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Art, craft & design assessment advice 

Art assessment should never be a judgement passed from teacher to pupil, it should be positive guidance for improvement. Art assessment should promote and improve learning and the most important aspect of the assessment process is creativity itself.


The creative process should be the brain of the assessment model because creation and critical judgements go hand in hand. When an artist stands back and looks at their own art work they are analysing, trying to establish what is working and what isn't, what they need to develop and what their next steps should be:

1. Creative inspiration
2. Creative development
3. Creative analysis (evaluation)
4. Creative decisions 

This process is usually cyclical as the artist moves through it again and again but at any moment, the creative process can end: ‘It’s gone wrong, go straight to the bin, do not pass Go and do not collect £200.' This process should form the basis for all assessment. Students need to understand that it is perfectly normal to feel frustrated and yet be able to give themselves credit and move on. They should not only learn how to develop technique but also how to analyse their own work fairly and make good choices, Assessment should become a positive, healthy experience where pupils take creative decisions comfortably and learn from their mistakes.

the Creative Process
What should I look for when I assess art?

1. Quantity and quality of participation - Have the pupils gained experience of the activities you have provided? If they have, regardless of their attitude, effort or skill they have participated. But you might want to measure how the quality of that participation. Be careful here, because some pupils may be wary or even frightened of using clay etc. and so it’s easy for some to be penalised unfairly. But clearly, if some have not made any effort at all whilst some have tried really hard then you want to recognise this. This might be assessed as an effort grade on a numerical scale from 1-10 or 1-5.

2. Progression - You need to make it clear to everyone what their basic starting point is; high ability for age, the class standard or working towards the class standard. Then when assessing progress you should be highlighting how much the person has progressed from where they began. This is fundamentally different to assessing quality of outcomes and makes for a very different art room because often, you realise that high ability students aren’t making as much progress as the less able. This is actually quite normal, because it’s harder to make big learning steps when you already possess the skills being taught, but it really helps the less able to feel more confident.
This might be assessed as simply; has made outstanding progress, has made good progress, progress is in-line with class/age expectations, slower progress than expected, minimal or no progress.

3. Attainment and ability - It is important to recognise what ability level the pupils are and what they have learned and achieved. I would assess the pupils’ outcomes as one of the strands; high ability, class standard (good), working towards the class standard. There are two other strands to mention; Students with special education needs and those who are Talented. By understanding pupils individual needs you can make more informative assessment decisions based on their needs or abilities. What I would suggest is that you may wish to separate both of these extremes from any whole class assessment activities you do. It is a sensitive issue and needs careful handling but I try to take the needs and the opinions of the pupils into consideration when assessing these extremes in front of the whole class.

By summarising what learning has taken place in the course of the work and reminding pupils what they have done you are strengthening their knowledge and understanding, placing this learning more firmly in their memory and improving confidence. Ask the pupils to highlight which work they like and say why, make a fuss of pupils who overcame adversity and mention those who made good progress.

I devised this revised BLOOMS progression model using similar models from Ohio State University for Science. It can be used in all key stages for teachers plan effective lessons and to more easily demonstrate pupil performance and progress in art, craft and design.
Using the table, teachers can develop learning activities that provide a balance of all four knowledge domains and which increase in demand from the concrete thinking skill of 'Factual Remembering’ to the abstract thinking skill of 'Metacognitive Creating'.
The chart also relates closely to the skills, processes and techniques required in the progress model developed by the NSEAD curriculum group in 2014. It also prepares pupils with the skills they need for effective GCSE art, the assessment objectives of which closely resemble these learning objectives.
The pupils can easily identify with this and see how to improve their skills in order to get higher marks!

Revised BLOOMS Art learning & Progression Targets
Secondary Key Stage 3 Art Assessment
  • Is your assessment system destroying pupil confidence rather than improving it?

  • Are your students actually learning that they can't do art?


One certainty of Secondary Key Stage 3 art education is that from Year 7 to 9, despite all of your wonderful teaching, the most powerful thing that most students will learn is that they can't do art and this has been confirmed by Ofsted’s Making a Mark report of 2011. When pupils enter Secondary at the age of eleven, there is a surge of excitement because most of them haven't had an art lesson in an art room before. But before long their lack of confidence re-surfaces and is further compounded by:


Assessment - By over assessing meticulously all you succeed in doing is reinforcing long held personal belief about who can and who can't do art. Assessment does as much, if not more damage than it does good. Assessment is a record of an individual 'journey' through art. Everyone will progress and improve from the first time they pick up a pen, so all YOU should be doing is recognising that progression and performance with offers of advice on how to improve, highlighting the strengths and weaknesses and encouraging.


Silent Assessment - Assessment isn’t just a grade or comment on a piece of work, it’s holding up an exemplar piece of art to the class, it’s praising the same people every lesson as being the best, it’s having favourites, it’s putting most of the class’s work up in the hall but leaving the worst ones out, it’s printing the gifted pupil’s work in the school newsletter, it’s announcing the winner of the art competition in assembly or giving out stickers and certificates to the best pupils, it's even your tone of voice or your body language. Your behaviour can confirm or change your pupil's existing opinions of their ability. 


Baseline testing Benchmarking in art
Baseline Benchmarking in art

You cannot measure progress with any level of accuracy without a meaningful starting point. If your current baseline test is simply asking everyone to draw a shoe or a similar object then what are you actually finding out is simply their general drawing ability. This is great and a good barometer of art ability in many areas, I even to used do it myself. But this on its own is not enough.

If you study the new curriculum for art and design in the UK (and most other curriculums around the world) what you need to teach is;


Making skills 

Knowledge of art

Developing ideas



These are essentially the same things as you need to be successful in exam art. So it makes sense therefore to have a baseline test that looks at levels in skills, imagination, literacy and independent learning ability. If you test to these four areas at the start of the year you can more accurately show what progress has been made.


Download my free baseline art and G&T test

Differentiation in art

Whenever you are teaching art there will always be some distinctive areas that emerge:

1. There will be 3 main areas of attainment in your outcomes; High, Middle and Low ability. 

2. There will occasionally be some students who will demonstrate ability way higher than that of their peers (Gifted & Talented). 

3. There will be students who will struggle to produce anything of quality and find it very difficult to access your lessons (often, but not always SEN)

Every unit of work you plan should cater for these areas of attainment. When planning a project you should always prepare for this. Ask yourself: What have I got to extend and enrich this project for the more able? How am I going to support the less able? You cannot simply say: there will be differentiation by outcome, because this will not provide a suitable platform for everyone to achieve. If your task is suitably open ended to enable students to work at their own level of ability then you may not need to think much about extension work, but you will always need to think of support for students who are struggling to access your lesson.
Typically, high ability artists will already be able to draw, shade and colour skilfully without much input from you. High ability thinkers will create unusual and interesting colours, shapes and patterns and have more imaginative outcomes that are not necessarily skilfully produced. Often, some students who are very skilful at drawing and/or painting have little or no imagination. So you need to know if you have high ability thinkers, high ability creators of art or both. To extend your students work they should be challenged to push the boundaries and branch out into their own, creative outcomes. For example: You have asked the class to paint and draw insects for a pattern design. The students finishing early might be asked to create something using that pattern, such as a dress or clothing. The key is to ask ther right questions: That is excellent work, how would you like to develop this work further? In what way might you build on this work? How might you apply this pattern? Can you think of alternatives? What would happen if you used different colours?

To support the more able try these methods:
If a student finishes their work quickly, ask them to check it and think about how they might improve it. When drawing and painting, students finishing early can nearly always improve their use of colour, shading and/or the tone in their work.
They should be asked to think about what THEY would like to do next. Students who are more able and finish work quickly usually have a head packed full of ideas that they want to express. Have an extension box in the classroom filled with interesting work. Try to build a collection of activities, tasks and objects that can inspire a piece of artwork. You might be able to download many of these from the internet or from photo-copiable booklets. Encourage 'Free Drawing time.' I love free drawing time in art because the students love free drawing time! It is also a great gap filler and extension task in lessons. Why not simply allow a student some free time to study an art book of their choice? It's quick, easy and very educational!
To support the less able try these methods:
Show them how to ghost draw shapes on the paper to help them.
Show them how to sketch lightly with a sharp pencil.
Help them to build the drawing from simple shapes such as circles, squares.
Provide tracing and copying facilities wherever possible. A piece of tracing paper is a Godsend and it is not cheating.
Provide one to one support where possible and do small demonstrations on scrap pieces of paper.
Break the task up into smaller sections.
Provide good resources on the whiteboard and/or handouts.
Think of more simplistic alternatives with strong outlines. Tracing cartoons is a very good way of improving the fine motor skills needed to help the less able.
If all else fails then you might start them off with a few basic guidelines. Try not to do too much but just enough to get them going.
Put a homework book together of activities to help develop motor skills.

Paul Carney art assessment
Assessing Artwork at GCSE exam level

There was a time when GCSE grades were formed by looking at a portfolio of work and saying; ‘that’s a grade C’ 

When GCSE rubrics came into force in the nineties, art teachers would still decide on the grade first, then calculate a ‘safe’ points total, tailoring the assessment matrix to fit their opinion. It still goes on and teachers confidently claim they ‘know’ what the grade looks like. They may be very experienced, but things change and the danger of this method of working is complacency and oversight that often leads to horrendous shocks at the moderation stage.


  • Do you standardise your marking across your department regularly?

  • Are you leaving it too long to assess your pupils work?

  • When was the last time you brushed up on your marking?

  • Are you marking too high or too low? Have bad habits crept in?

Any attempt to award extra marks based on the personal likeability of the pupil (or vice versa) should be strictly avoided. Mark what you see and try not to even look at the name on the folder. If you do this early enough in the year the student has time to improve the grade, though of course this cannot be done for the final exam. 

Planning is so important and you must make sure that you are maximising motivation/interest in the work, meeting the needs of your students, providing regular, constructive help, encouragement and advice and promoting successful outcomes. Put yourself in the student's shoes. They are getting it in the neck from every teacher AND at home and art takes so much time to do they are easily inclined to think; "Is it worth it?" So the skill here is to nip at their heels lightly, but early and often. NEVER wait until the end or midway through a project to assess work. By this time you will have lost the game. These forms of assessment should only confirm what you already know. The important thing is to plan for assessment in every lesson but in such a way as it seems natural. 



Consultancy Service

As an NSEAD registered art consultant, I offer a friendly, professional art consultancy service to schools, from early years right through to Secondary GCSE. I've worked with infant schools to improve art assessment, delivered primary school CPD on skills and progression, worked with Subject Leaders to raise attainment and done whole school, secondary art department audits including formal lesson observations and department reviews. My over-arching strategy is to support the professional development of hard working professionals with positive and constructive advice for improvement.

My consultancy bookings are now being handled by Iain Simper of the Learning Partnership. For enquiries email Iain here


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Please follow the link to see my latest CPD teacher training courses. If you can't see any that suits your needs, why don't you arrange for a bespoke in-school service?

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