Grading in studio courses (from the Fine Arts Student Handbook)
Much of your work in this program will be studio oriented. Often students wonder about the criteria for evaluation of artwork. This is especially true if you have been brought up to believe that, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”. While artmaking may be profoundly subjective, there is objectivity in its assessment.
Although your teacher may be an excellent resource for practical skills, you will find that in this program there is an emphasis on processes over methods. In your initial coursework, assessment is actually quite simple. Based on convention and historical tradition, there are a number of drawing methods, design principles and historical facts that should be explored by an art student. These form the foundation curriculum. The teacher assigns projects where you can demonstrate your acquisition of these notions. You are graded on your level of accomplishment vis-a-vis the stated objectives of the project.
At more advanced levels the basic method of teaching is through demonstrations and critiques. Practical criticism is applicable to a discussion of any kind of creative production. Quite simply it is talking about an artwork and deciding whether it is good or bad. As your abilities evolve, the critique becomes the dominant assessment tool.
Most art teachers conduct critique sessions where they establish specific criteria to describe, analyze, interpret and judge artwork. Your teacher uses experience and training to establish a means of understanding the relationship between the quality of the work and the message of its content. Does your work do what it is supposed to do?
Through generalization, the teacher can also make an evaluation of a specific work beneficial to everyone in the group. In critiques you learn how to express yourself clearly when discussing your own work or the work of others.
In the studio, evaluation is an on going process integrated with instruction. Effective assessment measures personal progress and achievement rather than comparing your performance with the performance of others. For this reason your personal learning goals are especially important in this program and this is why your teacher insists that you are vocal about your work.
Remember that the most aesthetically pleasing work is not necessarily the work that best reflects your achievement. It is important to be patient. Through practice and experience your technical and intellectual skills increase and there will be a natural progression towards finer craftsmanship.