Evaluation is potentially the most useful skill that art, design and media students can develop.

Being able to understand strengths and areas for development helps creative students to improve within a creative process and increases the quality of their own work. Students become more efficient because they make more informed choices about their work and their approach as they reflect. Developing this skill is potentially the single most important way to increase independence as creative practitioners.

Evaluation in Art and Design Education


Why focus on evaluation?

Its fun to focus on experimentation and the immediacy of making things with new materials, media and equipment. Which is great, but sometimes the creative process becomes unbalanced where all efforts are focused on the making and not enough on asking if the making is any good.

Also, its hard to tell what amount of grades or marks comes from reflection. For example, a photography student may take exceptional pictures and improve them incrementally, but there may be little writing recorded to suggest the amount of effort that went into reflecting on progress. However, if the work is evolving and improving, then learners must be implicitly evaluating the progress and making strategic decisions that result in improved work.

The most important thing to do is to develop a work ethic that involves evaluation at critical stages of creative development. That way, evaluation becomes an integral part of the creative process. There are many ways to develop evaluative skills.

Key evaluation questions

Essentially, the questions students need to ask themselves to push work forward are the same each time. The questions should focus on how ideas, media, materials, techniques and processes are contributing to the work. The questions should relate to what the intentions of the work are and its audience.

  • Ideas – are they well informed? Does more research need to take place?
  • Media/materials – are these the best media/materials to use? Do others need to be tested?
  • Techniques and processes – are they being used in the best way? Do other approaches need to be tried?

Practicing evaluation

Evaluation takes a lot of practice. Experience and knowledge will help continually improve the quality and accuracy of judgments. It also helps to be able to take constructive criticism and realise there is always room for improvement. At the start of a new course, evaluation may be superficial as students aren’t always familiar or comfortable with constructive criticism. However, through practice, the process speeds up considerably and the learning curve makes a substantial increase as a result.

What can evaluation do?

Evaluation and self-reflection can have a huge impact on learners’ progress and impact them in different ways, for example:

  • Progress towards progression aims – professional skills, industry knowledge, application of professional practice
  • Progress of work – initial intentions, quality of work
  • Learning progress – performance on a programme, results, appraoch
  • Use of personal time – contribution to quality of work
  • Contribution to class – questions, feedback, engagement
  • Personal fulfillment – creating work that is personally meaningful
  • Contribution to society – raising awareness, accessibility, sustainability

Ideas for developing evaluation skills

The best way to develop evaluation skills is to practice, be honest and critical in a balanced way (seeing the good and the underdeveloped), and always see opportunities for improvement of work. Here are some ideas to help practice evaluation and self-reflection:

  • Set time aside in lessons and projects for evaluation
  • Try lots of different methods and rotate between these, i.e. self-evaluation, peer evaluation, lecturer evaluation, written evaluation, verbal evaluation, peer-group evaluation etc.
  • Allow time for taking notes about what others say.
  • Create a structure for evaluative questions that students can memorise.
  • Include written evaluations at the end of each project.
  • Set evaluations at critical times in projects, i.e. of prototypes or drafts.


Evaluation in Art and Design Education

Daniel Freaker Daniel Freaker Educational Consultant, Painter, Writer, Designer danfreaker@processfreaks.com