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Evaluating / Grading

How do you know whether your video is any good? Many people do no more than react immediately and emotionally to a stage play or video. However, if you’re going to give the question any thought beyond your immediate emotions, you need to structure those thoughts. Such a structure is readily available and its vocabulary and mental models are easy to learn.

The purpose of evaluating is to improve the
process, not the piece of work.

In this course, we will do a lot of evaluating. The evaluating process produces a complex response to the work that you can take in, sort through, and apply to the next work. The purpose of evaluating is to improve the process, not the piece of work. The work itself could get worse before it gets better, but that’s not our concern in GEN 230.

Grading is very different from evaluating. Instead of a complex, multi-dimensional response, the grader has only discrete numbers on a one-dimensional scale. The grade tells you nothing that you can use to improve. It also sets up false comparisons between the things (tests, essays, courses, people) that got graded.

The evaluation process will give you a sense of how good it is, and it’s very important. Instead, your grade will depend more on your professionalism, doing things on time and in order. And under budget, but since our budget is $0, that shouldn’t be a problem.

Each of the pages on the left-hand menu gives a list of point totals that I will assign to your videos, though the score on your first video will not count toward your final course grade.

By emphasizing the process over the product, I have found that you will produce more and better work than you would if I were bringing the hammer of a grade down on each piece of work.good-enough

When students struggle in this course, the struggle can be necessary and worthwhile. However, some struggles, while outside the scope of this course, can determine your ability to engage in the process. One is poor management of computer files: too many, too big, incompatible with software or other files. The other is poor time management: you simply don’t have the time for this course.

Even when you’re engaged and practice good file management and time management, I’ve found one thing that keeps students from doing better.

  • impatience with detail, settling for “good enough”

What does it take to overcome this inhibitor, this very powerful restraining force?


I try to engage each of you in an ongoing discussion of your learning. If you aren’t getting enough feedback from me, ask for more. As you’ll see, I’m big on formative feedback and Socratic questioning.

This course takes you through a process. The process takes time, and we don’t have enough in one semester as it is. Thus, it is more important that you do the assignment than that you do it well, or as well as you could have if you had more time. To get full credit for these assignments and presentations, you must do them when they are due and your process must have integrity and cohesion.

As you can see by comparing these tasks to the objectives above, the first objective is the most important: creation.

Note that this course asks for two skills that are not directly taught or evaluated but can make all the difference: file management and time management. You will generate more computer files and more large files for this project than you probably ever have for one project before. You also have a process to follow that must be done in order and that must have time to be done well. If you put it off and get behind, catching up will be very difficult.

GEN 230 centers around your projects, your performances, your decisions, your problem solving (aka creativity), not around my ability to lecture. You hardly ever have a course where such a small percentage of your attention is supposed to be directed toward the teacher. The burden is on you to learn by making mistakes, not on me to instruct. The content is visual, not verbal. The process is the same, but the videos are always different. We laugh often. What’s not to like about all that?

Assess Yourself

Your ongoing evaluation of your progress as a communicator is the most useful tool for your improvement.

Did I emphasize that enough? Let me try again. Careful and effective people are, at times, very self-conscious. I highly recommend that starting now you write about your work in some form of journal or file. After you have done everything else for the course, answer three questions:

  • what did you learn?
  • how did you learn it?
  • what could you have done better?

Go through all the hats you wore: actor, writer, director, producer, editor. Reflect on the experiences of the past three months:

  • choices you made; lessons you learned
  • difficulties you encountered, how you solved the problems, and the conclusions you reached as a result
  • successes you achieved, the parts of your video you’re proudest of, and the new insights you gained
  • things to do differently next time and why
  • interesting ways the course relates to previous work, especially unexpected or conflicting results
  • strong emotions you experienced and why

This reflection should be more than simple lists of activities, reactions without explaining the reason for them, or complaints about external conditions that kept you from doing your best.