Making their marks : teachers' understandings of art assessment at Year 11.
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Teaching and Learning
This thesis investigates understandings that secondary school art teachers hold about assessment of year 11 students' artwork. My experience as an art educator has lead to my interest in this area. Boughton (1997) also argues that there is a need for more systematic investigation to underpin the practices of assessment in art. An analysis of the fields of art education and assessment provided the context for the study and also informed the research process and research question. The field of art and art education is historically and theoretically contested and this influences curricula design and examination prescriptions creating a complex field for teachers to be involved in. A qualitative approach was chosen using unstructured interviews, participant observations in classroom settings and document analysis. Three female and three male teachers participated. The schools were similar sizes and included state, private, co- educational, single sex and semi rural. All teachers were trained and three were practising artists. Kvale cited in Hill (2001) explains how unstructured interviews allow openness to changes in sequences and forms of questions in order to follow up the answers given and stories told by participants. This was important in this study as the conversations of teachers refocused discussions during follow-up visits. Assessment events were videoed and replayed to participants to stimulate discussion. A qualitative approach was seen as appropriate for this project as the field of art education that teachers work in is continually being redefined and reconstructed. The writing process continually evolved as I read the literature. Burr (1995:4) provided insights into social constructionist methods describing how II our current accepted ways of understanding the world is a product not of objective observation of the world, but of the social processes and interactions in which people are constantly engaged with each other." As my writing evolved, the research question was redefined. Originally the research focus had been to find out how teachers went about assessing art. This was refocused into how they position themselves and are affected by the competing discourses in art education. It seemed that the data analysis and writing processes informed each other. The findings revealed three interconnecting layers, which provided insights into teachers' assessment practices. These layers included new assessment discourses such as standards based and formative assessment methods, summative assessment and national examination discourses, and traditional views about intelligence. The teachers' assessment methods were dominated by summative pressures, which resulted in professional concerns for teachers. These included: knowing what was acceptable practice,; needing to have agreement; maintaining standards; and establishing subject status for art education. The influence of traditional ideas about academic intelligence also seemed important to these teachers and contributed to maintaining the status of art education. These teachers used ideas about academic intelligence to categorize students' abilities and to inform assessment judgements. The thesis concludes by asking why art teachers have continued to value summative assessments, which have resulted in a narrow formalist approach in classroom practice and continual controversy about assessment judgements. It seems that the status of art education is validated through examination results. It appeared from this study that positioning art within an academic examination structure has compromised the curriculum basis for art education.