Dolph Petris | April 2018

Grading Expectiations

I have always maintained that over time, we ‘unlearn art’.  I’m not talking about educators who actively teach art, or those who integrate art into education.  I’m talking about the students in our classrooms who grow up and become part of society, and the general public. 

Dolph Petris

One’s ability to produce art does not differ from the next person.  The individual perception of the art that we produce becomes the crux of where we take this ability over time.

Bad Art?

As far as I am concerned, there is NO ‘bad’ art.  I see beauty in each and every piece of work that my students produce.  Not only do we as educators understand that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but we should intentionally incorporate this very philosophy as we are teaching our lessons.

Our students need to understand that a teacher’s goal is to teach concepts and techniques that they can use in the creation of any art piece.  Honestly, we really don’t care if anyone thinks ‘it’s ugly’ because ugly in itself is relative, therefore moot.

Over time, our students will begin to understand that it is not a pre-defined clarity of beauty that we are looking to assess in their projects. Rather we are looking for the integration of key components that we want to see in their specific work.

By having a clearly defined rubric that our students can use, both student and teacher can identify key elements of the assignment that we are expecting to see in their work.

Make a List

This is where your expertise comes into play. How? Only you know what you are looking for in your student’s work.  Since there is no predefined rubric for art, and art integration, begin with making a list of the most important key elements you are expecting to see. 

Do you want to see…

– a variety of line thickness that act as a visual aid to produce the perception of depth?

– a specific usage of color, warm or cool, or a combination of both, that can evoke emotion in their paintings?

Maybe you require a variety of differing textures to be displayed within their sculpted piece?

Are you looking for connections to another area of academic study?  If so, what are they and are they clearly displayed in student work?

Can you identify positive and negative space?

As you can see, depending on the project type that your students are working on, your rubric will need to be specifically tailored.  While this is not a difficult task on the teacher’s part, it is absolutely necessary.

Providing Framework

The rubrics themselves provide a framework that your students can follow from the get-go.  Additionally, they actually become as assessment piece for the assignment and can be used while the project is in progress, or at its culmination.

The key components in one’s work are foundational building blocks to producing worthwhile work. Once students understand that, they will be more inclined to experiment within the assignment itself… And therefore come to experience flexibility in what they create.

We want our students to ask themselves, “Did I implement all of the key components outlined on the integrated rubric that my teacher provided for the assignment?”  If so, then they are free to create an expression of self based on their own personal outlook of the world in which they live.

Additionally, we can appropriately assess student work. Through this, their work becomes an opportunity for this unique and individual expression we are hoping to see.

Grading Expectations

No one likes ‘cookie-cutter’ art, and art never has to look that way even if taught to the masses.  We are all ‘built’ differently.  We think differently, we act and respond differently, and we experience differently.  By allowing our students to experience this difference within their own work, they will begin to lose self-imposed inhibition of their work they create, and create masterpieces themselves.

About the Author

Dolph holds a Bachelors of Science, Product Design from Art Center College of Design and a Masters degree in Education. He has spent most of his teaching career as a 6th grade teacher in the elementary school setting with a focus on Gifted and Talented Education and is currently teaching a 5/6 combo in Fullerton, California. He and his wife have several four-legged kids: Bonnie and Clyde, Golden Retriever litter-mates, a street-rescued stray that looks like ‘Benji’ named Noel, Athena the cat, and two American Quarter horses.