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Lesson Plans

Re: HS art exams?

[ Thread ][ Subject ][ Author ][ Date ]
Sat, 6 Nov 1999 09:19:03 EST

I feel very strongly about giving my students written semester and final
exams. Art has too frequently been considered "non-academic" for as long as
I have been teaching, and, judging from many posts from this group, we have
all struggled against this image. Giving an art project to complete during
the exam time, or a final project that counts in place of the exam seems to
me to feed the idea that there is not too much to learn in art class, that
art is zapped into you by your creator anyway, and you either have it or you
don't. I have never found a project that seemed comprehensive enough to
adequately test the insights, vocabulary, background, processes, and skills I
have attempted to teach during the entire semester. Instead, I give a [long]
written test that attempts to assess the students' comprehension and
retention of art terms, historical facts and influences, specific processes
for various media, safety precautions, and usually includes some drawing,
sketching, or other visual means of assessment.

Visual people sometimes have difficulty being verbal, talking about their
art. [see the video from the National Gallery about Alexander Calder for an
excellent example of a marvelous artist who could barely communicate]. For
this reason, I have frequent oral critiques. Upper level students must also
write a half-page or more paper about their projects. We also visit the
museum and write compare-contrasts about two pieces there. Also, I give them
a page of descriptive words from which they select 10 to use in an essay
about a piece of museum art.

Students and everybody else need to know that my class is not only about
refining skills, but also about learning the many things artists need to know
that can be verbalized. Written tests and exams seem to me to be a good way
to assess how well this is happening.


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