Artist-Centered Evaluation

An Approach to the

Objective Grading of Creative Work


The Idea in Theory


At its simplest, the technique of Artist-Centered Evaluation can be divided into two complementary ideas. First, instead of grading the "quality" of the product (as compared to some ideal model of perfection) I grade the improvement of the product from one "draft" to the next. (This works conveniently into one of my favorite topics--rewriting.) Second, instead of evaluating this improvement as a whole (and necessarily entirely subjectively) I grade it based on specific areas of improvement chosen by the student. In other words, the student, with my guidance but not my steering, chooses specific areas in which she would like to improve--sets specific goals for herself--and then she is graded on how fully she achieves these goals. I am not so naïve as not to realize that this still involves some degree of subjectivity. Nothing in art will ever be reduced entirely to "yes or no" questions. But by providing me with specific questions to ask that are personal to each artist's intentions, it allows me to be much more objective than I have ever been before, and incidentally much more objective than any teacher I can remember working with when I was a student. (And I have done coursework to the graduate level in music, theatre, and visual art, and to the advanced undergraduate level in dance.) Most important, Artist-Centered Evaluation respects the fact that the student, at whatever level, is an artist with creative integrity.


Starting from this basic idea, I created slightly different protocols for each of three projects in three different classes, designed to put the idea of Artist-Centered Evaluation into practice. The easiest way to illustrate the idea is to describe its use, so what follows is a description of each of these projects and the protocol I used to grade them.