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Connecting With the Arts: A Workshop for Middle Grades Teachers

Identifying What Students Are Learning

This program investigates ways to evaluate student learning in and through the arts. Participants will see teachers using arts-based performance tasks to assess student understanding.

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Learning Goals

The goals of this workshop are for you to:
  • Explore ways the arts can be used to assess student understanding
  • Examine performance tasks and determine the skills and knowledge neede dby students to be successful

This workshop program focuses on a key element of arts integration: collaborative partnerships between teachers. In the program you’ll see teachers collaborating with fellow teachers, partnering with visiting artists, and drawing on community resources.

See Related Teaching Practices Library Programs:

Two Dance Collaborations
Making Connections
Analyzing a Culture – The Story Continues
Can Frogs Dance?

Getting Ready

Getting Ready

Review your own assessment practices. (10 minutes)

Choose an area in your curriculum to think about. Make a list of typical types of student assessment you perform.

As a group, discuss these questions:

  • How do you typically gauge what it is that your students are learning?
  • How might using the arts as a form of assessment give new insight into student understanding and achievement?

Watching the Program

Consider the following questions as you watch the program. If you are part of a professional development group, consider stopping the video to discuss each question with your colleagues.

  • How can engagement in the arts provide effective opportunities for student assessment?
  • How can you assess student understanding in multiple content areas through an arts process?
  • How can an arts-based performance task effectively evaluate student understanding?
  • How can you use non-arts activities to assess learning in the arts?

Activities and Discussion

Activity: Identify what students are learning in different performance tasks.

Analyze performance tasks. (20 minutes)

Print and distribute several of the sample performance tasks and criteria (below, in PDF format). In pairs, small groups or as a whole group, read the through a task and discuss the following question:

  • What skills and knowledge are needed by the students to successfully complete the performance task?

Develop criteria for judging students’ performance. (30 minutes)

Print and distribute several of the sample performance tasks (below, in PDF format), folding them so that participants cannot see the criteria on the lower half of the page.

In pairs or small groups, read a task, and identify the criteria you think are appropriate for evaluating students’ understanding and accomplishment.

Sample Performance Tasks

Performance Tasks for a Unit on Mythology: Daedalus & Icarus
Dance & Language Arts
Music & Language Arts
Theatre & Language Arts
Visual Art & Language Arts

Additional Resources

Additional Resources

Web Resources

Assessing Student Work With Project-Based Learning
A list of roles that assessment plays in the classroom and what makes assessment “authentic”

Principles Of Good Practice For Assessing Student Learning
Nine principles to guide the assessment of student learning

Print Resources

Arter, Judith A, & McTighe, Jay. Scoring Rubrics in the Classroom: Using Performance Criteria for Assessing and Improving Student Performance Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Corwin Press, 2000. ISBN: 0761975756

This book offers a practical approach to assessing challenging but necessary performance tasks like creative writing, “real-world” research projects, and cooperative group activities.

Hayes Jacobs, Heidi. Mapping the Big Picture: Integrating Curriculum and Assessment K-12. Alexandria , Va. : Association for Supervision & Curriculum Development, 1997. ISBN: 0871202867

Heidi Hayes Jacobs discusses the importance of asking “essential questions” and of designing assessments that reflect what teachers know about the students in their care.


Produced by Lavine Production Group, Inc. in collaboration with EDC/s Center for Children and Technology and the Southeast Center for Education in the Arts. 2005.
  • Closed Captioning
  • ISBN: 1-57680-754-1