Evaluating Children’s Art

“What adults call ‘wrong’ in Child Art is the most beautiful and most precious. I value highly those things done by small children. They are the first and purest source of artistic creation.”  ~ Franz Cizek

Recently I have been thinking about what educators need to consider when looking at and trying to understand children’s art.  In an earlier blog entry about a child’s self portrait, I included links about art and creativity and the progression that can be observed in children’s drawings as they grow and develop. The ideas of  Viktor Lowenfeld and Betty Edwards on drawing development in children add to this discussion. Creative expression is an important part of a child’s development and needs attention and nurturing in the early years.  Yet there seems to be much debate about the appropriate rubric to use when assessing and evaluating children’s art.

Turkey hand print

There are many different schools of thought on providing a visual art curriculum for children (e.g., open-ended, process based; teacher directed; teacher and child as partners in learning).  Taking time to learn about different approaches can provide insights into why educators may favour one over another. For example, if one’s approach is more ‘teacher directed’, is this related to personal artistic background, confidence, pre-service training, child care centre/school philosophy or social values placed on art education? A question to consider is how an educator’s philosophical approach to teaching art impacts their objectivity when they evaluate works of art created by children. How does an educator conclude that a child’s work is ‘beautiful’ or ‘good’ or ‘creative’?Personally I like the process based approach, though I believe that educators must help children to learn skills, concepts and techniques they might not discover independently. They must also help children to see themselves as artists through talking about and displaying their art. Robert Schirrmacher  discusses child-centred art and teacher-directed projects, and the strengths and challenges of both approaches, which may help educators to evaluate the role of art experiences in their classrooms.  Drew and Rankin discuss the role of open ended materials and experiences in promoting children’s creativity.Despite my personal preferences, I am still left with the question of how to evaluate children’s art.  I continue to search for recommendations, in the hopes of finding a satisfying answer.  Perhaps we should not assess art at all. How might art be evaluated based on children’s learning, rather than on a teacher’s tastes?  Several I found focused on methods such as observation, tasks, documentation, portfolios and checklists on characteristics of the artist – ideas that might give us new insights into understanding children’s art and their creative process.

Cheracteristics of the Artist  http://www.incredibleart.org/files/E-rubric2.htm

Grade by Grade Learning Objectives and Assessment https://www.getty.edu/education/teachers/building_lessons/guide.html

Portfolio Based Assessment http://www.earlychildhoodnews.com/earlychildhood/article_view.aspx?ArticleID=495

Art Rubric  http://www.goshen.edu/art/ed/rubric2.html

Not all of these resources are specific to early childhood but all respond in some way to questions I have been considering.  How can educators provide meaningful art experiences for children? What helps educators interpret and understand children’s development in their art? What are the best methods for teaching children needed skills without interfering in their creative process? How can educators help children to see the value of art education in their lives?  Art experiences should be positive, inspiring and enjoyable – a celebration of our learning, our uniqueness and our ability to create.  Art is a vital part of who we are and who we could be.  Don’t we owe it to children to make it a vital part of their early learning?

I will conclude this post with a song by Harry Chapin, who speaks with wisdom and compassion to my concerns and hopes about art education.

Flowers are Red

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