I am continuing to develop a Beaufort like scale for educational assessment, and much earlier in the blog I had proposed that the arts be used as a primary assessment tool, and also that like the original Beaufort scale we needed both an at sea version which could serve in the classroom perspective and points of reference that would serve the parent watching from shore. The parent watching from shore is where the arts as assessment idea comes to the fore.
In the Theory of Educational Sloyd (both the book and theory developed by Otto Salomon,) a set of educational principles is laid out for the development of models and curriculum that I have shared many times before in the blog, so you may have them memorized and taken to heart. These are:
Move from the known to the unknownAgain, I want to be quick and brief. These points are not only observable classroom principles, but can be witnessed in the objects of art the child carries home from school.
Move from the easy to the more difficult
Move from the simple to the complex
Move from the concrete to the abstract
Through projects that capture the interest of the home and the child.
As you may know from having children of your own, there are many many things that children won't necessarily be able to talk about when they return home from school, but objective expressions of learning in the form of art, are quite expressive and descriptive of learning.
I want to go very briefly back to the earliest days of Salomon's school at Nääs. Salomon and his uncle August Abrahamson were Jews, and while it had been the heart's desire of Abrahamson and his wife to create a school for the education of the children from his surrounding area, their religion was a barrier causing distrust amongst the local Lutheran populace. In order to overcome this difficulty, Abrahamson set the policy that continued throughout the history of Nääs, even as it became a school for teachers, that education would be free and the costs borne by the Abrahamson foundation. First in Salomon's mind, therefore, was the relationship between home and school, and so, as Salomon developed models for teaching sloyd, he chose that the children make objects that reinforced the relationship between home and school, and gave the parents an important position in observing and reinforcing the child's growth in school. Making beautiful, useful objects was a means to reinforce the essential relationship between home and school that so many schools have neglected, particularly now that we have educational experts in charge of nearly everything.
What I want most to share with you this morning is that the fundamental principles of educational sloyd as described above are also observable results that fit a framework for assessment. And so, you can see how the parent notices in the things the child brings home from school, the developmental progression from easy to more difficult and from simple to complex and from concrete to abstract. The parent need not be trained in the the arts or capable of assessing the merits of the arts in order to serve as witness to these marks of child development and learning progress.
You may have heard the story of the Columbus egg. If not, you can learn about it by typing Columbus egg in the search block at upper left. Otto Salomon had what he believed to be his own Columbus egg which I discussed earlier in the blog. At this point, I am beginning to think that this might be mine... that the arts can be used as a simple form of assessment that builds stronger bonds between home and school and gives the parents a long neglected handle on school success. Of course the narrative is not complete. There will be more to come and I invite your help.
Students always want to do new things rather than refine what they have done before, but practice is one of those things that apply to woodworking just as in everything else. Today's 4th 5th and 6th grade students worked again on Sloyd trivets. They were wanting to do new things from their own imaginations, but I was insistent and they did enjoy finding new ways to make their work easier and more interesting as shown in the sanding operation in the photo above.