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Lesson Plans

Re: grades/critiques

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Clair/Lily Kerns (CWKerns)
Sun, 28 Sep 1997 21:31:03 -0500

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I had just sent the message below off to the QuiltArt mailing list which is
a big discussion on quilt show judging. I decided to take the risk <G> of
sending the same message on to you folks--you don't have to agree with

With good judging, the decisions are informed opinions--but opinions still.
The world of quilts, art, and the rest is so complex that there are
no absolutes for judging--standards and guidelines, yes--absolutes, no.
Yes, it would be helpful to always have detailed commentary--practical,
no--and it would still be a judge's opinion based on his/her knowledge and
experience of the "standards". So why bother to judge quilt shows??

Good question--with many answers, I'm sure. One is that some people have
the necessary skills for making (and desiring?) judgements-others do not.
I have always thought of myself as a "teacher", but working with the
Meyers-Briggs personality inventory lately has led me to understand that I
am "tutor" rather than "teacher"--because I do not like to make
judgements. I see so many interesting possibilities and facets of a thing,
that making absolute judgements seems to be both futile and unnecessary.

Sometimes when critiqueing student work, I've gone through a whole class's
display telling them what I liked about each thing--what made each piece
special for me. I've also judged a few shows (and graded a lot of student
art) and I do not enjoy that process. Something that looks great may be
routine sloppiness for one; the tentative efforts of another piece may be
in fact a creative breakthrough for its maker--I can't see calling the
first great and the second second class--and having people assume that that
is an absolute judgement. (Sorry, I do tend to get carried away...)

Now to the point of all this--the process of critiqueing. First,
does NOT mean "critic-ing". Criticism is not the purpose (although I agree
with the one who indicated that just praise isn't very helpful.). A
critique is better described as "response". This response is always kept
upfront as a personal reaction to the work being critiqued. Thus comments
may be prefaced by statements like these:
"I like (this) because...." (Always begin and end on a positive note!)
"This makes me feel...."
"It reminds me of....."
"When I looked at this, I wondered why? how? what your thinking was?"
"This bothered me a bit and made me wonder what would have happened if...?
"I thought of (this possibility). How would that have fit with what you
were trying to do?"
"I kept coming back to (this) and......."
"I wished...."
"I wondered if you had thought of..."

A critique of this kind is a frank, but always gentle and loving process
that invites the maker's participation (as well as that of others in the
group.) It is less threatening because you (the maker) know it is only an
(which you can agree or disagree with) and your own opinion and reasoning
becomes part of the interaction. It does take time and thoughtful
effort--but it is worth it.

The more I think about being a "tutor" rather than a "teacher"--the better
I like the idea.....

Lily Kerns CWKerns

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