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Development Strategies

Arts Tasks in This Report

Create Context and Guidance for Student Performance

Frequently, arts educators must plan instructional and assessment activities to be applicable to students of many ability levels. This situation also applied to the 1997 NAEP arts assessment.

NAEP assessments are usually administered to random national samples of students at grades 4, 8, and 12. This means that in the case of subjects like the arts, which may not be part of a school's regular curricula, students often have received little or no exposure to the subject. NAEP was confronted with the challenge of making assessment exercises accessible to students with little arts background.

NAEP also needed to make the assessment meaningful to students with in-school exposure to the arts. As stated in the NAEP arts framework, "Because art and design activities carried out in the classroom rely heavily on discussion with teachers, the assessment itself must encourage students in the absence of teachers."6

How could these two challenges be met? As an assessment, NAEP cannot teach students who lack subject knowledge and skills. Nor can NAEP reproduce the discussion and feedback characteristic of creating and performing in the classroom. But it is appropriate in an assessment to offer students a context for creating by, for example, asking students to draw an interior space only after showing examples of the genre. It is also appropriate to offer some guidance by, for example, letting students know what is expected of them and encouraging experimentation and practice in a music improvisational task script.

Measurement experts from Educational Testing Service worked with the Arts Assessment Development Committee to ensure that

  • scripts for creating and performing tasks were made as clear, concise, and helpful as possible;
  • expectations for performance tasks were always visible on posters while students were preparing to perform;
  • introductions to tasks were created to let students know what they would be doing, to supply information about the theme or works of art students would be focusing on, and to encourage careful work;
  • tasks began with simpler exercises to increase student comfort; and
  • exercises were "scaffolded" so students could address one part of a problem at a time.

NEXT: Strategy 5: Encourage Students to Be Creative Without Losing Sight of the Need to Create Clear, Standardizable Tasks

6. National Assessment Governing Board. (1994). Arts education assessment framework. Washington, DC: Author.
Available online at

Last updated 26 March 2003 (HM)