Brianne Gidcumb | April 2016

Tips for Creating Arts Integrated Assessments

One of the biggest pain points for teachers new to arts integration and STEAM is the idea that both content areas being taught, the classroom content and the arts content, are assessed equitably. We often feel so burdened by our own assessments in our own content area- showing growth student growth and compiling data- that the idea of taking on a content area with which we aren’t entirely comfortable seems like too much. Today, I’d like to share some quick tips to make the idea of integrated assessments more accessible.  

Before we jump in, it’s important to remember the difference between assessment and evaluation. Assessment is a measurement of growth. Evaluation is a measurement of mastery.

When creating integrated assessments, it’s important to remember that you are not responsible for measuring mastery of a content area outside your own.

As a music teacher integrating writing into my classroom, I didn’t have the tools to determine whether a student had mastered a Common Core Standard, and I certainly wouldn’t have felt comfortable making such a determination and reporting it to students, parents, and administrators.

I did, however, have the capacity and capability to determine whether students had demonstrated understanding of a standard or growth in a concept or skill, and could create guidelines and checklists to serve as a gauge of this. So with that said, here are some tips for creating integrated assessments:

Familiarize yourself with other contents

This is the most time-consuming and overwhelming part when taking on arts integration- getting to know contents outside your own. You don’t have to internalize every concept and every standard in every content, but rather gain a working knowledge of the elements, skills, and processes associated with each content area. Here are a couple of tools that might help provide you with some overviews of other contents:

  • Elements of the Arts Posters: These posters break down the elements of each art form (dance, design, drama, music, and visual art), and are a great way to start thinking about making natural connections to other contents!
  • Standards-at-a-Glance Packet: Check out my Standards-at-a-Glance resources on my TeachersPayTeachers store– these outline anchor standards for the Arts and Common Core ELA, Common Core Standards for Mathematical Practice and conceptual categories by grade level, and NGSS Science and Engineering Practices, Disciplinary Core Ideas, and Crosscutting Concepts.

Keep your options open

Keep your mind open as to what your assessment of another content might look like. It can be as simple as a checklist, an observation, a multiple choice, a short answer, or it can be more performance or project-based, including rubrics, portfolios, or presentations. Keep your options open, and choose the entry point you feel most comfortable with and will have the most success with as you begin! Don’t forget to download the Arts Integration Assessment Toolkit.

Maintain fidelity to standards

Change the order of how you plan: standards, then assessment, then instruction. This is definitely a shift from the way many of us were taught to teach, but when we align assessment to standards before planning instruction, we ensure that our assessment is faithful to the standards, and consequently, our instruction will be as well. Curriculum mapping is a great way to ensure congruency between the assessment and the standards, and will help outline what you want from students.  

Develop an assessment bank

Banks can be used to take the stress out of compiling and creating new assessments for each lesson or project. Make your bank a living document, continuing to compile, write, edit, and refine our assessment tools. Develop your own toolkit of rubrics, checklists, etc. in each content area, and then take the pieces you need for each standard or lesson.  Or, if you’re looking for ready-made tools, explore our Assessment for Makers online course.  Inside, you’ll find assessment samples, alignment tools and checklists.

How do you go about creating integrated assessments?

About the Author

Brianne is a former music educator from Chicago and current graduate class instructor with EdCloset’s Learning Studios. She earned her Masters degree in Music Education from VanderCook College of Music and has over a decade of experience in the elementary general music classroom. With her experience in the performing arts, Brianne is dedicated to building connections between the arts and Common Core Standards, 21st century learning skills, inquiry and project-based learning. In addition to her work with EducationCloset, Brianne is a yoga instructor in the Chicagoland area. You can also find Brianne here: