Self Portrait

My Project AssessmentAssessment

Why use the Studio Thinking Framework for assessment?

The Studio Thinking Framework was developed by the research team, Lois Hetland, Ellen Winner, et al., from Project Zero at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. The eight Studio Habits of Mind are: develop craft, express, observe, envision, engage and persist, stretch and explore, reflect and understand art world. The three Studio Structures include: students at work, lecture demonstration, and critique. Teacher Action Research Institute teachers in San Leandro are among several other demonstration schools in Alameda County who use the Studio Thinking Framework to plan curriculum, assess student learning, and deepen their own teaching practice.

The Studio Habits of Mind are a strategic analytical tool for arts and classroom teachers because:

  • They offer a common language across arts and non-arts classrooms.
  • They provide multiple entry points and multiple assessments for learning across the curriculum in arts-integrated and interdisciplinary settings.
  • They expand the vocabulary in arts classrooms beyond the development of skills and technique.

Assessment using Studio Habits of Mind

Because the Studio Habits of Mind offer a lens for both students and teachers to assess their work, they can be used throughout the academic/creative process to help students take their work more seriously. San Leandro teachers introduce the habits at the beginning of the project, again in the middle, and at the end for reflection. These habits help teachers engage in dialogue with students to encourage deeper thinking about artistic process. At the end of the project, students engage in critique by taking a gallery walk to view others’ artwork and share in verbal discussions using a thinking routine such as “See Think Wonder” from Project Zero’s Visible Thinking Website. Students also write reflections about their artistic choices and about which studio habits they engaged throughout their process:

  • The specific content for the self-portrait project was 1) Develop craft: use proportion to draw your self-portrait, use balance and harmony to design your self-portrait, 2) Observe: employ close looking skills to inform your self-portrait, and 3) Express: find colors, textures, symbols, and text to collage over/under your drawing to make your self-portrait personally meaningful; and 4) Reflect: write descriptive texts about yourself; and notice what studio habits of mind you used during the process.
  • The criteria we are using for self-portrait assessment: 1) Develop craft: Did you use proportion in your facial drawing? Was your composition balanced and harmonious? 2) Observe: Did you look closely at yourself to try to capture your features? 3) Express: Did you layer collage materials and text around and on top of your self-portrait in a meaningful and personal way? 4) Reflect: What studio habits of mind did you use? What artistic choices did you make and why?
  • There are currently no procedures for scoring the self-portraits. TARI teachers engaged in: critique and self-assessment using Studio Habits of Mind.

All teachers interpreted the self-portrait project differently, and consequently there is a great deal of variation between each project’s implementation and outcome. Below are examples of final artworks from different school sites:


Self-Portrait from H. Di’Maggio’s fourth grade class, Madison School

Heather Di’Maggio’s class focused on writing personal texts, layering these texts over drawings.


Second Grade Student, J. Burle’s Class, Jefferson School

Judi Burle’s second grade class integrated the self-portrait project into their ‘no bullying’ week. The students wrote putdowns and putups and included those texts in their compositions. Backgrounds were created before the self-portraits were drawn.


Fourth Grade Student, C. Beatty’s Class, Jefferson School

Cameron Beatty’s fourth grade class painted their backgrounds expressively and incorporated descriptive texts.

My Understanding About My Students

Here is a sample of Teacher Action Research Institute teachers’ comments about what they learned and what they noticed about their students during and after the self-portrait project:

A. Di’Antonio from McKinley School explained: “We wrote a letter home to our parents asking where did our parents come from? Parents translated characteristics: honest, caring, loving, etc. in their own language and we put those in our self-portraits. We also talked about layers that go deeper and deeper; and we expressed in SHoM Wheel. Look at ourselves – what part do we want to hide, what part do we want to show/expose? We also used more materials to express this — yarn highlights and tissue conceals. What is the message we want to convey? I learned so much from this project, it was like peeling back the layers of an onion.”


Student from McKinley School


Student from McKinley School

C. Schmitz from Monroe said: “My students realized that learning can be fun, it can be engaging, it can be connected. My students are now asking: What else are we going to do with x? My students really liked writing about themselves: 3 adjectives; favorites: book, movie, activity, sport; this was engaging and accessible for everyone. I learned to give parameters from the beginning (no white space on background, for example) and then to let go and trust the students. Painting really calmed some of my students with challenging behavior. My students also reflected using the Studio Habits of Mind so it increased their vocabulary.”


Fifth Grade Student from Monroe

C. Beatty from Jefferson reported: “One observation I noticed when the students were painting their backgrounds: I just stopped and listened to the buzz in the room and I never had to ask them to be quiet, they were just into their work. Kids are into reflecting on themselves, it’s very positive for them. Next year I’ll mesh it with our unit on heroes/heroics; nickname; qualities you look for in a best friend; who is your personal hero – what did you learn from him/her?”


Student from Jefferson School


Fourth Grade Student at Jefferson

J. Burle of Jefferson commented: “We did gallery walk process and 2nd graders could do it!! Our studio habits were: Observe/Reflect/Engage and Persist/Express – and some kids started to get express – ’the moustache was silly and so is he sometimes’, ’she chose red and she wears a lot of red.’ They used the vocabulary of the Studio Habits more and they certainly developed craft; they were very detailed and got juiced about doing art! In fact, I’m taking them to SFMOMA on BART in May and my students are saying: ‘Wow!!’ with a lot of excitement.”


Second Grade Student from Jefferson School

D. Wang from Jefferson made these reflections of her students: “C. is one of my lowest students, so I was surprised that he included the drama masks, which were a lesson I used at the beginning of a drama workshop I did for intervention last year when he was in third grade. I was very impressed that Z, another very low student, referred to the colors’ “rhythm.” I was also quite surprised when I asked N. to write about why half of his face was done in the green and he said that it was because of Margo Humphrey. F. is also below basic, but demonstrated significant leadership in the class with his explorations that many copied. J. is my second-year focal student; his ability to engage and persist as he tried to get his portrait drawing right was good. He was the first to apply the lesson we had done earlier this year about drawing an image upside-down in order to focus on the lines.”


C’s Self-Portrait


N’s Self-Portrait


J’s Self-Portrait

How I Am Using Assessment Results

Assessment results in the Teacher Action Research Institute (TARI) project are analyzed by a project evaluator, by the San Leandro Unified, as well as by Dr. Lois Hetland of Project Zero. The results are disseminated to San Leandro Unified School District, Alameda County Office of Education’s Alliance for Arts Learning Leadership funders, advisory committees and partners, and other districts throughout California. Data can also be shared with state and national policymakers to inform leaders about the benefits of arts-integrated teaching and learning.

TARI Teachers have developed action research questions in four areas: assessment, engagement, arts integration, and writing. They are currently collecting data, including new methods of arts integration to teach writing, history, math and science, new instruments for assessing student learning using the 8 Studio Habits of Mind (develop craft, envision, express, observe, engage and persist, stretch and explore, understand art world and reflect), and reporting on student outcomes in response to more arts and reflection in the classroom. A tool we created for teacher observation is the Analyzing Student Learning tool, which helps teachers observe a student at work, and analyze which studio habits the student is engaging, identify where he/she might be struggling, and suggest next steps for the student. TARI teachers present their questions/findings to their school faculty in May and invite colleagues to participate in next year’s program.

Here is one teacher’s comment about the Teacher Action Research Institute project overall: “TARI has helped create a vehicle through which my low-achieving students feel a sense of expression, achievement, and understanding. It has also made them more willing to express themselves verbally because they are excited to do the project and because they have already formed ideas that can later be put into words.”

Here are some student reflections from the Who Am I? Self-Portrait Project:


Self-Portrait from D. Wang’s class at Jefferson School

D. Wang’s student F reflected: “I was pleased that we “our class” made portfolios because I got to see drawings of neat artists such as this class. I unexpected thing that happened in this work was that I sort of forgot that I had to fill the paper so I did more. A living artist who affected or influenced my work is going to know that I like to play with colors. There were a lot of hard parts but the hardest part for me was how will it look organized. I also made my own inventions by socking the tissue and then painting it…My picture is good!!”


Self-Portrait from C. Beatty’s class at Jefferson School

C. Beatty’s student from Jefferson answered these questions:

  1. What did you learn about yourself during this project? I leaned that I have more qualities that I thought I had.
  2. What did you learn about someone else in this class? They did a good job and did their best.
  3. What was the most enjoyable part about drawing your self-portrait? When I drew my eyes and nose.
  4. What was the most challenging part about drawing your self-portrait? Drawing my head and my lips.
  5. Explain how you used the TARI ’studio habits of mind’ during this project: a. Observe. I did the 3 steps they said to do. b. Reflect. I saw how good I did, and saw how other people did. c. Develop Craft. I tried my best drawing my mouth and my head.

Self-Portrait from J. Burle’s class at Jefferson

J. Burle’s second grade student wrote: “I chose to make my duck hide because it has two of my favorite colors. I put my face upside down because it will look like I am hanging in a tree. What I like about my self portrait. I have lots of colors and it looks like a rainbow portrait, and it has lots of words to describe it.”


Fourth grade student from McKinley

A. D’Antonio’s student’s reflected in the Studio Habits of Mind wheel.

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