Assessment is embedded in the learning process and is used for different purposes: assessment of learning (summative) and assessment for learning (formative). Assessment can be a loaded topic for both instructors and students especially in the context of art, craft and design. Nevertheless, here are some ways to enhance the quality of assessments by adopting the 10 best practices listed below. Alternatively, you could watch the Rethinking Assessment workshop by Sita which touches on some of these best practices. 

  • 1. Align Assignments to Learning Outcomes

    Make sure you design your assignments alongside the learning outcomes so that you can make sure you are measuring the intended outcomes. Have a look at Aligning Outcomes and Assessments by UNCW for more information.


  • 2. Create Authentic and Relevant Assignments

    For the most part, your assignments are probably already relevant and authentic given they are grounded in craft and design. However, maybe there are some assignments you could change to make them a little more “real world”. Designing assignments so students can understand why they are doing something and how it is relevant to their future learning or goals can increase student engagement and motivation. Authentic assignments include things such as writing a blog, developing a project proposal, developing a product pitch to a client, creating a how-to-video, creating an infographic, creating a product for distribution, or creating a budget for a product line. Want to learn more? Listen to this podcast about Authentic Assignments.

  • 3. Provide Options

    Where possible, give students options in their assignments so that they can demonstrate their knowledge in a way that works for them. For example, if you want students to reflect on their learning, give them the option of writing their reflection or recording their spoken reflection. Assessing knowledge in a variety of ways ensures that your assignment is reflective of what a student has learned rather than a barrier they are experiencing. Options are not always possible when the product to be created (e.g. a pot, a felted piece, a sketch) is directly tied to learning objectives, but perhaps there is some element of choice you can embed in the assignment (such as color, style, subject, or medium). For more information see Module 2.2 in the UDL Google Classroom. You will need to log in using your NBCCD email address. 

  • 4. Remove Barriers for Assessment

    Sometimes assignments have features that pose barriers or challenges for students that are not connected to the learning outcomes. Where possible, try to reduce the barriers that do not align with your learning outcomes. For example, a learning outcome for your course is: “knowledge of design principles”. To evaluate this knowledge, you provide students with a timed quiz. However, this timed quiz may create some barriers for your students; it requires them to have a good working memory, the ability to stay calm and focused, and the ability to work under pressure. Is the ability to perform well under exam conditions a learning outcome of the course? If not, ask yourself if the quiz needs to be timed or even better, ask yourself is there another way that students can demonstrate their knowledge?  That is, consider ways to remove barriers in your assignments that are not directly tied to learning outcomes. For more information, read about Universal Design for Learning and Assessment.

  • 5. Provide Exemplars and Models

    In addition to telling students what makes a well-constructed garment, felted hat, 3D design, or artwork, why not show them? Give them examples of the actual product you want them to produce. Don’t just show them the A+ version, also show them what a B-grade and C-grade product looks like too. Talk about what makes them good and not good. Discuss quality and critique these examples so students get a sense of what is expected of them. If you are using student work, make sure you have their permission and present the work anonymously. For more information have a look at Exemplars from Herriot Watt University.

  • 6. Be Transparent

    Make sure you are transparent about assignment instructions and expectations. First, explain how the assignment aligns with the course learning outcomes. This helps students understand why the assignment matters. Second, outline the steps in the assignment prompt and make sure you talk through the assignment with students. Third, indicate how long you think it will take to complete the assignment (including in-class and at home). Fourth, create, use and share rubrics which describe performance expectations for students. For more information, have a look at Rubrics.

  • 7. Scaffold Assignments

    For larger projects, provide opportunities for feedback, reflection, and improvement before submission of the project. A great way to do this is by breaking down a large assignment into smaller progressive tasks over time. Doing this will help students to understand the steps in the process which may be overlooked. For example, for an essay you might break it down to brainstorming, outline, first draft, and final draft. For a design based product, think about the steps that lead to a final product (for example, brainstorming, design drafts, samples, mistakes in production, and final product). Highlight the learning process in your craft by breaking those bigger projects into smaller tasks that provide opportunities for feedback, reflection, and improvement.

  • 8. Include Formative Assessments

    Formative assessment provides low-stakes practice combined with timely and focused feedback. This feedback helps students during the learning process to reflect on their learning so they can improve. It also helps you to measure their progress towards learning goals and informs you on how you might modify your teaching to better meet student needs. You probably do this a lot when you circulate around the studio providing feedback on your students’ work as they practice their craft. 

    Formative assessment can be graded or ungraded and is a very valuable part of the learning process. Some examples of formative assessment are quick polls, journal entries, essay and design drafts, and critiques. If you want to learn more about formative assessment in the context of art education, have a look at Arts Assessment for Learning. 

  • 9. Get Students Involved

    If possible, try to get students involved in the assessment as much as possible. Rather than assessment being something that is done to the student, try and make assessment as something that is done with students.  

    Self-Assessment and ReflectionGive students the opportunity to self-assess and reflect on their work. This will help them to evaluate their work, track their learning progress, reflect on their learning process, and how to improve. There are lots of way to incorporate this into your assessment. This could be by meeting with students one-on-one to discuss their project or get them to submit a completed rubric with their project. For more information, read about Teaching Students about Self-Assessment in the Arts by the Kennedy Center. 

    Co-Creating – Consider whether there are assignments that you can co-create with students. Co-creating gives students agency over their learning and helps to develop critical thinking skills. It also helps them feel more engaged with their learning. Alternatively, you could get students involved in co-creating the rubric of the assignment. For more information, have a look at Co-Creating Rubrics by Colorado University. 

  • 10. Provide specific, mastery-oriented, and timely feedback

    Feedback is crucial to the learning process and should be aimed at improving student performance. Feedback also helps students stay motivated and engaged. Feedback should be timely, specific, identify supports and strategies, and focus on improvement. For more information about feedback have a look at this resource or Principles of Good Feedback by the University of Greenwich.

  • Additional Learning Resources
  • References

    Andrade, H., Hefferen, J., and Palma, M. (2014). Formative assessment in the visual arts. Art Education, 34-40. 

    CAST (n.d). UDL on Campus: UDL and Assessment. Retrieved from: http://udloncampus.cast.org/page/assessment_udl 

    Fenwick, T. & Parsons, J. (2009). The Art of Evaluation. A Resource for Educators and Trainers (2nd ed.), Thompson Educational Publishing. 

    Groenendijk, T., Karpati, A., and Haanstra, F. (2020). Self-assessment in art education through a visual rubric. International Journal of Art and Design Education, 39.1: 153-175 

    Lindstrom, G., Taylor, L., and Weleschuk, A. (2017). Guiding Principles for Assessment of Students Learning. Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning Guide Series. Taylor Institution for Teaching and Learning at the University of Calgary”. Retrieved from: https://taylorinstitute.ucalgary.ca/resources/guiding-principles-assessment-of-students-learning 

    Visser I., Chandler, L., & Grainger, P. (2017). Engaging in creativity: employing assessment feedback strategies to support confidence and creativity in graphic design practice. Art, Design & Communication in Higher Education, 16(1): 53-67,