What types of awards can promote creativity and contribution to the class as a whole?

Using awards to recognise students is a valuable way of celebrating what they do. Awards can promote hard work, but they can also do much more. Consider the ideal type of student and the attitudes they would have:

  • Persevering
  • Responsible
  • Curious
  • Aware of others
  • Reflective

Sometimes students aren’t going to do amazing work in comparison to others, but that doesn’t mean that may not have developed a lot as individuals, contributed to the rest of the class or even made teaching that little bit easier. At the end of each year, when the dust has settled on the newly painted exhibition spaces, and portfolio racks have started to empty, the pain of the year starts to wain and the only thoughts left are how to make next year more successful. When clearing out the studio in preparation for September, pieces of work, images and learning resources bring back memories. Consider the investment and energy that went into making exciting opportunities and then compare this with the kinds of memories of the previous year. How many of the most emotional memories are related to kinds of behaviour that could be fostered in the studio. If there were awards for those kinds of behaviours each term, would it draw attention to them and also give the lecturer an opportunity to demonstrate their appreciation.

Some valuable awards to consider

The following are some ideas that have come from discussions with course leaders on all levels and different subject specialisms, from Fashion to Media, Graphics to 3D:

The Traveller Award

– for making the most progress.

The Decibel Award

– for asking the most questions.

The Glue Award

– for bringing the class together through making sure that others are included and group tasks function.

The Big Bucks Award

– for the most enterprising student that has produced work with clear potential to be marketed.

The Forget-Me-Not Award

– for the student at the back of the class that was quiet, but got on with the work regardless.

The Resourceful Award

– for making the most of available materials and resources.

The Red Cross Award

– for making sure that colleagues had support through further demonstrations and constructive feedback.

The Methodical Award

– for the student that consistently follows a clear process to make sure they are in a position to be creative.

The Testing Award

– for the student that might have been difficult to teach, but that has made the lecturer evaluate the way that they work and improve their own practice.

The Labour Award

– for going over and above expectations of production.

The Ambitious Award

– for having massive expectations and undertaking work that was incredibly ambitious.

The Mad Scientist Award

– for taking the most risks with materials and processes.

The Why Didn’t I Think of That Award

– for work that is simple yet incredibly effective.

Just pause for a second and consider some of the awards above. Do any of the situations and characteristics of students described strike you as familiar? Most years there will be students that show these different kinds of behaviours, because there isn’t one way of working, but a studio needs all of these kinds of characters to really flourish.


Most valuable award? The Mad Scientist Award

Thinking back over the years of teaching, what stands out the most were those really maverick students. They may not have been the best in the class with the highest grades, they may not have been the most punctual or attended the most lessons, but what they did do really well was take risks. It is in those risks that some of the most innovative forms of expression can be found. This is why The Mad Scientist Award is so valuable, it recognises the ambition to innovate.


When to give awards in creative education

Like reflection, if awards come too late, they wont have a significant impact. When awards are given is important. This could be each project, every term or half term. Leaving it to the end of the year will reduce the impact it will have in terms of investing and response to the process. It may be nice for a student to be awarded “Student of the Year”, but that won’t change their grades because they have already submitted their work. Some suggestions for when to present awards:

  • At key points in projects such as pitches or presentations
  • In between projects
  • After the induction period
  • After major exhibitions
  • At the start of the second year
Daniel Freaker Daniel Freaker Educational Consultant, Painter, Writer, Designer danfreaker@processfreaks.com