Academic journal article Studies in Art Education

eLASTIC: Pulling and Stretching What It Means to Learn, Know, and Assess Art and Educational Progress

Academic journal article Studies in Art Education

eLASTIC: Pulling and Stretching What It Means to Learn, Know, and Assess Art and Educational Progress

Article excerpt

Although education pundits agree that students and teachers learn in multiple and differing ways (Gardner 1983/2003, 2000; Jackson, 2005), assessment and evaluation of that learning tends to be standardized and broadly scaled (e.g., SOL tests, SATs, and GREs'). Examining sophisticated and higher-order learning activities associated with the traits of innovative and critical thinking so valued in art education is rarely, if ever, a consideration for large-scale assessment and evaluation. Problematic too is the appreciable time that evaluative test preparation and administration takes away from teaching and learning in schools. At a local meeting about testing sponsored by Richmond (Virginia) Teachers for Social Justice, a concerned parent said:

At a so-called low performing school, children take practice tests, benchmark tests, and hear from their teachers the constant refrain that another year of low SOL test scores will surely result in the school being taken over by the state or closed. During practice testing, children sit in the cafeteria or go to gym for two periods to accommodate the testing schedule, sacrificing learning time for testing accommodation. An elaborate reward system is in place involving prizes for high scores on individual tests or the ultimate-a pizza party for children who pass all of their benchmark tests. (H. Elliott, personal communication, May 21,2012)

Other problematic features of standardized testing include high stakes consequences of low scores (school closings, teacher and administrator relocations), test-taking anxiety, test data tampering, readiness, and lack of community relevance in test content (Meador, 2012). Concern for this trend toward assessment and evaluation of nonstandard ways of knowing and the resulting pilfering of learning/teaching time motivated the research and development of an alternative in process and connective approach to gathering and analyzing learning data. The title of the project, eLASTIC, is designed to reflect the idea that learning is-and assessment and evaluation should be-about stretching, compelling, and valuing multiple and flexible approaches to knowing.

In this article, I will describe the evolution, testing, and implications associated with the first phase of the research and development of eLASTIC: electronic learning and assessment tool for interdisciplinary connections. I use experiences from a 3-year study in Doha, Qatar, to share the ways that this progressive and complex research served to inform and provoke further questions regarding what it means to learn, know, and assess art and educational progress. As this article reveals, much is left to do in this quest for developing valid assessment and evaluation tools for visual arts. My hope is that this account will serve to rally a collaborative effort in our field to tackle this difficult task before other methods are forced upon us.

Transforming Web Connections With Lasers

The eLASTIC research is an extension of a hypertext-based art education study involving high school students who collected and represented their learning experiences in interactive computer webs (Taylor, 1999). In that study, the art students created virtual boxes in which they placed images of their art, research, notes, peer comments, video clips, music, and other information they linked or applied to what they learned in the class. They created links between specific areas of these virtual boxes (like parts of images, phrases, and words) and attached explanations of their linking choices. Lines and arrows depicted the links creating a visual tangled web of learning. The hypertext-based art education research confirmed that students who based and connected their study in the interactive/ connected computer webs were compelled to learn and know beyond the curriculum content and guidelines (Taylor, 2000).

Although we know that learning, knowing, and creating are complicated and messy, the entangled visual of hypertext connections also can be dizzying (see Figure 1). …

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