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Saturday, February 20, 2010

Arts-Based Assessment:The Total Picture

Arts-Based Assessment: The Total Picture

There is a huge assumption and major disconnect in the active engagement of student centered formative assessment and how students show they are smart.

Schools need to engage in qualitative assessments to truly “know their students”. Electronic and web-based assessments only quantifies student achievement as (at best) – a portion of the “student picture”. Formative assessment should not only inform instruction but also allow students to show how they are smart as well as how smart they are. Failing to engage in arts-based assessment as a component of a “balanced” assessment process is a major error in the form of a missed opportunity.

By using the Arts to reflect on the “emotional level of learning” (according to Piaget: “Where learning is forever.”) teachers can gain an insight into the true level of understanding reached by their students. Write a poem, draw a picture, stage an acting scene, design a costume, write a song, create a sound collage, visual collage, video collage, oral history, sculpting, installation art, photography, pod cast, PowerPoint, web site, etc., etc., etc!

Bob's thoughts on Education

Excellence in schools can not be attained through the implementation of mandated policies. Policy only defines minimum expectations in a rush toward mediocrity. Excellence is an outcome driven by an individual’s ethics: an ethos of achievement. No amount of worldly accouterments can provide the impetus for an individual to strive for excellence in any endeavor. That “fire” must be lit from within.


Becoming an educated person should be the outcome of learning. Too many times learning is more about being compliant than truly elevating ones cognitive skills to a level of an educated individual. The more a person learns about something, the more they find out how much they do not know: the life-long-learner emerges. With achievement on high stakes testing as the only goal, the process often removes the opportunities to embrace the richer learning elements of education.

Public Education

The charge we have been given in West Virginia and America is to educate all to a level of mastery in the core subjects: NCLB. Teachers and administrators can not achieve this goal by themselves in isolation. We need to empower all the stakeholders: teachers, students, parents, and community members as active partners, creating a framework of support and shared vision to sustain the efforts to fulfill our charge.

Bias to Action

From August to November for the past 15 years I have spent nearly every Saturday observing high school marching bands as a professional adjudicator. After the show I talk to their instructors about the achievement and level of excellence their students demonstrated that day and discuss strategies for improving their performance effectiveness.

Bob Dunkerley