Information For Instructors

>> Although the following file gives basic background this topic, the instructor information in the reserved section of the site provides information on tests, teaching the course, and evaluating assignments.


At a Time When Almost Anything Goes -

Evaluating Student Videos

" How can I presume to evaluate student videos in an era when it seems that anything goes -- when today's nonconformist may end up being tomorrow's video superstar."

>>For those of us who teach video production these can be challenging times.

First, just to keep up with ever-accelerating technological changes we have to regularly revise our lecture notes.

But there is another area of change which is more difficult to adjust to, especially for those of us who started out learning the craft of film production at a time when there were right and wrong ways of doing things.

As we look at music videos and the many reality-based TV shows, it seems that there are no longer any rules that govern good and bad production practices. Almost anything goes.

In our classes if we presume to list some "don't's'' for video production at least one student will come back with, "But, I see that done all the time in music videos.'' (The six-figure salaries being pulled down by many working in music video production don't escape the notice of our students either.)

There are at least two ways of confronting this issue. First, is the authoritarian way.


"Good Video Is What I Say It Is!''

>>Some instructors confront this issue by saying, in effect, "I've had a lot of experience in this business; I'm the teacher; I'm doing the grading; good video is what I say it is; end of discussion!''

Granted, there is an elegant simplicity in this viewpoint. However, beyond some production basics, I've never been comfortable imposing my views on students, especially in such a highly subjective area as video (and film, which I taught before that). Maybe that shows a basic insecurity. I would prefer to think it addresses three realities:

  • Video is a constantly changing art form.
  • When it comes to video it's difficult to argue with commercial success.
  • In any art form, and especially in film and television, there's constant disagreement over that is "good'' and "bad.'' (Reading pro and con reviews of recently released films will quickly prove that.)

>> Once students are beyond a basic production course, which includes some elements of composition and how to keep an image in focus and well exposed, I will readily admit my hesitation in being the sole judge of what is and what is not "good.'' This is why in doing video critiques in class I regularly allow students to "go first." Not only do I get a different perspective than my own - which may or may not be valid in my opinion - but it allows me to judge just how perceptive different students are (a talent, incidentally, which is also part of their grades).

Often there is another issue. Students are normally "too close'' to their work to see it objectively. As a result, when suggestions are made, by an "over-40" instructor, students can become defensive and occasionally even hostile. If most people in a class agree on an issue, it makes this much more difficult.

On a few occasions after classmates made some critical comments about a video, the student involved was reduced to tears. The comments were valid in most cases; it was just that the students involved was much too close to their work. For this reason I start out each semester by explaining professional detachment and the necessity of separating yourself from what you do.

Since I have been asked how I handle video evaluations, let me trace the sequence I've worked out. First,  I do not allow students involved to make any comments about their work before showing their video to the group. This includes apologizing for anything, or "setting up'' the video in any way. In other words, the video must totally stand on its own.

Immediately after the video is shown, I allow no verbal comments; only individual written evaluations. Each evaluation takes about eight minutes to complete. (An example of the form used can be found here.

>>I realize that most students will not end up doing the kind of "hands-on'' production work we do in class. If they go into television, some will be in positions where they need to evaluate the work of others. Therefore, I put great emphasis on an ability to objectively evaluate video productions.

Students are graded on the written evaluations they do. Twice each term I give them written critiques on their evaluations. (This is one area of the course where I find very obvious improvement over the course of the semester.)

Vague phrases such as "the audio was bad,'' or "the video wasn't clear'' are not accepted. I require specific comments and suggestions using proper terminology.

Students know that what they say is confidential. Beyond knowing their overall scores, I never allow a student to see comments by other students. (Occasionally, I will get some revealing comments: "Bill had a lot of [unauthorized] help in editing his piece''; I know that Jane did her piece over four times before she got it the way she wanted,'' etc.)

>> After the written evaluations are done, I go around the class and ask for comments on the good and bad points of the video and specific things which could have been done to improve the piece. If it's a small class, everyone responds; if not, I call on specific students.

Since students know that they are being graded on their critiques and they may be called upon for their comments, they tend to stay alert to everything they can catch.

After 5 to 10 minutes of student comments, I may summarize the statements. This is my chance to reiterate what I feel are the most valid comments.

NOTE: An expanded version of this file is available in the reserved instructor's section.

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