holistic assessment approach.

The key to synoptic assessments is that students need to be able to recall knowledge from previous units of study, and transfer that knowledge to a new subject or area of learning. These can be aural or written assessments. They also tend to be more project based.  

Project-Based Assessments

For example, students might learn about different countries’ geography and culture over several units of learning. For an assessment, they might be asked to create a “mock United Nations” where students role-play and come together to use background knowledge to solve the “problems” established in the assessment outline. Or students might have to utilize the design process and background knowledge of forces and Newton’s Laws to create and refine Rube Goldberg machines.  

In this model of assessment, students can offer peer feedback. In this set-up, they are learning from the way others have approached the task. Learning through assessing the work of a peer helps students to evaluate and benchmark their own personal performance. Teachers using synoptic assessment look for breadth of understanding. In other words, the student’s abilities to see beyond obvious and black/white responses to deeper implications of questions. Students should link relevant ideas and arguments across subject and topic areas.  

Another example of a synoptic assessment could take the form of an essay that requires students to acknowledge more than one viewpoint. Synoptic essay prompts usually start with the words “How far…” or “How valid/convincing was…”. An example of a synoptic essay prompt for secondary students might be “How far was the personality cult of Adolf Hitler responsible for the success of the Nazi party?” This question asks students to think about the leading figures and events of WWII with a broad lens. To find more synoptic essay prompts check out this resource offered by the Historical Association.

Ipsative Assessments

An ipsative assessment compares a student’s achievement against their own previous achievement. One of the most common ways we might be familiar with an ipsative assessment would be at the gym.  You can compare how far or fast you ran this time to how far or fast you ran last time when running on a treadmill. When lifting weights you might compare the amount of weight you are capable of lifting and note how that changes over time.  When using a bicycle machine you may take note of endurance or speed compared to previous rides.

In all of these examples, it is not particularly important how you are doing compared to how someone else is doing, or how you are doing compared to a rubric or standardized expectation (as a criterion-referenced test would do). All of these are examples of ipsative assessments and they serve the purpose of measuring personal progress and development. This type of assessment shows whether a student is taking advice from a teacher on previous tests, learning from past mistakes, and growing as an individual.

Ipsative assessments benefit all student learners. Why?  Because students who may normally test low and become discouraged, can instead take note of improvement over time. This type of assessment also prevents students who are usually very high achievers from becoming complacent with good assessment scores. Instead, they strive to improve their score with each iteration of an assessment.

Creating Arts Integrated Assessments

It’s normal for teachers at any stage to be weary of creating assessments. Educators often feel so burdened by our own assessments in our own content area- showing growth student growth and compiling data- that the idea of taking on a content area with which we aren’t entirely comfortable seems like too much.

Familiarize yourself with other contents

This is the most time-consuming and overwhelming part when taking on arts integration- getting to know contents outside your own. You don’t have to internalize every concept and every standard in every content, but rather gain a working knowledge of the elements, skills, and processes associated with each content area. Here are a couple of tools that might help provide you with some overviews of other contents:

  • Elements of the Arts Posters: These posters break down the elements of each art form (dance, design, drama, music, and visual art), and are a great way to start thinking about making natural connections to other contents!
  • Standards-at-a-Glance Packet: Check out this Standards-at-a-Glance resource – these outline anchor standards for the Arts and Common Core ELA, Common Core Standards for Mathematical Practice and conceptual categories by grade level, and NGSS Science and Engineering Practices, Disciplinary Core Ideas, and Crosscutting Concepts.

Keep your options open

Keep your mind open as to what your assessment of another content might look like. It can be as simple as a checklist, an observation, a multiple choice, a short answer, or it can be more performance or project-based, including rubrics, portfolios, or presentations. Keep your options open, and choose the entry point you feel most comfortable with and will have the most success with as you begin! Don’t forget to download the Arts Integration Assessment Toolkit.

Maintain fidelity to standards

Change the order of how you plan: standards, then assessment, then instruction. This is definitely a shift from the way many of us were taught to teach, but when we align assessment to standards before planning instruction, we ensure that our assessment is faithful to the standards, and consequently, our instruction will be as well. Standards mapping is a great way to ensure congruency between the assessment and the standards, and will help outline what you want from students.  

Develop an assessment bank

Banks can be used to take the stress out of compiling and creating new assessments for each lesson or project. Make your bank a living document, continuing to compile, write, edit, and refine our assessment tools. 

Develop your own toolkit of rubrics, checklists, etc. in each content area, and then take the pieces you need for each standard or lesson.  Or, if you’re looking for ready-made tools, explore our Assessment for Makers online course.  Inside, you’ll find assessment samples, alignment tools and checklists.

Demonstrating Student Growth

Giving students a chance to take ownership of their own learning is critical to their overall growth over time. Involving students in the assessment process offers a wide range of benefits.

Measuring for Real Growth

One problem with measuring student growth is that in order to see real growth, it’s helpful to have a real comparison to make.  In other words: have the student perform a very similar task repeatedly.  

How often do we really do this with our students?  We have topics to cover, initiatives to implement, new strategies to try. In a recent example, a teacher in one of our programs shared that she was looking at two drafts of a student’s work. They were attempting to use certain techniques to show the illusion of depth in a drawing.  The second attempt on its own was not all that impressive; there was much room for improvement.  

But when the teacher looked back at the first attempt, she saw just how much the student had grown already.  Suddenly that second attempt was much more impressive! The teacher was able to provide much more encouraging and supportive feedback just as the student himself and his partner had been able to do.

Self-and-Peer Assessment

So what does work? Creating a self-and-peer assessment that are very similar for both the “learning” assignment and the final project.  This allows students to spend less time understanding the format of the assessment and more time looking critically at the work. Even before the students use the assessment, you can calibrate your grading as a class to be sure you have a common understanding of the assessment.  

A volunteer student and the teacher can share “their” pieces (pieces prepared ahead of time to reflect different strengths and weaknesses).  As a class, the students assess each piece. Then, discuss the different ideas students have about how to grade each piece. They can share out reasoning and come to a consensus on what constituted acceptable application of the techniques and what needs more work.  

Guidelines

To sum up, here are some things to consider when creating assessments to demonstrate student growth:

  1. Assign the same or similar task in order to compare apples to apples.
  2. Keep related pieces of work so you and the students can see the progress and growth over time both in the work (if that is possible) and on the assessments.
  3. Calibrate the use of the assessment so you and the students all understand what is acceptable.
  4. Use a similar assessment over time so students become accustomed to that assessment and can increase the effectiveness in using it to self-assess.

MORE CHAPTERS IN THIS SERIES:

VIDEO

Assessing Integration

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RESOURCE

Assessment Toolkit

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