Assessing Learning in the Arts:
Elliot Eisner

The focus of this resource has rightly been on film education. However it has much to learn from, and something to offer, wider discussions about art education. Elliot Eisner was one of the leading American thinkers in arts education for the latter part of the twentieth century. Here we look at what he said about assessing arts learning.

Assessing Learning
Elliot Eisner

Elliot Eisner’s book ‘The Arts and the Creation of Mind’ (Yale University Press, 2002) covers many of the questions one would want to ask about art education: what are good reasons for doing it? What areas of the brain does it support? And how do we assess whether it has any effect?

This downloadable pdf features the chapter on assessment from ‘The Arts and the Creation of Mind’. In the first section, it looks at the difference between evaluation to ‘take the educational temperature of a population’ (like national literacy tests), and assessing the progress of an individual child.

The second section looks at what kinds of learning we might look for in arts subjects, while the third considers what we might assess in arts education: the curriculum that has been designed; the activities that are taught; or the outcomes of these two processes. Note how he says ‘many outcomes, maybe the most important ones, might not be related to learning objectives.’


Read the article and think about these questions. Record your answers in the notepad below.

  • When you assess learning, or evaluate film education projects, are you looking at what students do, at what they learn, or at what they make?
  • If you evaluate projects do you make judgements about how they were designed, or delivered, or just at the outcomes?
  • How might you use his ideas about assessing ‘inventiveness’, or ‘expressive content’ in film education?

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