I have taught a few classes and been the GTA for a number of others. It was interesting to reflect on the different types of implementation that assessment received with every different professor and classroom.
In architecture the studio is a quirky little fellow who bucks most of the norms in lecture-based instruction.
Because it is not lecture-based. It has lectures associated with it, but the vast amount of time is spent in the process of making, as a design laboratory. Now, the name of a design laboratory is a bit of a misnomer in that it is not like a lab where you have special coats and goggles (but you need closed toed shoes and eye protection in the shops). It finds itself somewhere in everywhere, taking from the expertise of the professor as applied to the individual rather than to a powerpoint.
Can you remember something? Did you understand what was done? Now where can you apply it? What did you do that could be analyzed and distilled for future success? What new ideas did you create? Where my iterations evaluated well in discussion and what can I learn for next time?
These are only parts of the design process that is practiced rather than mused over in other disciplines. However it is often hard to implement this method in other places? But why? Is it the space? It is the personnel? It is a history of doing? Why? Honestly there are an endless number of questions that could ground why studio works in architecture and design fields.
This dovetails very nicely into some of the other concerns that have been placed on assessment and other aspects for meaning in education and meaning in terms of a degree conferred at the end of a period of time.
I have heard the story about the introduction story in engineering from a number of places both here at VT and in other locations. I can only hope that those particular professors are are the odd ones out. Yes, engineering is a very wealthy field and the money it receives can attract many people to the discipline. I have heard of opposite story in the arts that say if you are here to make money leave since there is none here.
This is what makes autonomy, mastery, and purpose so critical to an individual’s success. Autonomy gives the individual the ability to choose a purpose and a line of inquiry, over time this leads to mastery of a topic or technique. With mastery we find certain kinds of synthesis and evaluation that is not present in simple understanding. This analysis then leads to the final part which is that thought with experience can lead to knowledge. The key as shown here is the next leap of faith that autonomy provides. The leap is experience and without authentic ones it can lead to partial or no mastery of a discipline.
So, professionally, it is interesting to see the ICI method shown in a blog post with this class. Imagination, creativity, and innovation is one way to look at the creative process, but it is also shown that we design and think with a larger continuum of thoughts and considerations. What we are thinking is based on/in our past experiences (this is a specific mindset of normative theory).
From this, we have the iterative process of making. Creativity is not as ambiguous as designers or those who employ it would lead you to believe. We have the a personal foundation of creativity in what we are interested in, hopefully intrinsically such as a hobby, or subtopics of our graduate work. Creativity can be taught and is not only innate, given by personal talent. However as you rightly explain you must show, not simply tell the story of creativity.
At any rate I feel that creativity as word, as well as critical thinking, is overused. Thought is thought, thought with experience will derive knowledge. If our experiences are not interesting, then the basis for our knowledge and abilities are undercut. From this innovation or design is more difficult. This is not because we cannot do it, but rather we have not been shown our own potential.
I could talk all day about this as it is my dissertation field of study, that could or should the design process be distilled to.for others who do not have access to true studio environments? Then very quickly it becomes an epistemological discussion about the acquisition of knowledge that is too long for a comment box.
Then from thinking we go to more of the nitty-gritty that defines the implementation of grades and thoughts on motivation.
This is the ideal situation, that a student is intrinsically motivated to learn in a safe and non-graded environment. It is interesting to see the rigid nature that scores have in China. Does this reduce the student to a number? While it can allow for a cross-comparision of students for admission, what does it say about the individual? What about that writing class stuck with you the most? The absence of pressure- the avoidance of failure. This is a psychological issue, success-seeking or failure avoidance. Often poorer performance is seen in failure avoidance. So the final question is: is social inertia or a stigma against the absence of grades acceptable excuse for why we still have them?
The question of alternatives is, I feel, a deeper question into how society demands metrics for assessment. That a linear, non-subjective, measurable scale will give the best possible comparable results. After-all, numbers don’t lie, just ask my buddy statistics. He tells as much truth as he is given.
I agree that grading needs its own disciplinary context. In architecture you never know your grade in studio until the end of the semester when it is over. You either freeze in fear of the grade or work to your best. Grades are here to stay, unless there is a societal paradigm shift away from them, but how can we make it better?
That is the real question you are asking.
This following was the best way I have seen to have a grade given. I have only seen the option of self-grading in conjunction with a professor once. We were asked to write a logical argument to support the grade we gave ourselves in studio. Now the professor still had complete control over the final grade. This was the opportunity to explain what your work was and if the professor had forgotten anything. This indirect manner is probably better than a face-to-face where brown-nosing could occur. Also we hope that the professors would see this and ultimately account for this. It is also sad that this is assumed of/from the student, but one bad apple rots the bunch.
Grades, don’t like them, but can’t live without them? Is it: “If you don’t dance then you are no friend of mine?”
I feel it is interesting to see the proposal for a balanced approach to internal and external motivators. The unfortunate problem is that the average person has a minimal amount of internal motivation in terms of education.
The other side of this is what kind of positive external motivators are students getting especially from home? A person can have all kinds of internal drive but without external support they may burn out and not ultimately be successful.
So what about positive reinforcement externally from parents and other mentors rather than the simple negative reinforcement of poor grades? Perhaps the solution lies in more than one place, that we should not only be looking at the student as an individuals but rather the network the student has at their disposal for support.