Pedagogy Students and Teachers page 4


Student Reviews
I was introduced to reviews at Yale as a graduate student. At the end of each semester, students signed up for a time-slot and presented their work from the semester to the entire faculty. Reviews were held in the office, and when the student entered with their portfolio, a photographic timer was set for fifteen minutes. When the timer went off, the review was over. The review itself consisted of critical examination of the work by all faculty, some general counseling and discussion of the work and progress. I appreciated this approach as compared to the practice of handing in work, the teacher putting a grade on it and then returning it to me. If there was any discussion, it was done through my initiative by going to the teacher for comment, but that was always after the fact.

When I set up the Graphic Design program at the Minneapolis School of Art in 1957, student reviews were incorporated into the program with some changes. Rather than bringing a portfolio, we gave the students space to hang or stack the work. A major change was to give the student their grade at the conclusion of the review. If there was any dispute or questions regarding the grade, it was best to deal with it while the work was there and all the faculty members present. The grade had to be justified by the work. If the student was dissatisfied with the evaluation, the work was reviewed again and shortcomings were pointed out to the student. This process permitted students to leave knowing the grade and not having to wait a week or two for it to come through the mail.

The Sophomore Spring review was somewhat different from that for Juniors and Seniors. The Spring review was when faculty made a decision to accept students into the upper level program. It was entirely possible that a Sophomore might have a passing grade but be denied acceptance into the program. The Sophomore year could be compared to a one-year admissions test. I believe the Sophomore Review and a policy of acceptance into upper level classes are essential to a quality program in Graphic Design.

For Juniors and Seniors, we gave them the last week of the term to redo and clean up their work for reviews. We posted sign-up sheets allowing for about fifteen to twenty minutes per student. We also allowed for a thirty-minute break in the middle of the morning and afternoon. The reviews were spread out over three to five days depending on the number of students.

The procedure that worked best for us was to have at least two rooms where three to five students could hang and lay out their work in assigned space. When faculty had worked their way through one room, they moved to the other. Students in the first room took work down while a new group put work up. This way the faculty evaluations could flow continuously.

Students were excluded from the room while the faculty examined the work as a whole, discussed the students and arrived at a general consensus about how each student should be counseled. Students were called in one at a time and the work was reviewed. The discussions were general and might include problems with attendance, productivity, outside jobs, attitudes or behavior, and faculty comments about the student work were usually blunt. In some instances, the student was asked to leave the room while faculty had further discussion. The student was called back into the room, final comments and a grade were given. We always asked the student if the grade was fair, and if the student did not agree, there was another examination of the work with the student present and the grade finalized.

Discussing student behavior or attitudes today is not always well received by students. Many think this is being too personal and has nothing to do with their schoolwork. I consider student attitudes and behavior to definitely be part of the educational process. But in dealing with these matters, I have encountered student resentment as well as hate letters about me or the program sent to university officials, charges of harassment, abuse or favoritism. However, these actions represent a minority of students. Other students have returned several years after graduation and thanked us for dealing with these problems while they were students. It is amazing what two or three years working in the field can do to student perspective!

My action in dealing with these concerns grew out of a remark by James Cross. At Arizona State University, Jim was asked to give a lecture, and at the end of his talk, he took questions from students. One of the questions was, “Now that it is some twenty-five years after your education, as you look back, what didn’t you get that would have helped your career?” I am sure everybody was thinking his answer would be something like drawing, color, typography or some similar response. His reply was, “social skills.” This remark fit in with my own observations in recent years.

I had noticed that when students graduated, it was not always the most talented students who were the first to get a job. It was those students who presented themselves well, could articulate about their work or goals and generally made a good impression. There were extremely talented students who experienced serious difficulties landing the first job because they were so deficient in social skills. Some of the more common faults we found with students were:

• Students who were extremely shy. We often counseled these students to take courses in public speaking or drama to overcome the handicap. We also encouraged them to speak out more in class or reviews.

• Students who were consistently late for class or missed appointments would probably do the same on the job. We brought this fact to the student’s attention in strong terms.

• Students who were argumentative or temperamental were likely to act the same on the job and it would be harmful to their career.

• Students who could not handle criticism of their work could be predicted to have a difficult time working with supervisors or clients.

• Students who were exceedingly slow needed to know that time is a critical factor in professional practice.

• Students who were sloppy with their work should be made aware that it would count against them in the profession.

• There were male students who had difficulty taking direction from female instructors or they had problems with female classmates that often resulted in inappropriate remarks or actions.


Student Reviews continued >

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