Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Boughton, Douglas

Second Advisor

Freedman, Kerry

Degree Name

Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy)

Legacy Department

School of Art and Design


National education reform policies that have increased reliance on standardized testing in subjects like reading and math as a way to judge the quality of a teacher’s performance have created challenges for educators in visual art and design when they are required to provide data about student growth. Art teachers who utilize alternate forms of assessment to judge the quality of student artwork as evidence of learning can potentially be in a precarious position because of underlying assumptions that these types of qualitative assessments lack validity. In this context, when compared to colleagues in traditionally tested disciplines, art educators face unique challenges proving their assessments are both valid and reliable. Framed in critical pedagogy, a mixed-methods study was conducted in the state of Illinois to investigate the kinds of assessment strategies high school art teachers found useful in their classrooms to measure student learning and whether their methods differed from the types of assessments their administrators expected. This study brings attention to the important aspects of assessment and how policy can shape teachers’ practice.

This study provided unique insight into Illinois art teachers’ experiences with the current state teacher evaluation policy PERA (Performance Evaluation Reform Act). Participants from throughout the state were surveyed about their understanding of assessment, validity, reliability,

and professional development. To elaborate and contextualize the findings, face-to- face interviews were conducted with eight participants to obtain a deeper understanding of teacher’s actual experiences in the classroom and elaborate upon the role educational policy played in assisting them to meet requirements for their performance evaluation. Assessment at the high school level can present unique challenges when compared to other disciplines because of the complexity of qualitative judgments teachers must make about their students’ work. Applying qualitative assessment methods were particularly troublesome for participants because their methods were not like traditional right-wrong answer choice tests; this created underlying mistrust of art teachers’ data that was derived from professional judgement on qualitative assessments. Deepening the challenge art teachers faced when assessing student art performance, the participants described a lack of professional development specifically for assessment in art. They also struggled with an absence of professional development to establish the validity and reliability of their assessments and sometimes received inappropriate direction about student performance data collection because of a lack of understanding by administrators or supervisors about how student artwork should be judged. In an age of test-based accountability, professional development for teachers, administrators, and pre-service educators aimed specifically for art and design assessment is essential for practitioners in public schools.

Additionally, it was found the socio-economic status of teacher participants’ schools was related to the kinds of data they were asked to collect and the kinds of resources they had available within their departments thus indicating a lack of equitable access to quality art education throughout the state. In response to administrative requests that participants felt were inappropriate to their discipline, multiple forms of resistance were exhibited including covert,

overt, and passive compliance as a way to help them cope with what many participants felt were overwhelming obstacles to teaching a quality visual art curriculum.


332 pages




Northern Illinois University

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