Marking the Unmarkable: Challenging the Traditional Notion of a Process Book


First-year design studio courses should be process driven in order to promote multiple idea development, risk taking, and exploration. However, in order to demonstrate the importance of process, feedback, and iteration this process needs to be documented and marked throughout the duration of an assignment. Therefore, I have designed my assignments to include a progress book format in which students are asked to record everything they have undergone weekly—including observational, and theoretical research, trials and errors, feedback, exploration, etc. The progress book becomes a documentation of the decisions that are made in terms of what to focus on and what to leave behind. These can be decisions based on the qualities of a form, craftsmanship, communicative intent, audience, mode, etc. Much of this information cannot be culled from the instructor's interpretation of the visuals as they can only be marking what they see. Recognizing student intent is critical so that feedback honours the individual student, not where the instructor assumes the student should be. Therefore, students are asked to augment their visual work with reflective, analytical, or descriptive writing. The writing gives the instructor access to a perspective that cannot be seen through the observation of the work alone.

This paper will focus on: (1) Context: why process is integral to learning and outcome in first-year design studio courses, (2) Methods: how to communicate and define multiple methods of approach to process, (3) Assessment: the grading rubric I have developed to interpret students’ process, (4) Reflection: limitations and challenges encountered in the documentation of creative processes by the students and the assessment of creative processes by faculty, and how to mitigate these issues in order to support student development.