Student Attitudes (continued)
do not collect student work at the completion of a problem.
Students are responsible for their work until the end of the
term when they present it at review. We left the last week of
the term open to give students time to redo and prepare their
work for reviews. Students know that if work can be improved,
it is their responsibility to do so before the end of the term
as poor work counts against them. Students who do not redo work
that should have been redone are graded down or failed. This
shifts considerable responsibility onto students, and their
reaction is an accurate reflection of commitment, initiative
and desire to do well.
In criticizing student work on a one-to-one basis, first ask
the student what seems to be a problem or what they think can
be improved. Asking before telling is to the students
benefit. In a critique, the asking can first be directed to
the person who did the work, and then to the entire class. The
teacher can then summarize and add comments on whatever was
overlooked. A similar approach is to point, or circle, with
the finger a problem area and ask the student to see if they
can identify and resolve the problem. Usually their first response
is that they do not know. When prodded or it is suggested that
they respond intuitively, it is amazing how often they correctly
find the problem. This procedure helps students to build confidence
in their own judgment.
have to beware of students who become overly dependent on
them and not allow this to happen. There are students who
want the teacher to define every aspect of the problem so
all they have to do is follow directions. Teachers must always
leave room for students to make mistakes. Students learn more
from correcting mistakes and making refinements than from
any other aspect of problem resolution.
who do not fail students who deserve to fail lose the respect
of other students. When teachers do not have the respect of
students, they have lost much of their effectiveness as a
teacher. In my thirty-five years of teaching, the students
who were dropped because of inadequate talent could probably
be counted on the fingers of one hand. There are so many different
career options in Graphic Design based on skills as well as
creativity, that there is always a place for a hardworking
student. Causes for student failure are invariably some combination
of being uncommitted, undisciplined or poor attitudes.
should be direct and honest as possible with students about
their work and abilities. As mentioned previously, the most
important aspect of honesty with students is to make clear
that criticism of work is not criticism of the individual.
Most of the time, teachers can be blunt in their remarks as
long as they keep it professional and not personal. Albers
often said that teachers must be good actors, and that there
would be times when a teacher might be angry but should be
supportive instead. Or, there would be occasions when a teacher
might affect anger even though not angry. I do think teachers
achieve more by controlling their emotions. Showing true anger
often negates a learning situation when it is most needed.
with students carries over into grading. Evaluation of student
work in many programs is greatly inflated. Undeserved high
grades deny students any sense of achievement. Most students
are not fools,and they know when they receive an undeserved
grade. Students tend to be contemptuous of teachers and courses
where every student receives high grades.
basis for grading is standards, and they determine the quality
of instruction. Poor teachers usually set low or no standards.
Standards are based on achievement that faculty believe students
should accomplish at any given level. Often standards are
based on professional practice and what can be anticipated
as required for professional success. Again, if faculty relate
to the less significant levels of professional practice, the
standards will reflect that level of achievement. In education,
standards should be set at the highest levels of professional
are a factor in other aspects of Graphic Design education.
There should be defined standards for admission of students
into the program. Standards also apply to the hiring of new
instructors and appointment of leadership.
experience has been that grades at the introductory level
are uniformly low, mostly in the C range with a sprinkling
of Bs and perhaps one or two As. Grades generally
rise as students progress through the program. University
grading systems that do not permit half-grades create agonizing
situations for both teachers and students. There can be a
world of difference between a C- and C+. When C-, C and C+
are all recorded as C, it is difficult for students to accept
or teachers to explain.
Arizona State University we were not permitted to use half-grades,
so on our grade sheets at review we do record the pluses and
minuses in order that students understand our evaluation of
the work. Half-grades were approved more than eight years
ago by all the required parties. They have never been implemented
because the university computer/software is so out of date
that inputting half-grades would cause the system to crash.
It is inexcusable, even shameful, that the university has
delayed this long without even setting a target date for a
have to know that education is the first priority and conduct
themselves accordingly. Especially in state universities,
far too many students are working excessive hours at outside
jobs and there is serious conflict between job and school.
Many of these students are spreading a four year program out
over five to seven years, and this is very much to their disadvantage.
On our application form, we asked students if they planned
to work at an outside job, and if so, how many hours. Students
who were accepted into the program but indicated outside commitments
in excess of twenty hours, were told they would have to make
a decision, school or job. Many students cannot handle
even twenty hours of outside work, it depends on the
individual. We never accepted an outside job as an excuse
for incomplete, poor work, missing class, required lectures
or field trips. By making our position clear on outside jobs,
students knew they could not use it as an excuse. I think
it is important for Graphic Design programs to have explicit
policies regarding outside commitments and to rigorously enforce
found value in periodically sitting down with a class and
discussing all these matters with students as candidly as
possible. This helped them to better understand where teachers
were coming from in terms of how classes were taught, reviews
conducted and what was being required of students. My experience
gave me a perspective that students did not have, and many
students were interested in what and how changes had occurred.
Student input was often helpful for me in better understanding