Pedagogy Teaching and Learning page 3


Evaluating Programs
Evaluating differences between programs and students, I saw my goal as retaining Basel standards and objectives, but tailoring problems and evaluation of work for conditions in American programs. Students here are more responsive to verbal instruction. It seemed to me that Basel instructors made limited use of terminology, and it would be necessary to establish terms and criteria appropriate for American students. Articulating criteria helps students critically analyze their work, relying less on intuition and more on rational evaluation. If critical examination can be verbalized and incorporated into the thinking process, it is more consistently applied and students work at a higher level. If students learn how to evaluate their own work, it becomes possible for them to learn more within the shorter period of time allotted to their major. Most importantly, students have the tools to continue professional growth after leaving school, and especially that pertaining to theoretical or basic design. A glossary of relevant terms for each exercise should be handed out at the time the exercise is presented. Students should be encouraged to use the terms when discussing their work.

While there are advantages to using terminology and stating criteria, there are pitfalls to excessive reliance on them. It can lead to design formulas, rigidity, stagnation, narrowness or mediocrity. If abstract visual qualities could be verbalized, art and design education would be quite different. Understanding of visual properties cannot be verbally communicated to students. Students acquire understanding through experience, with the process being guided by teachers who understand process and criteria.

Success with students depends on telling them enough to progress, but not so much that they only follow directions. If it was apparent that students were too dependent, I would tell them to work on it some more, and then come back. I might circle an area of the work and say, A problem exists within these boundaries, and send them back to their desk to see if they could identify it and make adjustments. Also it worked quite well to ask students to tell me where they thought the weaknesses were before giving them my input. Many times, students could recognize shortcomings in their work, and they merely needed encouragement to proceed on their own. Occasionally, there was merit if I demonstrated changes; while explaining and showing students how it improved the work. The use of terminology, establishing criteria and giving meaningful criticism of student work requires teachers to develop good judgment and considerable communication skill. Teachers have to find their own personal teaching style, which includes learning how to successfully communicate criticism of abstract imagery.

Albers frequently used analogies to comment on visual properties, and he was very good at it. He had an uncanny knack for critiquing visual problems by addressing totally different subjects, yet, his point was clearly communicated to students through relevant metaphors.

The Learning Teacher
I think it is extremely important that teachers also be constantly learning. Problems given to students should be equally as challenging to teachers. The worst possible situation is when teachers repeat the same problems so often that all their responses and evaluations become automatic. Albers noted that when students can anticipate an instructor, the effectiveness of the teacher is lost. To keep students attentive, teachers must avoid routine, and consciously do and say the unexpected.

To achieve my goals, it was essential for me to formulate problems around learning objectives. It was necessary to devise terms and criteria that would lead to the desired level of student performance. I found the approach was practical at all levels of study. However, it was crucial to the introductory courses. Each problem presented to students incorporated objectives, process, terminology, limitations, and criteria; these were the basis for instructional criticism and evaluation of student work.

Learning Objectives
Objectives are defined by the learning goals set for students. However, objectives can be set at more than one level. Some are specific and others are implied. For example, student objectives are specifically stated within the problem. Students should always be told at the beginning of each problem exactly what the educational goals are, and what criteria will be applied to grading their work. The teacher can have general objectives related to formal values, process or craft. Student learning should be the first concern of teachers, and all other objectives are aimed at achieving that end.

Another level of objectives is individual student career objectives. Teachers tend to underestimate the importance of student objectives and it might surprise them to find student objectives as mundane as "to get a degree," "to make a lot of money," "to make good grades," "to get a job downtown," etc. Rarely are students goals related to excellence or learning. Students'objectives are frequently determined by teachers, and this is why it is so important for educational programs to be aimed at the highest levels of the profession.

Role models are an important part of student commitment. Role models might be historical or contemporary, but either provides direction, standards and career choices. Teachers should know that students without career goals or role models are seldom committed, and therefore are usually less productive and seldom achieve their potential within the profession.

Problem Definition
Process consists of the sequential steps between receiving the problem and its completion. Depending on the problem, it entails analysis or research, exploration, roughs, testing, criticism, refinements, completion and presentation. Criteria are connected to each step of the process. Terminology is descriptive language used to communicate with students. Understanding design semantics is essential to criticism as it is necessary to verbalizing criteria. It is also an introduction for students to professional language.

Limitations are specified in the problem definition. These relate to size, materials, media, tools, color, elements or other restrictions. Adhering to limitations is basic to all design solutions in or out of school.


Problem Definition (continued) >


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