Judging Arts and Sciences Competitions

(And other activities)

Goal: Understanding, preparing for, and judging in different Arts and Sciences competitions, fairs, or displays. Have fun. Teach. Learn

Judges of all levels of experience.

The Basics: Get in the right headspace

  • Be kind.
    • There is always a gracious way to handle a situation. For yourself, for the entrants, for other judges, and for other volunteers.
  • Be thankful.
    • Thank the entrants (along with the other judges and the organizers) for their time.
  • Be wise.
    • If a situation starts to impact your mental or physical health, then allow yourself to stop. Find a replacement or ask the event organizer to find a replacement for you.
    • There is no reason to make yourself ill or to cause yourself heartache.
  • Be thoughtful.
    • Pause. Take a break and think about your circumstances.
    • Ask questions before taking action.
    • Share feedback with the Minister of Arts and Sciences Office. It is always appreciated.

To Start: Perform a self-assessment

  • Have you judged an A&S competition before?
    • What made it a good experience?
    • What could have made it better?
  • Decide what you want out of the activity.
    • To teach and share new research?
    • To learn from entrants and deliver feedback?
    • To motivate competitors?
  • Understand the competition and what you are being asked to judge. Local competitions may be less rigorous than bigger regional events; regional competitions may be less rigorous than a Kingdom event.
  • Know Thyself.
    • If you are not in a good frame of mind, if you are not feeling well, or if you are unable to be aware of bias then judging may not be right for you.
    • Do not allow people to force you to judge if you know your shouldn’t be judging an entry. Feel confident in saying “no, thank you” if you need to. Even if you are a Laurel or other Order member, and A&S Minister, a Champion, or other A&S position. You’re a volunteer and allowed to say “no” if you need to.

Preparing for the activity:

  • Be sure to look at the requirements of the competition or display, so you know you are adequately prepared.
    • Are there published rules for the activity? Timeframes? Deadlines?
    • Is there a rubric or are there judging guidelines?
    • Do you need to pre-register?
  • Consider “shadow judging” in order to observe how other volunteers judge.
  • Assume everyone is trying their hardest with the knowledge and skill they currently have.

Reviewing the entry:

  • Identify what you are judging and judge that entry specifically. Make sure to judge what the artist has offered up for commentary only.
  • Review all of the documentation for the entry before scoring it.
    • Is there written documentation? Read it.
    • Is there visual documentation? Watch it.
    • Is there Verbal documentation? Listen.
  • Discuss the entry with the artisan, if allowed, before scoring it. Example questions to ask entrants to engage in conversation:
    • What do you want people to learn from your entry?
    • What did you learn from your entry?
    • What makes you proud about your entry?
    • How is your entry historically based? What is it lacking?
    • Have you made something like this before?
    • What would you do differently?
    • Did you have any surprises? What would surprise another person?
  • Do not assume everyone is socially about to communicate in person or in writing effectively.

Scoring the entry:

  • Calibrate your scoring with other judges. Look for consistency in the feedback given to entrants. Avoid being the hard judge or the easy judge.
  • How are point determined for the entry?
    • Did the activity rules or organizers give you directions to follow for determining points?
    • Are you starting at nothing and then adding points?
    • Are you starting at a full score and then subtracting points?
    • Are you judging on a range? Instead of an all or nothing critique, consider evaluating on a continuum.
  • Give the entrant the benefit of the doubt.
  • Recognize skill and artistry.

Providing feedback:

  • How do you want to deliver feedback?
    • If possible, ask the entrant what works best for them. Let them tell you how they learn best.
      • Do they want to hear constructive feedback?
      • Do they need you to be direct and blunt?
      • Do they know they are nervous and need extra sensitivity?
    • Consider the “sandwich” style of critique, noting:
      • This style may make it easier for you as the judge but harder to follow as an entrant
      • It assumes that the entrant is not open to upfront constructive feedback
      • It assumes that this will reduce discomfort or anxiety
      • It may no provide balanced feedback and therefore misleading and entrant as to competition results.
  • Providing feedback is not only about identifying weaknesses or possible improvements. It is just as important to celebrate successes. Do both.
  • Be transparent. Share your thought process for coming up with your score.
  • Start with verbal in-person feedback, if possible.
  • Be careful with written feedback.
    • Spend your time to deliver clear and well-considered comments.
    • Written words alone can be misconstrued from your original intent.
  • Give specific and actionable comments. Vague feedback is difficult for entrants to learn from.
  • Do not condescend. Your entrant may be more knowledgeable about the subject that you are. Ask first instead of assuming.
  • Recognize where an entrant is in their scholarship and practice. A beginning artist and an experienced entrant will take feedback differently.
  • Encourage academic honesty and artistic integrity.

After the competition:

  • Thank the artisans for entering at the event.
  • Follow up with the artisans after the event. Thank them again. Offer help.
  • Understand that you can be the best judge in the world, and someone may still be upset at your critique. Do your best, but at the end of the day, let it go.

To Finish: Perform a self-assessment

  • Think about what your goals were and whether or not you were able to achieve them.
  • Decide what you can do better next time.
  • Think about what you do not like about the competition and what you can do to avoid that situation or change it.
  • Did you learn anything?
  • Did you teach anyone anything?

Master Philip White, OL, OP
East Kingdom A&S Minister
(Craig Shupee – philipwhite@hotmail.com)

Thanks and acknowledgements to Mistress Amy Webbe for earlier work on this document.

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