Ah, the art of rubrics! And no, that’s not an oxymoron. The unique creativity and imagination of the art student can indeed be loosed and explored within the structure of the rubric. Mary Connelly, assistant professor in the College of Arts & Media, does this by setting parameters for her students then allowing them to fill in the blanks.
“What I work on is how to say it with less,” Connelly explains as part of the Elixr Merlot project. “I think of it as my teaching statement in a structured way.”
One of Connelly’s course projects is “Making Money,” a study of the Golden Mean in currency design. Students create their own design for U.S. currency using the visual principle of the Golden Rectangle. The design must include 3-D figures, forms or objects created from the student’s imagination. During the class critique, as a springboard for evaluating the projects, she gives her students a rubric that only specifies the four levels of performance across the top, “But the rubric does not mention specific criteria, but rather asks the students to devise their own,” she says. “It combines both self-assessment and peer-review.”
Not everyone agrees with the use of rubrics in art courses. Connelly says some disagreement still exists about using rubrics from some of the visual arts faculty. “Especially on the upper level classes, there is disagreement because of the notion that, in an advanced level painting class, there is no way, no how you can have a rubric to asses the student’s performance,” she explains.
There has not been resistance from the students. “They’re almost surprised or relieved that there is an organized way to put down one’s thoughts.”
In working with her foundation level drawing class, students reported on midterm surveys that they know what is expected of them and that this understanding is helpful in clarifying the purpose of weekly projects.
“I imagine that many art instructors have had the experience of a student who, in asking for feedback during class, blurts out, ‘is this what you wanted?’” Connelly says. “Rubrics plan in important function in providing the framework that helps them identify and set their own goals supported by my guidelines.” See the video online.