Artistic Production as Evidence of Learning in Interdisciplinary Context

April 1, 2004

Throughout the United States, students are receiving art instruction through interdisciplinary curriculum developed by artist-in-residence programs and artist-teacher teams. It has been argued not only that this enriches the students' artistic experiences, but also translates into enhanced performance across the curriculum (Catterall, 1995; Fowler, 1973; Freedman, 2000). Assessment of that impact, however, has hitherto largely ignored student artistic production itself, focusing instead on learning in non-arts disciplines, such as reading or mathematics, and general cognitive skills, such as higher order thinking (Deasy, 2002).

In this paper we describe findings from a study to determine how students' learning in interdisciplinary curriculum involving the arts can be assessed through students' artistic production. The study investigated three main questions:

  1. What learning is currently being assessed in interdisciplinary curriculum involving the arts and how is it being assessed?
  2. What additional art and non-art knowledge do students learn in interdisciplinary curriculum involving the arts and how can it be assessed?
  3. What practical new strategies can teachers and artists use in these contexts to fully gain access to student learning as demonstrated in their art and art-related production? (Rather than focusing on judgments of artistic quality per se, assessment in this context will aim to reveal student knowledge of the arts, interdisciplinary knowledge, and knowledge of other school subjects.)

In light of recent scholarly attempts to determine the relationship of arts to non-arts disciplines in education, a consideration of what is actually learned by students in interdisciplinary arts education contexts, and as demonstrated through the art made in these contexts needs to take place. This study advances knowledge and understanding in this critical area by documenting current assessment practices and offering new strategies teachers and artists can use to assess student learning through their art and art-related production.


Deb Ingram
Rob Horowitz
Doug Boughton
Terry Baker
Kerry Freedman