Incorporating “Designer Statements” as Feedback and/or Assessment Tool

16 Sep

Slide3More and more I ask my students – who are future university teachers in this case – to construct creative scholarly digital works.  In a recent class, this includes designing a single photoquote that convey their understanding of a readings (such as one of my samples, above), creating one image using digital tools to convey their understanding of a core course concept, developing a small set of presentation slides designed to support learning of a core concept students will necessarily grapple with in their courses, and developing select digital materials – audio, visual, multimedia – to support two different scholarly teaching presentations.

I build these assignments into my courses for two reasons:

  • Teachers beginning academic careers in 21st century classrooms that are online, hybrid, in brick and mortar buildings as well as community locations will need to hone design skills, visual literacies, and a full range of digital / informational literacy skills for teaching that supports student learning; and
  • We who are working with students currently enrolled in undergraduate courses are requiring them to use these skills to complete course assignments across the curriculum, from developing diagrams from data to creating digital works that provoke learning through narratives that are both visual and audio to designing posters synthesizing research.

The first such assignment I created was for a PhotoQuote – which others (including Sidneyeve Matrix, a UMinn alum, now associate professor at Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario) have adapted into PhotoFigures:


PhotoQuote or PhotoFigure – Students identify key insights, questions, noteworthy statements or data/facts from  something read, heard, viewed, then select one to link to a photograph or other visual image that analytically illustrates the quote in a significant, thoughtful, meaningful, creative way.

The combination of words and images will be evaluated based on composition / content and on substance / format. Factors of analysis will include design (layout, image selection & quality, relevance of quote & image, accuracy of analysis prompted by the juxtaposition), and use of sources (photo attribution and source citation, relevance to class discussion, legibility).

Along with the PhotoQuote, PhotoFigure and slidedecks, I regularly see colleagues’ assignments that ask students to create Infographics, Digital Stories, Data Diagrams/Tables/Figures, Lecture Capture Demos & Presentations, and Blogs – from responses to posts to portfolios.  And still more.  Such assignments require students to construct “creative scholarly digital works,” to apply digital literacy through listening to / viewing work produced by peers, and to revise their own work based on weighing feedback from peer, professor and public viewers.

What formative and summative tools practices can help students and teachers assess these sorts of assignments? Or more complexly:  What formative and reflective assessment of learning tools can help foster robust learning through gathering and reflecting on feedback throughout the processes of development, presentation and revision that come ahead of submission of assignments for final review by a course instructor who will assess the learning demonstrably achieved in light of course learning outcomes?

Before – and maybe instead of – scripting a rubric, I’ve been drawn to a practice of asking students to compose Designer Statements while drafting and then again alongside the final delivery of a digital, visual, electronic artifact assignment:

A Designer Statement is a brief written or spoken narrative addressing the creative process, the work produced in that process, and the analysis of feedback gathered from peers as it impacts revision decisions.

See, for example:

A designer statement engages students in reflecting on practices of creating, delivering, revising a creative assignment, making use of prompts such as these for composing brief paragraphs, crafting short answers, or answering multiple choice questions:

  • describe goals, intent of project
  • list tools used and account for amount of time involved 
  • address difficulty, success, evaluation of new tools used
  • set out decision making process while developing the project/artifact
  • identify themes embeeded in the work
  • account for ethical use of sources consulted / included
  • explain how the piece is a form of academic analysis
  • reveal revision process in improving quality of argument / narrative set out in the project/artifact
  • identify compositional choices (design, format, font, graphics) 
  • evaluate design elements / visual communication tactics employed
  • reflect on ways audience responded to organization of presentation/artifact in light of how author intended audience to “read” and interpret the digital or visual artifact
  • provide rationale for accepting, modifying and/or rejecting feedback gathered in peer-to-peer discussions and/or from professor’s comments
  • close with one or two questions for the summative reviewer’s response

For an assignment that requires my students to create a mini-teaching presentation (introducing learning, which we’ve been studying in class, into a first week class discussion with their own future students), I’ve created the following set of Designer Statement questions to help us all become aware of the design, development, delivery and revision processes:

And, for a fuller listing of prompt and question-posing possibilities, see

I aim to develop and share the Designer Statement form with students early in an assignment cycle – but always before they gather feedback from peers so that the questions I pose become part of the reflective revision process.

After using these practices – initially shared with me by arts, design, architecture and technology colleagues who recommended resources when I queried about evaluating digital communication artifacts for design as well as narrative components – I thought I’d eventually come up with a rubric to anchor assessment.  I’m no longer seeing the Designer Statement stopgap.  I see it as the assessment tool I will use in tandem with an assignment sheet that describes task, audience, and purpose in alignment with course learning outcomes.

Three strong benefits so far – in reflecting on feedback and design processes, students more swiftly improve their skills in using digital tools, understand feedback as integral to creative and learning processes, and can describe both how they learned this time as well as how they might operate to learn and create a next time.


3 Responses to “Incorporating “Designer Statements” as Feedback and/or Assessment Tool”


  1. Learning Wordpress « - 17 September 2013

    […] where transformative learning and scholarly teaching meet formative and reflective assessment of learning tools can help foster robust learning through gathering and reflecting on feedback throughout the processes of development, presentation and revision that come ahead of submission of assignments for a closing summative assessment of learning demonstrably achieved in light of course learning outcomes? Before – and maybe … You are commenting using your account. ( Log Out / Change ). […]

  2. On Students’ Names, Teachers’ Stories and Our Magnificent Kathleen O’Donovan | Techniques in Learning & Teaching - 23 September 2013

    […] mentorship was part of the story behind my blog post last week on developing Designer Statements to guide peer, teacher and self-assessment for assignments involving digital artifacts. In asking […]

  3. Formative Assessment: When Students Record Their Own Learning in Small Bites | TILT - 17 February 2014

    […] Incorporating “Designer Statements” as Feedback and/or Assessment Tool […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: