Arts educators focus on assessment

PORTLAND – More than 200 arts educators from across Maine gathered at the University of Southern Maine on Oct. 7 to work on integrating assessment into their classrooms.

The conference was part of the Maine Arts Assessment Initiative, an ongoing statewide effort to equip visual and performing arts teachers with the skills they need to make assessment an integral part of student learning.

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The assessment initiative is focused largely on formative assessment — a type of assessment that provides students with helpful and timely feedback about their progress toward mastering particular concepts and skills, and provides teachers with the information they need to adjust their instruction and help students meet those learning targets.

Workshop sessions at the conference, which was sponsored by the Maine Department of Education, focused on assessment tips and tactics for all types and levels of arts classes.

Assessment doesn’t have to be the periodic, all encompassing, end-of-unit, written test that requires, for students, nights of study and memorization, said Rob Westerberg, a music teacher at York High School.

Assessment can consist of more relaxed student-teacher interactions that focus on determining what exactly the student has learned, he said.

“Assessment is a form of accountability that asks us to look at what matters,” said Shalimar Poulin, a visual arts teacher at Wiscasset High School. “What do we want our students to leave the classroom with?”

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