Academic journal article Studies in Art Education

Toward an Aspirational Learning Model Gleaned from Large-Scale Assessment

Academic journal article Studies in Art Education

Toward an Aspirational Learning Model Gleaned from Large-Scale Assessment

Article excerpt

The aspirational model tested the premise that technical knowledge is requisite to developing aesthetic understanding, which, in turn, leads to meaning making. The model considered the impact of question sequencing on National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) performance. Employing positive findings, the authors have inferred that, within an aspirational model of art learning, students can engage at a personal level and then move from art knowledge to technical knowledge to aesthetic properties and, ultimately, to field-based meaning.

The NAEP has provided the only national test of artistic learning. Reports that follow each administration of NAEP have contributed longitudinal data for music and the visual arts-the most-commonly tested arts areas. Questions asked of 8th-grade test takers have been linked together within a frame of knowledge and skills across a subject assessment. Test blocks have contained related questions that represent problem sets. Blocks of items may have been repeated across test cycles, as in 1997 and 2008 with the Bearden Block, the Portrait Block, the Memory Box, and the Mother/Child (M/C) Block. A few changes in language at the question/item level have occurred in the repeated blocks.Thus, direct comparisons of achievement have not been made between the two tests, but for comparative purposes within blocks, most of the rich content of 1997 made it into the 2008 NAEP (Keiper, Sandene, Perskey, & Kuang, 2009).

The aspirational model described here has statistically supported the stated aims of the M/C question block administered in 1997 and 2008. According to the 1997 NAEP instructions, "[Eighth graders] are asked to apply their knowledge of aesthetic properties, using their technical and art historical knowledge, and their understanding of how artists convey meaning in their work" (Persky, Sandene, & Askew, 1999, p. 218). At the low end, items differentiated between students with little and no training; the high-end items were difficult enough "that exceptionally talented [art learners] and those who have pursued in-depth study can demonstrate the extent of their accomplishments" (The College Board, 1994, p. 14). NAEP test blocks have employed art images as referents and required "significant knowledge and skills unique to each domain be embedded in an exercise in a way that clearly shows their application or use" (National Assessment Governing Board, 1994a, p. 13).

The M/C test block questions compared and analyzed similarities in style. The exercise consisted of 13 questions based on five images: The Family by Miro (Image #1); a Nigerian Figure of Woman and Child (Image #2); Raphael's Small Cowper Madonna (Image #3); Byzantine Madonna and Child (Image #4); and Beatrice (Image #5) by William Sargeant Kendall (Persky et al., 1999, p. 236-237, 240). The constructs we discerned in the restricted data of the M/C test block constituted a "path" we named art knowledge, technical knowledge, aesthetic properties, and meaning.

Art knowledge refers to art historical, critical, and appreciative information that students may have. Technical knowledge concerns the level of understanding students have about how art is constructed and how complex images are decoded. Knowledge of aesthetics properties helps students reassemble what they have learned so they can demonstrate that they understand the nature, meaning, and value of artworks from different cultures and historical periods. Meaning may form at two levels (personal and societal) within three contexts (individual perspective, cultural consensus, and historical understanding). In our analysis, we associated critical models of art learning and curricular incentives that at the time sought to advance the impact of teaching methodologies.

The 1997 NAEP framework developers sought coordination and alignment with the emerging national standards movement in the early 1990s. The item maps from NAEP reports for 1997 and 2008 indicated that the M/C test block might be a good place to start looking for gross patterns in students'ability to respond to art, especially by attending to the upper ranges of item difficulty. …

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