Introduction

This is the blog for the public seminars for the School of Arts and Communication (K3) at Malmö University. K3 consists of several disciplines, including Communication for Development, English Studies, Graphic Design, Interaction Design, Media and Communication Studies, Stage Production, Product Design, and Visual Communication, which make it helpful to share a platform aiming at generating discussions across these various practices. The seminars are opportunities for both K3-based researchers and external guests to present and discuss their works.

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Ewa Berg, Kajsa Lindskog, Helena Malm, Margareta Melin, Gunnel Pettersson, and Bjørn Wangen: Risking Quality Assessments. An Analysis of Assessment Criteria for Arts-Based Assignments

Welcome to a seminar on assessing arts-based examinations. It will be held by a group of researchers from two teaching environments at Malmö University: The School of Arts and Communication (K3), and Culture, Language and Media (KSM) at the Faculty of Education and Society. The teachers holding the seminar are Ewa Berg, Kajsa Lindskog, Helena Malm, Margareta Melin, Gunnel Pettersson, and Bjørn Wangen. Dennis Augustsson and Håkan Magnusson have also participated in the project but will not be present at the presentation. The title of the seminar is:

Risking Quality Assessments. An Analysis of Assessment Criteria for Arts-Based Assignments

It will be held on Wednesday, October 25, at 10.15-12.00 in room NIC 0541 (K3 Open Studio in Niagara).

Below you can find an abstract for the talk;

Conceptions of the aesthetic are multifaceted, associated with taste and the sensual, and elusive beyond words. The aesthetic is often seen as the absolute opposite of scientific facts. And yet, it has found its way into academic institutions, other than art-schools and conservatoires. In tertiary education everything is assessed and assessments are constructed along alignments. In this context, also arts-based courses and modules, which use aesthetics and arts-practices as learning modes, need to align course outcomes with syllabus with assessment criteria. And formulating assessment criteria of arts-based examinations could be difficult. It is in this context this paper is written, based on a two-year research project with the aim of analysing and problematizing arts-based assessment criteria. In this paper we want to present and discuss the main results of the project.

The project Arts-based Assessments, involves eight senior/lecturers from two departments in two faculties (K3 and KSM: Culture, Language and Media). We have all have worked together to analyse assessment criteria (both from home-departments at Malmö University and from Swedish Academies of Art and Crafts) used in courses based on arts-based examinations, and with aesthetics as underlying criteria. Particularly useful have been the cross-analysis, i.e. KSM-staff has analysed K3-courses and vice-versa. This way we have brought into light what is so natural to us in our every-day work.

Theoretically, Taguchi’s (2013) concepts pedagogic documentation and active agents, Biggs’ (2007) notion of knowledge creation through art, and Selander and Kress’ (2010) concept didactic design have been used to frame our discussion.

The empirical part of the paper starts off with the main result of our analysis. We give three examples where we found concepts and/or practices that reveal particular stories of knowledge. The first of these is that of risk-taking, which we discuss both in the sense of assessing how students take risks as a measure of quality in arts-based projects, but also how we as lectures take risks in assessment processes. The example we give is a module at the end of the art-teacher course, where the assignment (an arts-based project) is assessed through criteria students construct themselves.

The second story involves the risk-taking (or lack thereof) of assessing aesthetic qualities. In non-art schools, but where arts and design are taught, there are discussions going on of whether to assess aesthetic qualities or not. This is clearly reflected in our research material. Examples from a Media Studies course is given, where arts-based learning-activites and assessments are used in a traditionally “theoretical” module.

The third example is also touching on risk-taking, as it entails experimenting and playing as way of knowledge making. With examples from a Stage Design course we discuss the im/possibilities of assessing knowledge creation through art, and how pre-school pedagogy can be useful in arts-based university assignments.

The paper concludes with a discussion of the possibilities of assessing aesthetic qualities. We argue that it is indeed not only possible, but also desirable. It is evident that multi-modal/arts-based forms of learning-activities enable multi-faceted knowledge-making beyond the traditional reading-and-writing. But choosing this involves risk-taking for both staff and students. All assessment criteria are however subject to interpretation and it is better to put words on paper than to hide evaluative notions in-between the lines in a pretence objectivity. This suggests the need for transparency in the assessment process, e.g. through peer-reviewing techniques and through letting students construct criteria together with the lecturer. There are words for the elusive, and it is better to put words on paper than to hide evaluative notions in-between the lines in a pretence objectivity.

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