Assessment laid bare

I often think that being a fly on the wall at assessment events would help students get their heads around how best to present their work for assessment.  We are into our third week of assessment at OCA HQ, and this week we have the painting assessors here.  We always grab them to talk about examples of student work, and of course they like to pick work that excites and engages them. 

So, I thought a change of focus might be helpful.  We always have one or two tutors observing the assessment process so that all tutors are kept in the loop about standards and key issues at assessment. I asked them what they had learned at today’s event. One of them commented: ‘I now see how often students let themselves down by not realizing how important a learning log is or reflecting properly on their work’.  Her other top observation was on judgement. ‘ I can see how difficult it is for the assessors when a student submits everything they’ve done and have shown no judgement. ‘ She went on: ‘ The assessors stand there scratching their heads wondering why a student has submitted a drawing that lets all the others down?  Students need to understand the importance of being selective, I’ve seen students lose marks today because they lack the conviction to plump for their best work.’ she said.

Another visiting tutor said its clear that the preparatory work for the final pieces is just as valid and important as the final work. ‘I noticed that assessors often home in on the preparatory work just as much as the final work, so they can get under the skin of the student’s working methods.’ The tutor went on, ‘One of the most striking things I’ve found is the correlation between hard work and results. The students who investigate, practice, try again, re-work, look at master painters, these are the students who do well.’ A final comment from a visiting tutor: I’ll be telling my students to make sure they structure their assessment submission clearly, labelling each assignment outcome. I can see how much easier it is for the assessors when students do organize their submission clearly.’


  1. Emiliano Leonardi Photography 16 November 2011 at 8:58 pm

    definitely should get my pictures assessed soon. Feel scared of not finding everything.

  2. Pingback: tutor report & reflection – Vicki's OCA Blog

  3. Pingback: tutor report & reflection – Vicki's OCA Blog

  4. folio 17 November 2011 at 1:51 pm

    Just what I always wanted, an overview of what assessment is like. I used to try and visualize how the work would be looked at — propped up? flat on a table or on the floor? on an easel? Now we know it’s all of the above. It helps to put it in context like this, to see the whole room full of spread-out work and tutors. Fantastic…

  5. Dorothy506086 17 November 2011 at 6:30 pm

    I thought that it was important to show your progress, and ways of working things out. So how can you do that if you dont show your mistakes and less good work?Puzzled.

    1. Dawn Finneran 18 November 2011 at 7:14 pm

      Hi Dorothy I too thought it was part of the criteria to show progress from where you start to where you got too. This actually helps as long as this information is correct as I can now choose my final painitngs for assessment with ease.

  6. Lucie Bromfield 17 November 2011 at 9:10 pm

    That’s helpful but I was hoping for a video too.

  7. Yiann 18 November 2011 at 11:13 am

    Interesting indeed. Always wanted to see the assessment process the examiners/assessors go through exactly. As Lucie points out, a video would be great but not a “how to” video just a show of how it is all done.

  8. Diana 18 November 2011 at 12:25 pm

    Thank you Jane, very helpful information, I am just puzzling over what to send for my 2nd Textile assessment.

  9. Phil 18 November 2011 at 4:25 pm

    I have just put my finger on something that has been nagging at the back of my mind over the last three or so fine art assessment advice blogs posts.

    And it is this: we are asked to submit “final works” and “preparatory works”, but nowhere (until these blog posts) is it made clear that the “final” work can be something other the work that was done last. In other words, assessors want to see the “best” work from a given project, not the “final” one. It is somewhat unfortunate (to put it mildly) that the assessment requirements are worded in such a way, and that the importance of them being strictly adhered to has also been emphasized in the past

    1. Phil 18 November 2011 at 4:29 pm

      Sorry 2nd para, line 3 should read

      something other THAN the work …

      1. Dawn Finneran 18 November 2011 at 7:18 pm

        Here Here Phil!

  10. Sue 18 November 2011 at 4:27 pm

    My heart leapt when I saw this article, because my paintings are somewhere among those in the photo, being assessed at this very moment!

    Thank you OCA for showing us how the assessment is carried out.

    I spent hours on my learning log, and hope that it meets the assessors’ requirements. I certainly felt more confident in compiling it for this course (Watercolour 1) than I did for previous courses, thanks to the helpful guidelines and examples that the OCA provided in their handbook.

    Like Dorothy, I am puzzled by one assessor’s comment about submitting a poor piece of work that lets the rest down. The OCA is quite specific about which projects to submit for assessment, so often you don’t get a choice. Or perhaps they have revised this requirement in more recent courses, allowing the student to choose which work they submit? (The course I’ve just completed was the 2008-9 version, which I believe is now superseded).


  11. Susanna Lambeck 18 November 2011 at 5:20 pm

    Fantastic to be able to see how assessment is done.
    What stands out for me after reading the article and subsequent discussion is how there is a an ongoing issue of an existing gap between instructions in the course folder, and assessment guidelines. Like, I believe, many students, I have always tended to follow the course folder quite closely. At the last assessment it dawned on me that in the end of the day it is not those instructions that matter- it’s the assessment guidelines! The unfortunate bit being that each student is left to find this out the hard way for themselves, because nothing really alerts you to that fact…it would be good to straighten this up!

    1. Sue Elliott 19 November 2011 at 12:32 am

      This whole issue arose in my tutor’s comments on my Assignment 3 submission. When I said the course book said the final piece should be in colour, I was told not to be pedantic ie I could submit a b&w prep drawing as the final piece as it was the ‘better’ piece of work.
      In any other subject not to adher to the criteria laid down would automatically penalise you. But it would seem in art it doesn’t matter as long as what you submit is what you think is the better piece, irrespective of whether you comply with the criteria. Is this correct?

  12. Pat Hodson 18 November 2011 at 7:05 pm

    I think you have to distinguish between assessment and tutorials here. We tutors are there to advise. how can we advise if we only see one or two pieces of work. For at least the first assignment I want to see all the work. I also think we need to distinguish between experimental work, rough designs and more resolved and complex pieces. In a tutorial I want to see the roughs, the struggle and the thought processes. These of course should be in the working notebooks. A student in their reflective log could begin to ‘select’the pieces they feel would be appropriate for assessment. (If they want to be assessed of course.)

  13. Phil 19 November 2011 at 12:53 pm

    A further point arising from the blog, and similar to Dorothy’s comment above.

    One visiting tutor notes: ‘The assessors stand there scratching their heads wondering why a student has submitted a drawing that lets all the others down?’ whilst another says: ‘I noticed that assessors often home in on the preparatory work just as much as the final work, so they can get under the skin of the student’s working methods.’ These statements strike me as somewhat contradictory; it is quite possible that a key prep work in the evolution of project may, of itself, be of low quality.

    Perhaps OCA should consider formalising the requirement for a “submission statement” from the student, whereby the justification for inclusion and a summary evaluation of each work could be made.

  14. anned 19 November 2011 at 3:30 pm

    Maybe it would be an idea if we asked ourselves why we students make bad decisions about what work to submit for art courses. I truly don’t believe for a minute that we are doing it intentionally. Clearly we all want to submit the very best work we can, the way things work currently seems to make this very difficult for some of us to do for the reasons others have already touched on.

  15. Sarah G 28 November 2011 at 1:27 pm

    I found that very interesting, as someone who is now thinking about submitting in the March round of assessment, I wondered what it looked like when the photography courses were being assessed as to see some of that would help in deciding how to present my work. As its my first course to be assessed, I’m keen to get things right.


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