June 20, 2011

Who grades whom, or why Dalí was thrown out of art school

01-Salvador-Dali,-Neocubist-Academy Sailor
On my recent holidays in Florence I was lucky enough to once more bump into my former Channel 4 Education Board co-member, James Bradburne, who is the enigmatic Direttore of the Palazzo Strozzi in the home of the Italian rennaissance. He was kind enough to invite my young family into the Picasso and Dalí exhibition, and Catriona had great fun inventing her own cubist creations our of fuzzy felt.

One painting drew my attention in particular - the one at the top of this post. It's The Sailor, painted while Dalí was in Madrid's Neocubist Academy, and at about the same time he was thrown out of art school. The reason? He said that one of the professors was not good enough to grade him.

It's a lovely, wry story, because it gets at the very heart of what we know about assessment - that children do better when they compare themselves to their own past performances, rather than to a sliding scale of comparative grading - and Dalí called into question what we're still grappling with today: who decides what is 'good' and, in the end, does it really matter for a true lifelong learner what they say at one given point of time anyway?

Comments

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Nice post. You said it all here...

Grading should never be competitive. It should only reflect whether the student has mastered the material.

Naturally, the professor also needs to know what constitutes mastery and how to direct students toward achieving it.

Hmm... but what does "mastering the material" mean when judged in a lifetime of learning? See my blog post about this http://bit.ly/kD8EpK

Interesting that you would use Dali as an example.

There are many practitioners in art that show unconventional thinking. Dali provided the visual representation to illustrate his lack of convention!

I am not sure if your post was an extension of the Rupert Muirdock quote prior, but the two threads go hand-in-hand.

Inside the box is where we find our footing and foundation. Outside the box is where wonder and excitement play!

Sadly today my children go to school and are rarely taught to do more than pass a standardized test. Occasionally you get that really wonderful teacher that goes above and beyond mere tests and you wish.. if only they could attend school with that teacher for more than one year. More than ever, parents have to show their children the world.

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About Ewan

Ewan McIntosh is a teacher, speaker and investor, regarded as one of Europe’s foremost experts in digital media for public services.

His company, NoTosh Limited, invests in tech startups and film on behalf of public and private investors, works with those companies to build their creative businesses, and takes the lessons learnt from the way these people work back into schools and universities across the world.

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