Quizzes for Verification of Learning in Art and Design
No student likes the word “test”, the word puts fear into learning because it feels final and judgmental. Perhaps that is the reason that art and design teachers tend to avoid verifying learning through testing. This is an article about using tests in art and design in a constructive way to increase and cement the learning in the studio.
I recently observed a lecturer doing a lesson on nets (flat plans) for a product. They wanted to teach the different kinds of shapes available, different cutting techniques and connecting methods. There was a lot of new vocabulary to be learnt in a short space of time and also a significant amount of production needed to take place.
The practice was excellent and the students all produced inventive packaging, but what really stood out was the simple means that the lecturer used to verify every little bit of learning that took place. They gave out a sheet of simple questions that the students could complete at their own pace and when they were confident about the answers. This was handed out at the start along with the usual demonstrations.
The major impact that it had was that it reduced the amount of review and recap at the end. While it would be expected that a test might reduce the amount of time dedicated to production, it actually did the opposite. The students hardly noticed that they were actually undertaking a test.
Moreover, the quiz ensured that all of the learners had built a minimum working knowledge of nets. One of the main issues with teaching a subject like art and design is that all of the students will start to make personal choices and creative decisions. While this is to be encouraged, it can mean that some students’ skills go unverified and they simply get overlooked.
It is very difficult to balance a practical subject like art and design with ensuring that students have a technical awareness of the properties and processes involved. The quiz bridged this gap by facilitating the development of both.
One of the tricky elements of creating a quiz is to know what kinds of questions to ask that are really going to support the future development of students. It is difficult to ask questions about practical processes that don’t necessarily have technical terms or “correct” methods. In fact, there are many art and design lessons where students will learn through combining media in a chaotic way. That isn’t to say that it’s wrong or shouldn’t be encouraged, just that it will be difficult to turn into a formal quiz with “correct” answers. If you know that the lesson is going to be more informal then consider other kinds of verification processes.
It is ideal to avoid closed questions and to try and encourage the students to write the words or terminology so that it becomes cemented in their creative vocabulary. Also try and avoid evaluative or judgmental questions as these have no correct answers and should be used in a reflective log or discussion forum.
Consider the really important terminology and processes that you want them to learn and design the questions around these. One way to design the questions is to think back to the last time you taught the same topic and to remember the kinds of questions that students asked frequently.
To avoid the quiz feeling like a test, don’t allocate a specific time just to go through the questions. Rather, allow students to complete it at their own pace throughout the lesson and collect the answers at the end.
Have the quiz at hand when doing a demo or introducing the subject so that you are sure that you have mentioned or covered all the words and processes. They can’t answer it if you haven’t shown them.
Where possible, write down key words on the board. It doesn’t matter if there is a bunch of words on the board without explanation. These will serve as a great prompt and reference point.
Consider asking students to make notes when you are doing a demo or discussion at the start of the session introducing the subject. They can then use these notes to answer the questions. A by-product of working this way is that they will develop key study skills that will really aid them as they work through the levels of education.
Example of questions
The following was a quiz that was used for a lesson that introduced type manipulation in Photoshop. It bears little resemblance to the kinds of practical work being undertaken, but ensured that students would be confident in finding and using Photoshop in future:
- Name a type style?
- Name at least 2 fonts?
- How can you make type bend?
- In what bar is the type mask tool?
- What is the type mask tool used for?
- In what bar can you adjust the size of the letters?
- What is the maximum letter size?
- How can you make the letters transparent?
- What do you need to do to the type before you can use the Eraser on it?
- Name 2 different styles you can find in the layer styles?
The quiz is a great format for structuring the review. Students can peer assess each others tests or the lecturer can use directed questioning to verify the learning. It is also a great springboard to ask extended questions like: “would there be another way of doing this?” or “is there another material that could be used to get a similar effect?”
If students have had a break for a holiday and it is important for them to retain the prior learning, then using a quiz as soon as they return can quickly jog their memories and ensure the cementing of the vocabulary and knowledge. Try using the quiz at the start of the next session, covering the previous one to double check whether students are able to remember what you have taught them.
Sharing knowledge and understanding
Students will have learnt a lot more about the terminology, materials, techniques and processes than just outlined in the quiz. A few students will have encountered particular problems that others overlooked. Others will have had greater success because of the way that they applied the production process. The students themselves are such a great fountain of knowledge that it is a pity to let this go to waste and not share it with the class.
It is possible to go around the room, observe the students and then bring any top tips or experiences to the knowledge of the rest of the class. Sharing is an essential part of working as a group in a studio. Learning from peers really makes the educational process rich. Sometimes this kind of sharing is a haphazard approach that can be formalised through simple structured questions in a quiz.
Simply adding a question about the two or three most important tips that students would give to others new to the process. For example: “Note two top tips when working with ….?” And then get the students to read one to the class or to write it on the board.
There are some resources out there that will help you make your own test or that you can customise for your students: