Evaluation is potentially the most useful skill that art and design students can develop. Being able to understand their strengths and areas for development enables them to continue with the creative cycle and increase the quality of their own work. Developing this skill is potentially the single most important way to increase independence as creative practitioners and deal with the rigours of higher level learning.
Why focus on evaluation?
Students tend to focus on immediate productivity. They want to get on with the production of work and don’t always respond well to spending time in lessons discussing their own or each others’ work. Stressing the importance of evaluation doesn’t always have an effect, even if you remind them that evaluation and reflection might count for a significant percentage of their grades.
The most important thing to do is to instil a work ethic that involves evaluation at critical stages of development for students to appreciate evaluation as an integral part of the creative cycle. There are many ways to develop evaluative skills. Essentially, the questions students need to ask themselves to push work forward are the same each time. The questions should always focus on the quality of the materials, techniques and processes and how these impact on the communication and function of the art or design work.
Possibly one reason that evaluation might not be central to all students’ experience is that it takes time out of the contact hours that are available. By reducing the time it can take and making it fun, it is easier to see the benefits. It is also important to note that the process will always start off slow on any programme as students aren’t always familiar or comfortable with constructive criticism. However, through practice, the process speeds up considerably and the learning curve makes a substantial increase as a result.
Ideas for underpinning evaluative skills:
- Set time aside in lessons and projects that are designated as evaluation times.
- Try lots of different methods and rotate between these, i.e. self-evaluation, peer evaluation, lecturer evaluation, written evaluation, verbal evaluation, peer-group evaluation etc.
- Allow time for taking notes about what others say.
- Create a structure for evaluative questions that students can memorise.
- Include written evaluations at the end of each project.
- Set evaluations at critical times in projects, i.e. of prototypes or drafts.
- Make sure that everyone on the teaching team also encourages evaluation.