With a novel like The Fountainhead, an objective test proves nearly impossible. How do you cull the most important facts from a novel that rich in detail and not leave anything key behind? How too can you give an essay test, focusing on only one or two key themes, and disregard the rest of the ideas that are central to the novel.
With older high school students, I have found that the best way to assess their understanding of the novel is to assess their understanding of the tenets behind the philosophy of objectivism. If they can successfully, using quotes from the novel as a guide, identify the key beliefs of Rand’s brand of philosophy, then they have understood her novel and all that it contains.
Ask students as an entire class, to take a look at the following three quotes from the novel. Without telling them which character said it, see if they can figure out who spoke the piece of dialogue. Then, put students in a circle and ask them each to speak in turn, about whether or not they agree with the message behind the quote. This will prepare them for the longer quote assessment you will be giving them shortly.
Ask students to spend a great deal of time focusing on the third quote listed. They should be able to identify the first two quotes as Roark, but they may vary between Toohey and Keating for the final quote. That will allow you to engage them in a discussion about how Toohey and Keating are similar characters; both afraid to think on their own. Ask students what, in their own lives, can be a negative effect of that type of group thinking?
I don’t intend to build in order to have clients. I intend to have clients in order to build. 
A house can have integrity, just like a person . . . and just as seldom. 
He was certain that it was profound, because he didn’t understand it. 
Use the downloadable assessment with your students and once they have finished, ask each student to choose a quote to present to the class. Have them explain the following:
- Whether or not it is a tenet of Objectivism
- How they arrived at that conclusion
- Who said the quote and in what context
- Their own personal insights about the quote.
Now, you have a thought provoking, uniquely individual assessment from each student; Ayn Rand would be proud!
This post is part of the series: The Fountainhead
- Ayn Rand and Objectivism: An Introduction To "The Fountainhead"
- Howard Roark as a Free Thinker: Meeting Rand’s Famous Architect
- Peter Keating, Man of the Masses: Meeting the Anti-Roark
- Are You An Objectivist? Assessing Student Understanding of "The Fountainhead"