About seszucs

Suzanne E. Szucs is an artist, writer and educator living and working in Rochester, MN. A recipient of numerous grants and awards, including an Illinois Arts Council Individual Fellowship and a Minnesota State Arts Board Individual Artist Grant, Szucs has shown her work widely. To see portfolios or link to articles go to: www.suzanneszucs.com or mnartists.org Szucs has a BFA from the San Francisco Art Institute and a MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Having taught since 1995, Szucs has held positions at a variety of institutions, from adjunct positions at art schools and community colleges, multi-year positions at two universities and is currently a full-time Instructor of Art, Photography at Rochester Community & Technical College. Her experience includes teaching across the spectrum of photographic practice and history and working with diverse demographics of students at both the undergraduate and graduate level.

Pedagogy Now! Creating Effective Evaluation Techniques

Thanks to everyone who attended our CAA workshop, Creating Effective Evaluation Techniques. We had a great time presenting and got a lot of feedback through all the fabulous questions and comments.
As promised, here is our powerpoint presentation PDF. Please feel free to give us any feedback, to ask us questions via the blog or email, or to ask us to address particular issues in the blog. We are also happy to come to your school to do a workshop tailored to your program’s needs. Contact us here:




AFT On Campus issue on MOOCs

Something all educators should be considering is what the role Massive Online Open Courses (MOOCs) will play in all of our futures. All indications appear to be that many administrations are looking at MOOCs as a silver bullet for financial woes. But it’s not that simple — MOOCs open a whole can of worms and this issue of the American Federation of Teachers On Campus publication explores MOOCs from several useful perspectives. http://www.aft.org/emags/oc/oc_winter201314/index.html#/20/

Self-Assessment = Getting them to Think about their work

There is a lot of chatter in the education community about Self-Assessment. In feeling somewhat dissatisfied that my rubrics are often more useful to me than to my students, I decided this fall to institute more consistent self-assessment into assignments. This assessment has taken two forms – the most obvious is actually giving them the rubric and asking them to complete it and turn it in with the project (the hope here is that this will provoke them to actually read the rubric!). The second is providing them with a series of questions about their work. The goal for me with self-assessment is that they think through what they are doing, rather than waiting for a longed for, but often mysterious grade from me. In the past I have asked them to write a self-evaluation with their projects, building up to an overall statement by the end of the semester. My new approach is giving them self-assessment questions tailored to the assignments.

It’s nearing the end of the semester and what has come of this new approach? Some students have been diligent in their responses, some slackers, just as I imagined. The real bonus has been getting a fix on whether they actually understand the assignments – they may be doing it right, but are they connecting the dots? Ultimately, their self-assessments have been more valuable all along the way than the end of semester course evaluations that at my school at least, are an agony of filling in bubbles and navigating obtuse data. If I ask a student “Which aperture gave you consistently shallow depth of field?” not only am I getting them to think about the result (rather than just look at it), I am also getting a sense as to whether they understand what they have done. It’s helping me to see on an assignment-to-assignment basis whether I am an effective teacher. How carefully or thoughtfully they respond, helps me to also understand whether my students are diligent learners. An obvious lesson is that those who skip the assessment are often the most problematic learners. A corollary bonus is that I get a sense of my student’s expectations. By offering them the opportunity to score their own rubric then match it to mine, room opens up for a conversation about those expectations.

Self-assessment takes time and for me is always a work in progress. I highly recommend incorporating it into assignment delivery and course expectations.

New links

I’ve been working on putting up some new links, especially on teaching and learning. Note especially The University Center for the Advancement of Teaching (Ohio State) which has some excellent resources: http://ucat.osu.edu/selected_links/teaching_portfolio/PortfolioLinks.html

A fabulous new link is from the Innovation League is called Getting Results: http://www.league.org/gettingresults/web/
This is a crash course in course creation targeted towards community college instructors, but the information is valuable for anyone, especially if you are interested in learning more about those buzz topics: learning outcomes, active learning and assessment.

I’ve created a new Rubrics category for links, and will add more in the future.

The Job Search Cover Letter

When job searching, cover letters are an important part of the process. Potential employers want to see that you are looking at their position individually and responding to their needs. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel each time, but rather than sending out generic letters, get used to fine-tuning your application letters to each specific institution. In today’s age of extreme web-access, there is no reason that applicants can’t familiarize themselves with the schools to which they are applying.
• Read the job listing thoroughly and make sure that you respond to each point on their list of qualifications.
• Remember that the HR department is the first hurdle you must overcome. HR will rank and score your letter in relation to how you fulfill their requested qualifications, not who you are and how well you write.
• If you lack a qualification, express interest to learn, or connect it with some other skill that you have.
• Address the qualifications, but be brief. Outline the details of your experience on your CV.
• Briefly state why you would make a good fit for their school, demonstrating that you are familiar with the unique qualities of their program.
• Use brief personal and specific anecdotes that highlight a familiarity with their program. For instance, if qualifications mention mentoring students, mention what you have done to accomplish this in your past, or if new to the market, how you were successfully mentored.
• Write succinctly to tell the search committee who you are, without trying to impress – in other words, be yourself.
• Be mindful of the schools to which you are applying. Sitting on a search committee last year, I called up a candidate for a potential interview and took her completely by surprise as she did not appear to remember having applied to the position at my school. Additionally, she was out and about and not with her application materials, however she insisted on continuing the conversation. It would have been better if she had asked to reschedule the conversation and speak with me when she was better prepared. As a result, she did not get an interview.
• Choose to apply to the jobs you are best suited for, not every job that is available. See “Types of Academic Institutions” and “Which jobs do I apply for?” posts on this blog for additional information.

Submitting to conferences: part 3 – Writing the abstract

Writing an abstract for a conference can be a fine art. The most important thing to consider, is that this is an abstract, not the paper itself, meaning that it is an idea of what will be communicated laid out as succinctly as possible. It is not an artist statement, it is not a theoretical text or graduate thesis, rather it is a statement that should be simple and direct: I am going to do X, Y and Z, here’s how and here’s why. Keep in mind that the review committee does not need to be impressed by your virtuoso writing abilities and lofty ideas, the panel needs to know WHAT you are going to talk about and why they should be interested. If it’s a well-attended conference, the reviewers will be looking at a lot of proposals and don’t have time to deconstruct your ideas. This is much more similar to writing a grant proposal than an artist statement in that you need to write your abstract with as much clarity as possible and with the assumption that the reviewers are intelligent, but not experts in your field.
• Pay attention to the word count – it is meant to be short and sweet.
• Explain only as much as you need to give the reviewers a good idea of what you will present. Start with an outline to help organize your ideas.
• Write with clarity for an intelligent reader unfamiliar with your field – do not make assumptions.
• Start with a positive and compelling statement. Even if your presentation will be critical, find a way of framing it positively.
• Panel abstracts should open with a general overview paragraph – what is the panel theme? And then use your subsequent space to explain what each participant will bring to the theme (space in bios can also be used to help elaborate on this).
• Your bio, if requested, should be tailored to your proposal – what experience do you have that supports what you will be discussing?
• Likewise your work samples, if relevant, should support your abstract. If you mention a particular artwork, provide a slide and note the number in the abstract.
• Consider that your ideas might shift and change during the time between acceptance and presentation. Typically you will be given another opportunity to present a refined abstract for publication in conference materials. Leave your abstract open enough that it allows for this growth.
• Don’t try to do everything, you won’t have time and your presentation will be much more successful if you expand from a tight proposal, rather than throw out every move you have (keep them hungry for more!).
• If you will be presenting your graduate thesis, write an abstract that is a simplified summation (think book jacket eloquence), not an excerpt.
• Don’t be discouraged if you don’t get accepted the first time. A conference is a lot like a group show: the organizers are trying to put together a group of presenters that will be unique, but complementary.