Art teachers are strong advocates for the place of creativity and self-expression in schools. The Next Generation Visual Arts standards exemplify that belief. Written standards support many good educational outcomes, but sometimes an unanticipated problem can arise—in the focus on specifying knowledge and skills, the emphasis shifts away from the whole student and onto the content to be learned. None of us want thousands of standards, but perhaps in the past, some art standards formats (at local, state, or national levels) were “too condensed” and did not provide the space needed to emphasize the why, when, and how knowledge and skills are used by students to pursue their own “creative research agendas,” i.e. to make things that they care about.
The Next Generation Visual Arts Standards are focused on student choice and on students making personally meaningful works of art and design. The standards set up scaffolding that build students’ capacities to make meaningful choices throughout the creative process. Create standards support students in identifying their stories, ideas and concerns and then choosing the best methods and styles to make works of art or design that explore this content. Present standards encourage students to develop their own valuing systems for what art or artifacts should be saved and shared with others. Respond standards affirm that students will use their knowledge about art and images to understand the various perspectives of other people and then will make their own interpretations based on their art knowledge and life experiences.
Of course, assessment would be easier if we believed in the “one right answer” theory of knowledge, art, and life. But as art teachers we are more creative and subtle than that. We can collaboratively develop the assessment practices we’ll need to reflect the complexity of knowledge and skills being used in the context of open-ended, student-centered creating, presenting and responding.
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