Assessment Package for Instructors

These are guidelines for suggested assessments for instructors. Please adapt and include them in your sample syllabus and learning management system.

Recommended assessment plan

We recommend the following weighted breakdown of course assessment elements; however, instructors are welcome to re-weight, add, alter, or remove components in order to suit their needs and institutional requirements. Assignment guidelines for students based on this breakdown are provided in the syllabus. Below are notes for instructors.

Note that this course does not include a final exam, which may be required by some institutions. In this instance, we recommend adapting the Visualizing Research assignment as a take-home final exam.

Assessment Recommended Weight Comments Alignment with Learning Outcomes
Learning Journals 25%
(5%X5; best 5 out of 6)
These are ongoing activities that can be combined into submitted assignments or discussion board conversations. Students should be encouraged to complete all the Learning Journals as a way to enhance their own learning and note taking. 1,3,5
Visualizing Research 20% This will encourage discussion among peers and will add a level of collaboration and knowledge sharing. 4,5,6
Museum Response 20% This assignment encourages direct student engagement with art through art objects and art exhibitions, either in person or virtually. 1,3,4,5
Artwork Analysis Part I: Proposal – 5%

Part II: Peer review – 5%

Part III: Submission – 25%

TOTAL — 35%

This is a scaffolded assignment that encourages students to take an extended learning process with an art object of their choice. Ultimately, students are working towards creating their own object-essay in the style of those in the course OER. 1,2,4,5

Learning outcomes

  1. Look at and describe art and material culture using art historical language, terminology, and methodology.
  2. Critically analyze and evaluate Canadian artworks using historical approaches and methods.
  3. Find and interpret primary and secondary sources used in art historical research (exhibition catalogues, exhibition reviews, artist statements, museum and art gallery archives).
  4. Articulate and support an argument about art and material objects in Canadian contexts.
  5. Make connections between the images and objects viewed in class to the visual culture of their world.
  6. Engage in discussions about Canadian art histories in relation to decolonization, equity, inclusion, regionalism, Indigenization, and internationalization through different modes of communication.


Learning journals

Using the Learning Journals

The learning journals are engagement activities that encourage students to interact with the material in an active way through investigations of the relationships between art and community values, techniques artists use to convey ideas, and strategies for interpreting artwork.

The first and last learning journal of each module are generally larger in scope and act as a pre- and post- assessment. Generally, we recommend that students use the learning journals in a module as part of their note-taking for the course as a way to actively set ideas and content from the module.

To accommodate the needs of diverse learners, we recommend having students choose to complete five out of the six activities in the course. If students complete all of them, which we encourage, the highest marked five activities will count towards their final grade.

Ways to Structure the Learning Journals into Assessments

As discussion board prompts:

Post the learning journals of a module each to their own forum; have students choose which forums they want to respond to each week.  We recommend having students respond to at least two or three.

As a journal handed in periodically:

Consider flexibility for students in choosing the journal entry they want to write about. Have students choose which three or four learning journals per module they would like to respond to; collect these three or four times throughout the semester for grading. If you choose, you can reduce the amount of activity and introduce flexibility for students by allowing students to drop/skip one activity.

A Complete List of Learning Journal Prompts

Visualizing research

This component requires the use of a Learning Management System (LMS) discussion board, or another online platform such as Padlet, Learning Pear, or Jamboard. Because of the creative and multi-formed nature of the assignment, it may even be useful, in instances where such platforms are unavailable, to have students present their assignment as a screenshot or a pdf of a slide or a Photoshop. This assessment will encourage discussion among peers and will add a level of collaboration and knowledge sharing, though you could also shape the assignment to be individually submitted.

This component is intended to act as an alternative to a longer written essay, while simultaneously encouraging foundations for art historical research that will be useful in other, more writing-intensive, assignments such as the Artwork Analysis assignment.

In Module 1: Introduction there is a learning journal specifically on close looking. Students are welcome to  extend that learning journal into this assignment. Possible resources for close looking:

This assignment requires students to choose and research a specific artwork in the field of Canadian art that they have either encountered in the modules or found on their own (say at a museum visit or public art installation). Using a software program of your and/or their choice (such as Powerpoint, Photoshop, Piktochart, Canva), students should create an infographic that includes, in addition to the work itself:

  • a 150-word description of the artwork (shape, size, colour, content, form, style)
  • statements on where the artwork was made, its location (geographically and in what museum collection), when it was made, and in what art movements and visual styles it participates
  • two 50- to 100-word quotations from a journal article, book, or exhibition catalogue that are properly cited
  • a thought-provoking question that has emerged in researching the object
  • a list of a minimum of four consulted resources
  • a mixture of text and image as well as direct links, excerpts, student drawings, and even other works with which it shares a visual or contextual relationship.

Students should upload their infographics for discussion to either the LMS discussion board or another online platform, such as Learning Pear.

Museum response

This assignment has students write a 600-word reflection of a display located in a Canadian museum or gallery collection that they visit in person or view online. The purpose of this assignment is to encourage the following practices: looking at artworks with a new intensity of awareness; thinking widely about the scope of art-historical knowledge; engaging in institutional critique; and organizing thoughts into clear writing.

The assignment includes three parts:

  1. A drawing that should be executed to the best of learners’ abilities—it is understood that these abilities will vary widely—that captures the relationships between objects in a display. The display can be an entire room or a vitrine.  If drawing a virtual exhibition, students should consider the relationships of presented objects in the flow or scroll of the screen; they may choose to draw a web for linked features.
  2. A  very thorough description. Students should consider the placement of objects, scale, movement and flow of people, location(s) in the gallery, significant details, colour, style, affective qualities, wall text, and anything else they notice. If students describe a virtual display, encourage them to think about placement of images, text and links, location on the website, how to navigate around objects, colour, style, affective qualities, and anything else they notice. Explain that the challenge is to organize this information in a logical and progressive way so that a reader who doesn’t see the display can still envisage the collection. It may help to imagine that they are speaking on a cell phone, trying to describing it a friend.
  3. Ask questions that address the exhibition from as many different angles as possible. For example, consider the type of institution, curatorial aims, historical context, and critical engagement with some of the themes in Module 8.

Students should be reminded not to try to answer the questions asked; rather, the idea is to get students thinking about the widest variety of things that would be possible to discover about the institution and why these things would be important to know. Rather than simply listing questions, develop them into fully elaborated paragraphs that work in essay form. The strongest essays typically work description and questioning into a unified whole, though this is not essential. Because no research is required for this paper, no notes or bibliography are necessary. It is acceptable to write in the first person.

Artwork analysis

This renewable, open pedagogy assignment encourages students to create a text in the same form as the object essays that accompany the course, to actively engage learners in co-creating knowledge. Ask students: What artwork or object would you add to these essays?

For this assignment, students will write a 1000-1200 word text in the style of the object essays on an artwork that they think is central to the telling and study of art in Canada. The work can be any object—from the visual to the architectural, the textile to the ephemeral—and can originate from (or outside of) any historical period or geographical location, but it must not already be included in the OER. At the end of the course, students may have the opportunity to edit and publish their entries in CanadARThistories, contributing to a diverse and evolving open resource on the histories of art in Canada.

This assignment has three scaffolded steps. :

  • Part I: Proposal—students will identify an object of interest and write a short tentative thesis statement about it.
  • Part II: Peer review—after receiving feedback from the teaching team, and having the chance to re-write the proposal work, students will submit the proposal for peer review. Students will provide feedback in the form of a single “food for thought” question, and receive the same from two peers. This will allow students to receive additional feedback and refine their work even more. Grades will be assigned by the teaching team on the quality and thoughtfulness of the peer review questions they provide (2 at 2.5% each for a total of 5%).
  • Part III: Submission—after taking feedback from the previous two assignments, students will submit a resolved written document about their proposed topic.

Key Works

Other possible assessments

Academic Integrity Quiz

The academic integrity quiz is designed to help familiarize students with academic integrity practices at their institution. This quiz is not limited in time, and students can take it as many times as they want. Although it is a mandatory activity, it is not part of the course grade.

Forum Discussion

The forum discussion enhances collaboration among peers by providing a platform for art analysis and thought exchange. This activity is guided by a question from the instructor and performed in a small group setting.

Writing About Art

This assignment breaks down the process of art writing/art criticism into five distinct steps: 1) description; 2) analysis; 3) historical context; 4) interpretation; and 5) evaluative judgement. Students choose one work of art (or documentation of a work of art) and write five short texts about it. Each text will practice one aspect of art writing/art criticism. Once students have written and received feedback on all five texts, they then edit them into a single essay about the work of art. This assignment is an opportunity to practice some of the skills that students develop throughout the semester.

Exhibition Proposal 

The assignment asks students to play curator and develop a proposal for an exhibition of works studied in class. Selecting works and developing a theme for an exhibition will test students’ understandings of the course content while giving them the opportunity to demonstrate their own creative and critical insights.


Working in groups of four or five, students research one key moment, exhibition, or artwork in the history of telecommunications and internet art, but instead of writing an essay, they create a well-crafted 5-7 minute podcast or video. Two of the goals of this assignment are to present research orally, and consider how digital tools can be used to share academic research with the general public. Together the podcasts produced by the class form a narrative history of telecommunications and internet art from the 1960s to the present.

Alternative Text

This short writing assignment asks students to: think critically about the challenges of translating visual materials into text, practice description skills, and learn about an important accessibility tool in art history. Describing something one sees is a skill that is becoming more and more important in our increasingly visual world. In art history or any subject that uses images, it is also a crucial tool for making visual material accessible to people who are visually impaired. However, accurately and concisely describing the content of an image without analysis or interpretation (which may bias the reader’s experience) is more challenging than it seems. For this assignment students use Routledge’s Alternative Text Guidelines to write 150- to 200-word alt texts for two artworks that have been discussed in two different lectures.

Collecting Contemporary Art

In this assignment, ask students: Imagine that you are asked to propose an acquisition of a work of contemporary art for the National Gallery of Canada’s collection. What would you choose and why? This individual research assignment takes students through the process of researching and writing an acquisition report for a museum. This process involves: 1) researching and developing a short list of works by five contemporary artists; 2) researching and understanding the collection to determine which of the five shortlisted works will best enhance the current holdings; and 3) writing an acquisition report proposing the purchase of the work selected. The final submission will include an “Acquisition Proposal Portfolio” containing all of these components.



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CanadARThistories Copyright © by Alena Buis; Devon Smither; ecavaliere; Jen Kennedy; Johanna Amos; and Sarah E.K. Smith is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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