General Education Art Assessment Report
Art:  The Aesthetic Experience Assessment

A report on the assessment of student learning outcomes in the General Education category:  Arts:  The Aesthetic Experience

Joe Anderson, Bill Cerbin, Cam Choy, Kathy DuBois, Joyce Grill

1997

As part of assessment of student learning outcomes in General Education, four arts instructors, Joe Anderson, Cambid Choy, Kathy DuBois, and Joyce Grill, assessed student learning outcomes in arts appreciation courses.  The assessment took place in sections of Art Appreciation (ART 102), Dance Appreciation (ESS 104), Music Appreciation (MUS 105), and Theatre Appreciation (THA 110) during spring 1997.

The purpose of the assessment was to determine the extent to which students achieve the intended learning outcomes of the general education category, "Arts: The Aesthetic Experience," which are to:
    1.  comprehend and articulate how one or more of the arts, historically and presently, is a primary source of human enrichment, understanding and pleasure.
    2.  be able to discuss artistic presentations, using the language, historical context and aesthetic inherent in the particular art form.
    3.  become a lifelong consumer, advocate and/or practitioner of one or more of the arts.

The group developed a test to assess outcomes 1 and 2, but omitted outcome 3 since lifelong involvement in the arts cannot be assessed during the undergraduate years.

The Arts Appreciation Test.  The test consisted of two essay questions.  Question 1, designed to measure outcome #1, asked students to explain the place of the arts in society.  It presented students with a fictitious newspaper article about a proposal to eliminate all federal funding for the arts (See Appendix A).  Students were asked to compose a letter to their senators opposing the legislation and to base their positions on the value of arts in society, giving reasons why the arts are important and why a society should support them.

Question 2, designed to measure outcome #2, asked students to respond to a work of art.  (See Appendix B).  The questions were different for each art area:
    1.  Music.  Students listened to Symphony Number 40 by Mozart and were asked to discuss instrumentation, tempo, melody, rhythm and form.
    2.  Art.  Students viewed a slide of Picasso's "Guernica" and were asked to "Explain how Picasso uses formal elements of design, style, content, and subject matter to create this image of pain and destruction."
    3.  Dance.  Students viewed a videotape of a dance performance, "Last Look," by Paul Taylor and were asked to:
        a.  Identify the form and historical period of the dance.
        b.  Describe ideas and feelings evoked by the dance.
        c.  Discuss how movement in the dance is used to express those ideas and feelings.
   4.  Theatre.  Students watched a play and were asked to:
        a.  Discuss the development and believability of the characters
        b.  Discuss how the costumes, scenery, lighting and makeup support or doesn't support the overall look and believability of the play.

Test administration and scoring.  Instructors tested students in their classes in January, 1997 and again in May, 1997 as part of regular class assignments.  The pre- and post-test versions were identical for art, music, and dance; however theatre arts used a videotaped performance of a play, "Night Mother," for the pre-test and the post-test was based on attending a live theatre performance of "Electra."  All students in the courses took the test, however a stratified sample of 87 students (50 males and 37 females) was selected for the assessment.

Instructors used the same scoring rubric for Question 1 (See Table 1).

Criteria for Evaluating the answer Well Developed Response Marginal Response Weak Response
Identifies reason why art is of value in society Identifies more than one appropriate reason why art is of value to/in society. Identifies only one appropriate reason why art is of value in/to society; may also identify additional irrelevant or unacceptable reason(s). Identifies no acceptable reasons or answer is irrelevant, inappropriate, incomprehensible, incomplete.
Cites example to illustrate reason. Cites appropriate example(s) connected to the reason(s). Gives an example but does not indicate the general principle the example is intended to illustrate. Gives no relevant examples.

 

Overall quality of answer. Answer focuses on appropriate reasons. Answer contains some relevant and appropriate material, but is also general, vague, or contains irrelevant material as well. Answer is irrelevant, tangled, incoherent, incomplete.

Table 1:  Rubric for Scoring the "Value of Art" question

Each instructor developed a rubric for Question 2 (See Appendix B).  Each answer was evaluated on the basis of several criteria, and categorized as well-developed, marginal, or underdeveloped.

Results.  Table 2 contains the distribution of scores for Question 1.

  Pre-test Well Developed Post-test Well Developed Pre-test Marginal  Post-test Marginal Pre-test Weak  Post-test Weak
Art 1 18 11 0 6 0
Dance 4 13 19 13 11 8
Music 2 1 7 2 6 12
Theatre 1 5 10 10 9 5
TOTALS 8 37 47 25 32 25

Table 2:  Distribution of scores for Question 1

Table 3 reports changes in the quality of answers for Question 1, indicating the percentage of students whose answers improved, stayed the same and decreased in quality on the post-test.

  Improved Same Worse
Art 94% -- 6%
Dance 53% 32% 15%
Music -- 40% 60%
Theatre 45% 50% 5%
Total 51% 31% 18%

Table 3:  Change in Quality of Answers for Question 1

By the end of the semester, 71% of the students produced at least a marginal response to the question.  In effect, students could articulate a reason why art is of value to a society--but most students did not provide a very compelling argument.  About half the students in the sample improved their answers, about 18% wrote poorer answers on the post-test than the pre-test, and the quality of answers did not change appreciably for 31% of the sample.

Table 4 reports the distribution of results for Question 2, and Table 5 contains the pattern of changes in the quality of answers for Question 2.

  Pre-test Well Developed  Post-test Well Developed Pre-test Marginal Post-test Marginal Pre-test Weak Post-test Weak
Art 7 16 5 0 5 2
Dance 2 17 10 11 22 6
Music 2 6 7 6 6 3
Theatre 1 5 7 9 12 6

Table 4:  Distribution of Scores for Question 2

Tables 4 and 5 indicate that a majority of students improved their ability to discuss a work of art--painting, musical composition, dance or theatre performance.  Although nearly 20% still produced poor responses on the post-test, 61% of the students improved their answers.

  Improved Same Worse
Art 56% 39% 5%
Dance 76% 18% 6%
Music 40% 60% --
Theatre 55% 45% --
Total 61% 45% 4%

Table 5:   Change in Quality of Answers for Question 2

The results indicate that most students are better able to discuss the role and value of art in society and explain a work of art after completing an appreciation course.  About 43% of the students produced well-developed answers to explain the value of art, and 51% produced well-developed answers in explaining a specific work of art.

Discussion.  These findings show improvement in student learning as a result of taking art appreciation courses.  Overall, students produced better answers for both questions at the end of the course.  A large number of students still produced weak or marginal answers.  These cannot be explained entirely by lack of student motivation, since the test was an assigned part of the courses.

As anticipated, students were better able to analyze a work of art than to formulate an argument about the value of the arts in society.  This difference probably is due to the fact that appreciation courses focus directly on learning to understand and analyze art.  The question about the value of arts in society may not be addressed in the courses.  However, it still seems to be a fair "general education" question because it invites students to use what they have learned in a class and apply it to a new circumstance.  Nonetheless, answers to the "value of art" question tended to be based on personal experience (e.g., art is a form of relaxation, stress reduction, enjoyment) rather than on a consideration of the role of art in a society.

The test reveals broad patterns of students' responses.  Specific explanations for students' difficulties should come from classroom-level assessment in which instructors investigate the reasons behind students' lack of learning.  Assessment will have little effect on students' learning unless the arts instructors examine the results--and collectively discuss what they are trying to accomplish in the appreciation courses.  We can imagine important questions that need to be addressed such as, "Are we satisfied with students' abilities to articulate the role and value of the arts in society?"  "Are we satisfied with students' abilities to interpret and discuss works of art?"  "Do the learning outcomes for the arts category accurately reflect what instructors are really trying to teach?"  "Many students take two appreciation courses--what common knowledge and skills should they acquire?"  These questions can only be answered by the instructors, who as a group, are trying to advance students' understanding and appreciation of the arts.

Appendix A

The following question was used to assess outcome #1. Students should be able to comprehend and articulate how one or more of the arts, historically and presently, is a primary source of human enrichment, understanding and pleasure.

Read the following newspaper and answer the question below.

"Mundane Attacks Art As Unnecessary Luxury"

In a scathing attack on the National Endowment for the Humanities, Congressman Oral Mundane from Wyoming urged the House to eliminate all federal monies to support the Arts and Humanities in the United States.  In a speech to the National Association of Businessmen, Mundane called the Endowment, "A waste of taxpayer's hard earned money," and went on to say that, "Most Americans do not want to support the Arts especially in times of economic difficulty."

Mundane, who is sponsoring legislation that will eliminate all federal funding for the Arts and Humanities related projects, said this would not hurt the arts since the entertainment industry already has billions of dollars, and at the same time would save the government an estimated $30 million dollars a year.  Mundane riled some supporters of the Endowment when he claimed that, "The Endowment for the Arts is just another form of welfare.  Anyone who can't make it as an artist should realize there is no market for their product, and should change vocations."

Congressman Mundane charged that the Endowment also supports projects of questionable social value such as the controversial, "Putting In Time" exhibit, by photographer Sharon  Armoni which depicts nude people in ordinary situations such as grocery shopping or car pooling to work.  Mundane called such work obscene and unfit to be underwritten by the American people.

When challenged by a member of the audience who cited examples of traditional ways the Endowment supports the Arts such as with grants to theaters and arts groups in small communities across the country, Mundane replied, "Look, I talk to a lot of people who tell me the Arts are just unnecessary luxuries.  And I agree.  We don't need luxuries of this kind--we need a stronger economy.  The way to do that is to balance the budget by getting rid of wasteful spending.  If you want to improve the quality of life in America do it with more tax breaks not with poetry."

Question.   Mundane's argument questions the value of the arts in society.  Essentially, he says the arts are of no value and therefore do not deserve to be funded.  You decide to write a letter to your Senators urging them to oppose  Mundane's legislation.  Rather than argue about economics base your position on the value of the arts in society.  What are the best reasons why the arts are important, and why as a society we should support them?  Try to give specific examples to support your reasons.

Appendix B
ART

"Guernica" (11'5" x 25'5"), painted by Pablo Picasso in 1937, is a response to a German dive bombing raid of the Basque town of Guernica.  Explain how Picasso uses formal elements of design, style, content, and subject matter to create this image of pain and destruction.

The evaluation rubric for the question is below.

Criteria Well-developed Response Marginal Response Underdeveloped Response
Criterion #1
Development of Composition:  Form or Physical Elements
Response is very defined and relates to physical aspects of the art work.   Response relates to some of the physical aspects of the art work. Response is unacceptable in relationship to physical elements.
Criterion #2
Development of Composition Content
Response is very defined in relation to underlying structure of the art form. Response related to some structural concepts and personal directions. Response is unacceptable in understanding of inner qualities of the art work.
Criterion #3
Development of Composition Subject Matter
Response is very defined in concept of art subject and personal aesthetic Response relates to a partial understanding of the subject defined in the art work. No response relating to the subject.

Appendix B
DANCE

This activity engages you in thinking about a specific work of art.  You will watch a dance, "A Last Look", by Paul Taylor.  After watching the dance answer the following:
    a.  Identify the form and historical period of the dance.
    b.  Describe any ideas and feelings evoked by the dance.
    c.  Discuss how movement in this dance is used to express those ideas and feelings.

The evaluation rubric for the question is below.

Criteria Well-developed Response Marginal Response Underdeveloped Response
Criterion #1
Identifies form of dance and historical period
Correctly identifies dance as contemporary Modern Dance Identifies one, but not the other. Cannot identify either form or period.
Criterion #2
Describes ideas, feelings evoked by the dance.
Identifies theme and accurately describes feelings, ideas about that theme. Identifies theme, but does not elaborate on ideas and feelings concerning the theme. Describes only whether s/he likes or dislikes the dance.
Criterion #3
Discuss how movement expresses meaning.
Directly relates the dynamics of the movement to the ideas, feelings evoked.   Recognizes the intent of the movement, but does not relate how movement expresses ideas, feelings. Looks at movement strictly as pantomime.

Appendix B
MUSIC

This activity engages you in thinking about a specific piece of music.  You will listen to the first movement of Symphony No. 40 by Mozart.  Please discuss what you hear, discuss instrumentation, tempo, melody, and rhythm and form.

The evaluation rubric for the question is below.

Criteria Well-developed Response Marginal Response Underdeveloped Response
Criterion #1
Instrumentation
Knows it is an orchestra 4 sections of instrument of a certain time period Does recognize some instruments might sense size. Doesn't realize it is a cohesive group.
Criterion #2
Tempo
Can use a musical term to describe the speed Can judge degree of fast or slow. Does not sense the speed. 
Criterion #3
Melody vs. Polyphony
Recognizes one melody with harmony vs. many melodies, direction melody moves. Does not sense direction of melody or instruments playing it. Does not group melody vs. harmony.
Criterion #4
Rhythm and Form
The rhythm maintains a steady pulse, is broken into phrases making themes. Does not realize the form. Has no sense of rhythm and form.

Appendix B
THEATRE

This activity engages you in thinking about a specific work of art.  You will attend the play, "Electra."  After watching the play answer the following:
        a.  Discuss the development and believability of characters in the play.
        b.  Discuss how the costumes, scenery, lighting and makeup supports or doesn't support the overall look and believability of the production.
        c.  What is the relationship of theatre to society?  How does theatre affect society and society affect theatre?
        d.  What questions should we be asking ourselves as audience members?  How do the demographics of an audience (e.g., gender, age, ethnic background, etc.) affect the perception of a production?  How does an audience response affect the production itself?

The evaluation rubric for the question is below.

Criteria Well-developed Response Marginal Response Underdeveloped Response
Criterion #1
Character development and believability with regard to the actor, director and playwright.

 

 

 

Includes in response:  Focus of the actors:  Clear motivation for actions; Dramatic structure, easily traced;  Performance structure connected with motivation, Genre, tragedy, comedy, drama, etc.  Students can elaborate on these responses.

 

Includes the response:  Two or three of the previously mentioned responses are covered and can elaborate a little on them.

 

 

Includes in the response:  One or none of the previously mentioned responses and can not elaborate on them at all.

 

 

 

Criterion #2
Relationship of theatre to society and society to theatre.  Why does it exist?

 

 

 

Includes in response:  Viewing the theatre as something other than entertainment.  Theatre as a means to an end.  Theatre mirrors society and challenges the society.  Mentions how theatre can relate on a personal level.  Theatre can affect change in a society.  Theatre can call attention to the evils or good in a society. Includes in response:  Two or three of the previously mentioned responses are covered and can elaborate a little on them. 

 

 

 

Includes in response:  One or none of the previously mentioned responses and cannot articulate thoughts. 

 

 

 

Criterion #3
Design Production Elements, Costumes, Scenery, Lighting, and Makeup.

 

 

Appropriateness of all design elements:  Costumes, Scenery, Lighting, Makeup.  Can articulate types of research that may have been incorporated, how all design elements work together, the collaborative design process, and students can elaborate and articulate on each of the design areas. Includes in response:  Two or three of the previous responses, can elaborate on them and articulate thoughts clearly.

 

 

Includes in response:  One or none of the previous responses and cannot articulate on them at all.

 

 

 

Criterion #4
Roles of the Audience

 

 

 

 

Includes in response: Psychology of an audience can change response, audience as a critic, three questions audiences should ask themselves when viewing a production, expectations of an audience,  audience response can change actual performance, guidelines for being a good audience member. Includes in response:  Two or three of the previous responses, can articulate a little on them.

 

 

 

Includes in response:  One or none of the previous responses and cannot articulate on them at all.