Why test the Arts? The Western Australian experience

Year: 2004

Author: Chapman, Sian, Fraillon, Julian

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Comprehensive system assessment of the arts has only occurred twice before in the world; once in Western Australia in 1996 and again the following year in the USA.

Now in 2003 / 2004 Monitoring Standards in Education (MSE) as part of the Department of Education and Training is again undertaking systemic assessment of the Arts. Considering the inherent difficulties in assessing a learning area that is primarily practical and performance based why do we persist?

Collecting information about the educational standards of students at Years 3, 7 and 10 sends a strong message to educators and the community about current performance and good practice in the Arts. Using a variety of innovative performance tasks MSE tests the art forms of dance, drama, media, music and visual arts. Using a Rasch measurement model to analyse the data, achievement scales are produced calibrating item/task difficulty with person ability. Mean student achievement is reported by year group. Sub-group achievement is reported according to gender, aboriginality and language background.

The benefits of this program are manyfold. School release materials allow schools to test their own cohorts and compare individual students to the state wide results. Teachers participating in the marking of the random sample gain invaluable professional development and the system is provided with valuable information to inform curriculum planning and standard setting.