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:



Pedagogy Now! Teaching Teachers to Teach

Attached is a PDF of the 2012 SPE presentation by Janie, Suz and Angela. This is intended to be helpful in jumpstarting ideas surrounding the topics. It is, of course, missing our fabulous presenter skills! Please note that movies are inactive and not all the links translated as live in this PDF, however there should be enough info to point you in the right direction for further research.

Creating Visibility for Your Classes

When trying to advance your program, visibility is key. It doesn’t hurt your career either. Finding a balance between forwarding programs that are of benefit on multiple levels, versus personal opportunism can be difficult, however if you have the best intentions your efforts to increase visibility for your classes or your program will most likely have beneficial side-affects for you as well. 

Here’s an example: for my upper level courses, I try to hold the final crit in my school’s gallery space. This benefits everyone – first and foremost the students who get to see how their work will hold up in a professional space and feel a tremendous sense of semester end accomplishment. It brings visibility to my department, which is particularly important if you work at a liberal arts school and have administrators who might find what we do in the art department a bit of a mystery. It also brings visibility to my classes and to myself as an instructor. Inviting key administrators is important too – let them know what you are up to and ask them to stop by. A couple of phone calls to set everything up can go miles towards actively engaging in the school community. If you don’t have a gallery option, search out public spaces on campus and introduce art there.

Art Professor as God

Critique process has changed a lot since the makers of Six Feet Under went to school…. the art professor/art star strutting around dropping pearls of wisdom to his protege’ is amusing, but not terribly useful. There’s a lot to love here, however, and heck, why not do something that might surprise students, like, “everyone get on the floor…. now!”

Six Feet Under art school clip 1

Six Feet Under art school clip 2

What’s wrong with “Like”

I’ll admit it, I’m an anti-like evangelista.

My students all learn that it is a pet peeve of mine to begin a critique with, “I like…” Not only is it unproductive, but it makes the critique personal, and that’s often not helpful. Overuse of like makes for lazy critiques.

Helping students to learn that although we may enter the conversation based on our personal attraction (or repulsion to) an art work, for the conversation to be useful to the maker (and to the rest of us) we need to delve beyond that personal attraction and explore what makes the work successful (or unsuccessful).

My classes may laugh about my seemingly futile attempts to get students to drop this use of like, but I do make a concerted attempt to get the students to find different ways of approaching the subject such as: “I respond to that work because….” It’s the because that is important. If we don’t strive to explain why we respond the way we do, then critique becomes merely an exercise in personal preference.

Ask your students to exercise their minds and go a little deeper when undertaking the critique process.

Critiquing in small groups

A critique strategy I like to use once students have the basic idea of the process down, is to form them into small groups to evaluate each others’ work. I’ll either form them, or allow them to self-form into groups of three, and give them time to round-robin their work. For guidance, I might write questions they should address on the board. I’ll also instruct that each of them will be responsible for presenting one of their peer’s work to the greater class.

This can be a nice technique for helping them to converse more deeply about an individual project, to help them develop their presentation skills and to allow the quiet student to feel more comfortable expressing themselves in a smaller group.

The First Critique

My current critique practice, especially in my intro classes involves teaching students how to critique. I try to make each successive critique a step towards effective critique, which may take an entire semester to develop.

Several years ago I started having students put their first projects up on the wall randomly and instead of critiquing each student in their turn, I ask students to pick out the images they find most effective, no ownership attached. What results is a shorter critique session (so far no one has fallen asleep!), more attention paid to what’s working with successful images, and a greater incentive for students to be involved and pay attention at each stage of the process. I expect the students to be doing the bulk of the talking, my responsibility is to round out the critique, or provide indepth feedback that they might not yet know how to express.

Now that I am teaching a digital photography curriculum in intro, I have the students drop jpg copies of all their photos from the first assignment into a general folder. I project them as a slideshow and students yell stop! when they see an image of interest that they want to talk about. In this way, we emphasize that critical learning is for everyone’s benefit, not just the individual maker of the image. I have found that students are more likely to ask or answer questions about technique this way, especially as the images are so large and immersive when projected.