Criteria collection

Light posting this week as it’s a busy time: working on a screenplay and marking 2nd, 3rd and 4th year students at college. This latter task is made somewhat trickier because the criteria we have to use are written in a foreign language known as academese, and have to apply to all students, whether they’re filmmakers, graphic designers, photographers or painters. Obviously, finding assessment criteria which apply equally to a film, a postage stamp, a piece of glassware or an installation based on a life-sized reconstruction of a WWII bomb shelter, is pretty tricky. A certain vagueness seems unavoidable (and WHY can’t we simply use language appropriate to each discipline?) — but even so, I think you’ll find the following as fatuous as I do:

A: The student has theorized, generalised and hypothesised in the context of their discipline and its relationship with other disciplines in ways appropriate to the problem, situation or theme of inquiry. Connections have been made both within and beyond the brief. Learning can be applied to unfamiliar situations or problems and may extend current theory. It is questioning, speculative and reflective.

B: The student has analysed, evaluated and /or applied a range of concepts and theories to familiar, and a few unfamiliar situations, problems or themes of enquiry. Resolutions and conclusions are mainly complex, and result from understanding in depth. Learning demonstrates a fully integrated and /or contextualised knowledge structure.

C: The student has demonstrated an ability to visualise, describe and /or combine established concepts and theories. Learning makes several varying relationships and connections. A few resolutions and conclusions may be complex and original, and result from understanding in depth. However, learning does not demonstrate a fully integrated and /or contextualised knowledge structure.

D: The student has demonstrated that the intended learning outcomes have been acquired at a threshold level. However, only a few simple relationships and connections have been made. A deeper theoretical understanding or contextual awareness does not support learning.

There’s more, but I’m too tender-hearted to inflict it on you. If the above appears to have any meaning at all, it is merely that A is better than B, which is in turn better than C and D. Which I’ve just explained in ONE sentence, and which probably doesn’t need to be explained at all…

I don’t suggest that this system prevents us from accurately marking the students’ work — I’d say the assessment is just as fair as it’s always been, avoiding as much as possible the obvious dangers of subjectivity involved in critiquing creative work. What I do say is that the above garbage, if adhered to, makes it much harder to give meaningful, helpful feedback, and if a student wanted to know what there A or B or C or D actually means, the above are of no real use at all.

28 Responses to “Criteria collection”

  1. What does that even MEAN? I don’t understand a word of it. I start reading, and my brain shuts down and I go into a sort of coma. Maybe it’s because I skipped university.

  2. I read an interview where Tag Gallagher, who writes on Ford and Rossellini, said that he often irritated his students by insisting that they “be entertaining”. I always thought that was the best criteria of all.

  3. That IS a pretty good criterion. Or at least “provide some form of pleasure.”

    I would say most of the above is borderline meaningless, but the last line of “D” isn’t even a sentence.

  4. David Boxwell Says:

    Bean-counting bureaucrats with management degrees invaded and took over higher education in the US and UK in the 1980s. It’s a major reason why I got out.

  5. Hey, you across the pond can make up gibberish better than Americans! Classy gibberish. And it almost means something, too. Doesn’t your heart swell with pride at the thought? I can sort of tease out the degrees of what they’re requiring for each, from almost everything in A, to practically nothing in D.

    To think, I used to grade mechanical drafting projects of underclassmen when I was a senior in high school. My system – be fair, but knock half a letter grade off any loudmouth prick in class on general principles.

  6. Randy Cook Says:

    I read it twice and couldn’t find a THING about teenage she-cats. What’s the deal?

  7. I friended Mamie Van Doren on Facebook but I haven’t worked up the courage to address her directly yet.

  8. A Peacock Says:

    Spare a tear for us students who have to self assess accross three similarily incomprehensible catagories in three different areas.. do I choose A**,A*, A, B, C, D, E, F for my grade in something irrelevant. Why oh why can’t it just be about the quality of the films and the particular aspect you worked on?

  9. It basically IS, but for some reason we have to talk about it in language which is supposed to apply to every single department, but actually is a poor fit for everything…

    The only way to make sense of it is to assume we ARE talking about the films, and then do so… Maybe we should ignore this language more than we do, but that doesn’t seem to be allowed. The best feedback will still be the face-to-face kind, where we don’t have to use this absurd jargon.

  10. Christopher Says:

    well I’m in motion picture HELL here…

  11. AND Lena Horne has died at 92.

  12. David Boxwell Says:

    Learning outcomes! Optimal instructional methods! Effective assessment tools! Enhancing instructional feedback! Don’t know why, there’s no sun in the sky . . .keeps rainin’ all the time.

  13. Faced with this guff, even “learning outcomes” start to look like benign and even useful terminology.

    Went looking for Lena Horne in the bath in Cabin in the Sky but MGM must have purged it from the web.

  14. Here’s Mamie, right at the top of the premiere of A Star is Born

  15. Self-assessment would seem prone to failure without some safeties built in, due to Dunning-Kruger effect.

  16. They’re supposed to self-assess AS WELL, which most of them feel is pointless. Some of the less able ones mark themselves high, it’s true, but generally when somebody gives themselves all As or all Ds it mainly means they think self-assessment is stupid.

    It’s not necessarily a terrible idea, but if they students are going to do it you REALLY need understandable lingo.

  17. Ah, The Protest Vote. I’m familiar with it, having used it once or twice myself in school (in the 9th grade I did a dry-comedy oral essay on Fidel Castro, lauding him and his regime, all because I couldn’t write about a historical figure I wanted to write about – petty, yes, but very bracing). If self-assessment is an “as well”, then the safety’s built in by weakening its power. The jargon is pretty ridiculous (isn’t it true that any longtime institution eventually comes up with something akin to bureaucratese?), but I can still tease out the intent behind that insufferable language. Art departments as I remember had a lot of this sort of language in an attempt to reduce subjectivity to a minimum. Math departments didn’t need nearly so much of that, you either got it or you didn’t.

  18. The question remains, can the language be translated back into plain English? and if so, why isn’t this done? Seems like they’re actually using language to obscure meaning, which is a crime in my book.

  19. They are obscuring meaning, but I think the opacity of the language is there for a purpose. I’d call it not wanting to be caught out, and making the criteria vague and barely comprehensible gives administrators more room to squirm. Sucks for those who have to use it, though I expect professors and students end up distilling those words down to something understandable. Whether their interpretation is correct is another matter. I can see a few interpretations being possible at the higher levels. For one way I read it, almost no student should get an A, the criteria are very hard to meet (I haven’t seen that many student films, and have never seen a student film that wasn’t derivative of something; one interpretation of that A is to show originality to the point of extending current theory – hell, most art house directors don’t manage that).

  20. Actually, an A** extends current theory, an A* is outstanding within current thinking, and an A is just, umm… really good?

    I spared you the A* and A** definitions because there are limits to even my cruelty.

  21. Oh, well, if there are worse examples, I’ll take your word for it. No need to show them. Really.

  22. “The student has demonstrated that the intended learning outcomes have been acquired at a threshold level. However, only a few simple relationships and connections have been made. A deeper theoretical understanding or contextual awareness does not support learning.”

    I assume this is the kind of discussion that upper class parents have with their children before they send them off to boarding school?

  23. It’s not exactly education related but after Satan’s School For Girls how could I resist this:

  24. Pretty good nunsploitation! Possible Argento influence?

    I don’t think that’s the kind of conversation anyone has, ever!

  25. It seems a few years too early to have been inspired by the fantastical Argento films like Suspiria. Probably it is more likely to have been influenced by The Devils, which brought about that huge wave of naughty nun movies!

    Perhaps the film Suzuki made before this would have been a more apt link to tie in with the poster at the top of the page – the brilliantly titled Terrifying Girl’s High School: Lynch Law Classroom.

    Here’s a representative moment. Unsubtitled but it is good to know that a knee to the crotch seems to cross all cultural boundaries!:

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