V.E438

What’s the Big Idea?

What's the Big Idea?

In this assessment, students will select three works from their portfolio that demonstrate a single central intent, focus, meaning, theme, or “big idea.” They will identify that unifying idea and describe how they have used it in their art. The content standard states “quality works of art.” Quality in this assessment is used to describe the application of art methods to sustained thematic investigations over a number of works, which are then prepared for presentation with accompanying artist statements.

This assessment assesses each student’s ability to describe specific ways that a meaning was explored in depth and evidenced in his or her art in preparing to present the work for exhibition, publication, web-based public portfolio, or the artist’s website. The meaning the works share may be a subject, an idea, a belief, a theme, an intent, an exploration of a style, an “ism,” or whatever concept unifies the work as a series or body of work.

This assessment is ideal for use in programs that incorporate the teaching of meaning in art education. Programs using theme-based unit plans, where students explore a theme or big idea over a series of artworks will prepare students for this event. Any program that has students creating works with social meanings that run across multiple works or series would also be appropriate. Students should be experienced in writing interpretive responses to artworks and/or in writing artist’s statements as part of presenting their art production.

This item has not been field-tested by Michigan teachers.


This is an analytic rubric. The column on the left shows the dimension that is being measured in the student’s performance. The levels across the top row indicate the performance level in the dimensions. Occasionally all dimensions and performance levels are exemplified by multiple students in a single recording.

Teacher Scoring Rubric

  • Dimension
  • Shared Meaning in Three Works

  • Range of Meaning in Three Works

  • Support for Statement in Works

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • A meaning, concept, intent, theme, or big idea is stated and minimally supported by any of the three works.

    N/A at this time.
  • A shared idea is stated and partly supported in the three works.

    N/A at this time.
  • A shared idea is stated and fully supported in two of the three works.

    N/A at this time.
  • A shared idea is stated and fully supported in each of the three works.

    N/A at this time.
  • Three works develop the same topic or aspect of the common theme.

    N/A at this time.
  • Three works develop two somewhat varying aspects of the common theme.

    N/A at this time.
  • Three works develop two clearly different or distinct aspects of the common theme.

    N/A at this time.
  • Each of the three works develops a clearly different or distinct aspect of the common theme.

    N/A at this time.
  • Meaning is clearly supported by a point of evidence in one work.

    N/A at this time.
  • Meaning is clearly supported by a single point of evidence in two works and by two or more in the third work.

    N/A at this time.
  • Meaning is clearly supported by two or more distinct points of evidence in two works and by one point in the third work.

    N/A at this time.
  • Meaning is clearly supported by two or more distinct points of evidence in each of the three works.

    N/A at this time.
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