The author presents a new perspective on current policy debates in outcomes-based assessment, providing insights from research in art and design education. This paper developed from ongoing doctoral research challenges orthodox approaches to assessment and evaluation. Examples and discussion are distinct from conventional best practice structural or definitional models of assessment. Using a qualitative approach (Guba & Lincoln, 1981, 2005) to data collection and analysis, the author anticipates the psycho-social and publicly constructed dynamics of assessment as a practice. Two case studies drawn from popular culture and public life, act as metaphors which reveal assessment as adaptive and socially constructed. The first, deals with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and boys’ auditory problems, while the second samples an instance from the cult of celebrity. Conditions or symptoms derived from case studies are subsequently deployed to explore art teacher perspectives of their public actions regarding assessment. Emergent aesthetic concepts from fieldwork, such as authenticity and consumption anticipate the final part of the investigation which is drawn from data collected in secondary school settings. Here transcript excerpts act as snapshots of assessment culture and practice, to reveal evidence of motivational and communal symptoms of the social milieux.