Visual arts grading reflects effort over end result


Maya Page, Staff Writer

Sophomore Clarice Pertel was assigned to recreate a 3D object out of wire in her Sculpture I class. While the project initially proved difficult, she persevered, asking questions, listening to her teachers’ guiding comments, and looking over the rubric. Pertel received an A, which was indicative of the hard work and effort that she put in throughout the process.

In visual arts classes at the high school, students are challenged to work hard to receive a grade based on their piece and the effort that they put into it throughout the creative process.

“What I would be looking for is a student who approached the work with focus, commitment, and alertness in order to respond to the possibilities that are revealed in the process of making,” visual arts teacher Elizabeth Brennan said. “So if the student is present and is noticing that when I do this with a pencil this happens then students work to develop a more advanced level of craftsmanship, technique and skill.”

According to Visual Arts Curriculum Coordinator Alicia Mitchell, teachers at the high school have common rubrics that they use when scoring, called the Common Assessment. Mitchell said that the Common Assessment is a scale of the growth and process that students must use when they are creating their art pieces.

“We are very big on the habits of the mind and using your thinking and observation, your reflection, conversation, to develop skill by hearing new ideas, sharing ideas, judging ideas and analyzing your work,” Mitchell said.

According to Brennan’s rubric, the four main grading markers are conceptualization, actualization, connection and reflection. When actualizing a product, the three main objectives are creating, responding and refining.

Brennan said that she explains the essential grading rubric to her students at the beginning of the year. They must follow it to help them understand what they are doing in class and to get a good grade.

“This is what we ask them to think about when they’re drawing. ‘How can I really focus my attention? How can I notice relationships between objects, how can I use my research to make it a dramatic and intriguing composition?’” Brennan said.

Brennan said that she uses her grading rubric to help guide students towards being independent rather than relying on the teacher for answers.

“We always have the rubric there when they’re working. So if a student comes up to me and asks if they are done, hopefully, by the middle of Drawing I they’ll realize that I’m not the one to determine whether they’re finished or not,” Brennan said. “But I redirect them and say ‘I don’t know. Why don’t you go over to the essential questions and have you addressed those?’”

Sophomore Colleen Summers, who takes Ceramics I, said it’s fair for the teacher to grade students based on the rubric they were given at the beginning. Summers said that the ceramics teacher, Andrew Maglathlin, gives them clear guidelines that they are expected to meet for each piece.

Claire Bialek, who takes Ceramics and Jewelry I, said that in her ceramics class, getting a good grade wasn’t dependent on the final product, but rather the work ethic through the creative process.

“He guided you through every step and made sure that you knew what you were doing,” Bialek said. “So if you put effort into your piece it didn’t necessarily matter how it turned out looking, but he’d give you a good grade based on your effort.”

The same grading applied when it came to the Jewelry I class as well.

“As long as you’re putting effort into every piece you’re making, then she’ll grade you fairly,” Bialek said.

Along with hard work, photography teacher Leon Kestenbaum said that he believes that students will learn new things about themselves through the process which emerge in their pieces.

“Art is not just about getting an end piece that looks nice,” Kestenbaum said. “It’s also about discovering your ability to make strong visual statements that are powerful and come from within.”