Thursday, May 31, 2007

Grading Creativity

I had breakfast the other day with a friend who told me that when he was a kid he painted a picture for an art class. The teacher gave him a "C" and said something about perspective. My friend took the painting home, showed it to his parents who liked it, got it framed and has kept it for 30 years. He told me that even today when he looks at that painting he likes it, but can only remember the teacher giving him a bad grade.

He hasn't painted since.

I think a lot about teaching in the arts and how often students get the creativity crushed right out of them. How do you grade a piece of art? Does Monet get an A because it is "impressionistic", does Picasso get a C because his portrait of a woman has three eyes and two noses? Do the artists care?

I tell students on the first day of class that I don't care about grades, I care about them making good films, and more importantly learning something about their own artistic process. I also tell them that if their goal is to get a good grade by doing well on the tests and skating by on the creative, then they should probably find another teacher. I don't want a bunch of good test takers, I want a bunch of creative people.

I am going to write more about this, but for now I am curious about your thoughts about teaching and grading creativity.



mrliteral said...

I don't see anything wrong with grading effort, and intention, and a little bit of proven academic knowledge, thrown in for good measure. Of course, all of this depends on one's ability to detect such semi-intangible qualities, but my belief is this: those who have them recognize them in others, and from my personal experience as one of your students, I'd say that pretty much describes you. And you know that's not ass-kissing, because the semester's over and I've already received my grade.

Beth said...

It is interesting because I had a very similar experience. We were tasked to make a clay vase in third grade. I was very proud of mine, and the teacher held it up and said that this is an example of "what not to do with clay."
My mother loved it, but I never worked with clay again. In fact, I think it's time to work with clay again - teacher be damned!

Anonymous said...

I agree with the ideas being presented here, but I also believe "creativity" should never be assigned or graded. I say this because there is no way to objectify creativity. It is as subjective as taste, rather I assign and later evaluate objective goals or outcomes. I must also say this produces much more confidence in art students and willingness to attempt at thing that they believe (or have been told) that they are "not good at."

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