It is quite common for Year 7 students to be given a baseline or benchmark test on entry to a UK Secondary school. The reason we do this is so that we can do a common, standard assessment of art skills (usually drawing and general creativity). We are given FFTD targets that rarely relate to our actual subject and simultaneously are asked to measure improvement. With the demise of National Curriculum levels, we also have more opportiunity for meaningful differentiation and diagnostic grading. This post looks at a variety of baseline testing methods discussed on TES community, Twitter and elsewhere.
One of the tests I used over 20 years ago was the psychologist’s favourite HTP or House-Tree-Person drawing. We did this primarily as a diagnostic tool for SEN status; the student is asked to draw a house with a tree in it’s garden and themselves or their family. You probably have an idea of this may look as your own response. This was useful when a student once drew seven black crows on the roof of her house and herself in the attic window alone – turned out the poor individual had been abused in some way and specialists intervened. Not so much use for art skills and ability though.
A common test is to give the students an opportunity to show off observational drawing skills; either an apple, orange, bunch of keys, seashell or their own shoe is usual. I can confirm that the apples/shoes etc drawn years ago were much better when Primary schools devoted more time to drawing practice. Now, we find art ‘squeezed’ in the Primary curriculum and it is as much down to individual teacher’s interest in drawing or influence from home. Some students rarely draw in Primary for drawing’s sake and art is a one week experience in June. Consequently, very poor observational drawings result and really throw a spanner in the baseline test.
Other test include: a fragmented image; completing a diagonally sliced photo, a combination of pencil and tone test on one sheet and an imaginative drawing on another or a series of 3D puzzles and set tasks to build solutions.
@creatvenorton sets a challenge of a number of activities, some research based, others drawing or technique based. A challenge sheet might look like this:
JustFloating on TES community says:
I do three 1 hour exercises – An observational drawing of a simple object (pencil sharpener – Something where everyone can have the same thing) – A piece of critical studies ( a copy, description and opinion) -and an imaginative piece (I give a fragment of a picture and ask them to extend it in any way they chose). These are the first three tasks I do with my Y7 groups then I meld the marks together to have a single baseline for data input. Its not foolproof but more accurate than levels based on English and Maths SATs etc.
This year at my school we tried to test creativity and visualisation as part of our benchmark test. Influenced a little by aptitude tests and psychology/visualisation but also a bit by Keri Smith’s Wreck this Journal - as it really is a no rules approach to creativity.
We wanted to test drawing skills too and decided on a series of titled prompts. Actually, in development we realised that a colleague had previously created a similar exercise and was in use of all ages including adults and Sixth Form!
This task involves 35 squares; some have doodles, shapes and lines accompanied by a title. Others have the doodle but minus the title! The object is to complete as many as possible within a 50 minute session using just a pencil but employing skills such as line, tone, texture and perspective.
In review, it is incredible how a select few titles can be used to judge students; visualisation skills. Drawing ability wise, a few could be expanded to feature a bigger opportunity to draw (the test paper is A4). Some titles and doodles could be got rid of altogether too and are less relevant than something else we might come up for today’s artists. Equally, the response to the test from teachers visiting the classrooms was split between the fascinated (“Oh, can I have one? I need to improve my ideas..”) to “No chance!”. We will certainly look to develop next year.
Add your idea to the mix on Twitter using the #artbenchmark tag.