Historical Analysis of Assessment in Art Education

By Gruber, Donald D.; Hobbs, Jack A. | Art Education, November 2002 | Go to article overview

Historical Analysis of Assessment in Art Education


Gruber, Donald D., Hobbs, Jack A., Art Education


stage of development of the child

technique and skill

organization of the work

expression

reaction

behavior

measurting progress

measuring product

testing

observation

products

portfolios

Historically, the field of art education has not emphasized assessment. For a large part of the 20th century, significance of the art experience was placed not so much on learning in art as on art as a tool for self-expression. Assessment as a measure of student learning in art was generally relegated to the category of irrelevant necessity.

Assessment did enjoy a brief period of respect in the 1920s when scientific approaches to education were undertaken. Then, the primary purpose was measuring artistic aptitude or intelligence. The McAdory Art Test of 1929, the Meier-Seashore Art Judgment Test of 1930 (Gaitskell, 1958; Meier, 1966; Gaitskell & Hurwitz, 1970), and the Goodenough Measurement of Intelligence by Drawing (Goodenough, 1926) were examples of such instruments. These tests were not meant to be a means of determining cognitive growth or progress in art on a day-to-day basis in school. Gaitskell (1958) referred to them as "more a guessing game than a serious measuring device of appreciation" (p. 400). Eisner (1966) in some ways applauded this failure, pointing out that the scarcity of standardized testing in art has enabled art education to escape many of the evaluation problems prevalent in other academic areas.

But in the immediate postWWII era, suggestions for assessment began to appear in some art education texts. However, the strength of the child-centered and self-expressive educational movements, inspired in the earlier part of the century (by among other writings, those of Freud and Dewey) still prevailed. As a result, there was less emphasis placed on the assessment of student art products and more on the artmaking process itself (e.g., the behaviors and interactions of students while drawing, painting, and sculpting). Even so, evidence of the inclusion of evaluative procedures in texts prior to the 1960s is sparse. Art Today by Faulkner, Ziegfeld, and Hill, published in 1941, a popular secondary-level text that emphasized problem-solving skills, made no mention of assessment or evaluation. The following year, Victor D'Amico's Creative Teaching in Art and the subsequent second edition of 1953 did not reference evaluation in any form. Instead, D'Amico focused on art processes entirely.

The first edition of Lowenfeld's Creative and Mental Growth in 1947 focused on the psychological development of students through unhindered creative activity, but made no mention of evaluation or grading. However, "exercises" at the end of each chapter were, in a sense, a form of evaluation, but were not identified as such. In the 1952 second edition, Lowenfeld endorsed evaluation at every stage of a child's development and included charts of evaluation criteria He defined evaluation in terms of growth: emotional, intellectual, physical (in creative activity), perceptual, social, aesthetic, and creative. He called for the development of objective criteria based on three points: (1) the stage of development of the child, (2) technique and skill, and (3) the organization of the work. Lowenfeld was careful to point out, though, his belief that the evaluation of children's art products limits their creative freedom by forcing them to focus on the finished product and not on the creative process (Lowenfeld, 1952).

By 1957, in the third edition, Lowenfeld, who had been less than enthusiastic about assigning grades in art, acknowledged the reality of grades within the educational environment. He suggested that progress indicated learning, and that progress could be measured. Thus grades could be used to indicate progress and, therefore, learning. Lowenfeld continued to warn, however, that grades that focus on the product divert the child's attention from the creative process and are consequently detrimental to the child's healthy psychological development. …

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