On Teaching Fashion: Grading & Meaningful Feedback

Grading student work can be a challenging endeavor.  After creating an interesting assignment, I always look forward to seeing what my students will produce.  Each of my assignments have clear parameters of what I’m looking for, as well as a grading rubric.  They also encourage a certain level of independent and creative thought.  This term, I had a wonderful group of students.  They were motivated, hard-working, and very creative.  We were also fortunate enough to have an excellent lineup of field trips.  We attended almost every major fashion related exhibition in New York, including Impressionism, Fashion, & Modernity, Fashion & Technology, Stephen Burrows: When Fashion Danced, Punk: Chaos to Couture, and Front Row.

Front Row at The Museum of Chinese in America.

Front Row at The Museum of Chinese in America.

With all the preparation and activity, sitting down to grade the assignments is often difficult.  It requires focus, concentration, and time.  Particularly if you have a large class, it can be tempting to simply ascribe a grade without leaving feedback to each student.  It has crossed my mind more than once to do this.  Yet this nagging feeling would not allow me to do this.  Even if what stands between me and two weeks off is colossal stack of exams and papers that fills my handbag, I have the need to write meaningful feedback.



As an instructor, supplying meaningful feed back is so critical to helping students succeed.  It allows them to understand what they are doing well, as well as where they should focus their energy to improve their work.  This is not always easy.  This is why having a clear rubric is so important; it allows a systematic method for leaving commentary.   For each of the criteria, it is important to address the following in your comments:

  • what was done well
  • what needs improvement
  • meaningful information about the quality of execution 
  • correction of errors
  • encouragement to expand on their strengths

When students feel that you support them, they produce better work.  This means taking the time – however long – to evaluate their work and to really understand  them as individuals.  Each student has different strengths.  They also have had different training.  Leaving personal annotations on their work addressing the criteria above shows that you care about their growth and development.  This translates to improved work.  However tempting, don’t skip the meaningful feedback.   It also can stimulate your own learning, making you a better scholar and teacher.


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