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Art Teachers Professional Learning Community

High school art teachers in this district meet several times during each school year to work toward shared goals in art education.  We met this week at another high school art room for several hours.  This school  there are two main focuses for the meetings.

One focus is something called the Cornerstone Assessment (also known as the Classroom-Based Performance Assessment).  For art classes, this is akin to a semester final in algebra, or history, or American literature classes.  It is a way for students to put their best foot forward and show us what they have learned over the course of the semester.  The state of Washington requires this assessment and has one that has been used in Drawing and Painting classes for several years.  Teachers were not thrilled with that plan as it was too specific and left little room for modification.  It also left virtually no opportunities for students to be creative, or to put something of themselves into the project.

With help from the Wallace Foundation Grant, teachers have worked since last school year to devise better Cornerstone assessments which the State plans to adopt.  At the start of the school year, they shared what they had created.  Lessons and assessments were developed for Drawing and Painting, Ceramics, and Photography.  Teachers taught and assessed these lessons in their classes and reported back on what worked and what needed modification.  All three of these are broad enough for teacher modification and more importantly, student voice.  The Drawing and Painting lesson is one on Art as Statement.  One teacher did silhouettes, another mixed media, another printmaking.  The Ceramics lesson is a teapot which students design and make using all the hand-building skills they have learned over the semester.  The teapot must say something about the student, either culturally, or personally.  Photography does a photo-montage with images that fit into different framework.  These are wonderful projects, allowing students to push themselves as far as they can.

The other focus of the meetings was finding ways to effectively and accurately assess the 21st Century Skills .  These are more than just art skills.  They are life skills.  They are the vital but often un-measurable requirements of success in life.  How do you measure whether a student has a growth mindset and believes that they can improve if they persevere?  How do you measure creative thinking?  Well, it is totally possible but it takes some effort on the part of the teacher.  Teachers must observe their students, get to know them, draw them out so they communicate through art, teach them how to make art, talk about it and write about it.  Teachers must create opportunities for students to work collaboratively, to persuade, to motivate, to be flexible, to take on responsibility and allow others to do so.

I feel very fortunate to be able to go to these pivotal meeting during my internship.  It seems education in the US is changing direction (albeit slowly) and beginning to include the less measurable, but oftentimes more important life skills in our teaching.  What a great time to go into teaching.

~ by anitawesto on February 8, 2013.

ceramics, drawing & painting, sculpture, teaching