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Art history and final exams. (High School).

Final exam time is always a rough time in the artroom. Students seem to have projects they want to finish before the end of the semester, and none of them want to use up class time to either review for or take a final exam.

At Chenango Forks, we are required to give a written final exam. Over the past several years, I have developed a method of testing that is acceptable to the administration, does not make the students feel that they are losing working studio time, and allows me to add an additional facet of art history to my curriculum.

Students in my studio classes take a two-part final exam. The first part is the standard written exam, featuring the usual short answer, multiple choice, essay, and practical working questions. This traditional part of the exam is fifty questions and is worth fifty points. This part of the exam is designed to be completed in one class period.

The second part of the exam, also worth fifty points, is a research paper. It is through this alternative approach that students feel like they are able to express themselves creatively and artistically, while at the same time testing themselves on their knowledge of art and research skills. This is the part of the final that is both challenging and enjoyable to grade.

Establishing a Timeline

The second or third week of the course, I give students the requirements for the research paper, as well as the timeline they need to follow. They have a topic chosen by the fifth week, and a bibliography of a least three sources by the tenth week. The final paper is due by the nineteenth week of the semester.

To encourage students not to wait until the last minute to do the writing, I accept early papers, grading them and allowing students to make corrections and re-submit the exam prior to the final deadline.

Clarifying Requirements

Students are given a copy of the following requirements for the research paper:

1. The paper is to be on an artist or art-related topic of their choice, as long as it is related to the studio class they are currently taking.

2. The paper is to be a minimum of two pages and a maximum of five pages in length (not including cover, bibliography page, illustrations, and/or diagrams).

3. The paper needs to have a bibliography of at least three sources.

4. The paper should contain illustrations, pictures, diagrams, or some other visual component.

5. Presentation is of utmost importance. The paper needs to be designed or put together in a way that is unique, interesting, and complimentary to the subject matter.

6. The paper needs to be typed and double-spaced. Handwritten papers will not be accepted unless handwriting is an integral part of the paper design.

Explaining Criteria

Students are told that the paper will be worth fifty points. Of these possible fifty points, fifteen points will be awarded based on content: bibliography (three points); spelling, grammar, and structure (four points); no typos (three points); evidence of relevant, meaningful research and information (five points).

The other thirty-five points will be based on the design of the paper--how it is put together and presented to the viewer: general presentation and form (fifteen points), artistry (six points), use of visuals (five points), typing (five points), appropriate length (four points). Students are told that five sheets of paper with a staple in the upper left-hand corner will get a grand total of zero out of the possible thirty-five points available for the design part of the paper.

Students are given a copy of the grading sheet I will use so they can see exactly how the distribution of points will fall.

Reviewing Possibilities

We discuss the possibilities available to them and what exactly the design of the paper means. Students are shown examples of papers from the past, both successful and some less successful examples. We talk about where they can go for inspiration and look at some examples of alternative methods of presenting information. This includes various ways to hand-bind books.

Over the years, students have come up with some very ingenious solutions to the problem, making the final more creatively challenging for them, and more interesting for me.


Students differentiate among a variety of historical and cultural contexts in terms of characteristics and purposes of works of art.

Keith Rosko is an art teacher at Chenango Forks High School in Binghamton, New York.
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Author:Rosko, Keith
Publication:School Arts
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:May 1, 2003
Previous Article:The art of making research. (All levels).
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