Initial Teacher Training - Trainers Pack and Programme


Addressing Assessment in Art and Design

The challenge is considerable for the teacher trainer in addressing even the basic issues of assessment in art and design in what could be as little as one hour in a 10 hour course. The trainees will be from various disciplines and may use assessment models from that discipline, which may have generated misconceptions about assessment in art and design. They may believe that there must be a right and wrong answer or alternatively, that it not even possible, sometimes citing examples from the more obscure forms of contemporary art to support their case.

Asking them initially to reflect upon assessment procedures that they are familiar with in their main subject will be helpful because, whatever the discipline, there will be some absolute assessments that can be made yet others require judgments against criteria as in art and design. A useful common reference for trainees is the teaching of English, where some assessments such as those of punctuation and spelling will be absolute but others, such as in making judgments about creative writing, will involve formulating agreed criteria.

The aim of these deliberations is to assist trainees in recognising that although there are some aspects and Art and Design that could fall in this absolute category this is not generally the case, yet the alternative is not a 'free for all' anarchic approach, where nothing can be done to assist pupils to improve.

The trainees must recognise that it is essential to build the assessment criteria when planning the set task. Initially they can be given examples of a range of activities in art and design and asked to reflect on the learning implications and as a corollary the assessment criteria. This task can then be developed further by setting a practical, even if somewhat unrealistic, exercise in which judgments about a series of observational drawings are made. The collection should ideally initially involve a task set by a primary teacher in which each pupil has drawn the same object using one common medium. If this exercise can be contrasted with one where trainees are asked to make judgments about a more open ended non-objective pupil task, the added complexities in making judgments about creativity will be revealed. After these comparative exercises it should be possible to generate a debate on the impact of assessment on the content of the dominant mode of activity, by asking trainees to reflect upon their own experiences in school, where it will become apparent that in many cases the need to assess is driving the curriculum.

The effective use of National Curriculum levels must be addressed. The article by Dan China on 'The uses and abuses of levels' in the NSEAD newsletter 'AND 25' may be helpful in this context. Trainees may also see assessment in art and design primarily from a summative perspective, so the importance of making judgments about a set of work rather than individual pieces should be highlighted.

Many schools now keep folders of work which illustrate achievement against particular levels and it may be possible to acquire some of these to use as exemplars. When faced with such a set of work trainees will gain understanding about sensitive and individualised assessment procedures by being asked to formulate some questions they would ask the pupil about a set of work, and the comments and judgments they would make to assist in them moving forward.

It is also obviously essential that trainees are advised to approach the subject leader in whatever school they are placed and ask for the school's assessment policy, to seek advice about how they can most effectively implement school procedures. Trainees can also be asked to reflect on the assessment procedures that they have observed taking place in primary schools they have visited and make some tactful evaluations of their effectiveness, and ways in which they might be developed as a focus for discussion. In some cases the absence of any clear systems in some schools may be revealing.

Subsequent practical work with trainees that is undertaken on the curriculum course will further serve to illustrate assessment issues. The use of sensitive and positive peer assessment procedures can be directly demonstrated by asking trainees to assess their own and others work, and set personal and peer targets for improvement. The basic chapter on assessment in primary school in The Art and Design Subject Leader's Handbook as a supplementary reading task for trainees may prove helpful in consolidating the work done in course sessions. (See chapter 7 page 2 8- the book is illustrated on the NSEAD website with a summary of the chapter on assessment)

In addition the The Primary Art and Design Subject Leaders' Handbook provides valuable information to help successfully establish and develop the subject in schools. It is a must for every primary coordinator and useful for teacher trainers in addressing the issues with their trainees.