Skip to main content
May 12, 2023

Specifications Grading as the Future of Grading

Diana Varma RGD
Diana Varma presenting with slide with words Grades Suck

About this video


In 2018, after having taught at the post-secondary level for almost 10 years, Diana realized that traditional grading methods were less relevant in her teaching practice, which is based on experiential learning, providing safe spaces for students to experience low-stakes failure and mimicking professional working relationships. Traditional grading systems are often a subjective measure of performance and unhelpfully unique to the classroom. They reward students for following instructions, while the connection economy rewards risk-taking, vulnerability, unpredictability and repeated failure. A specifications grading framework provides experiential opportunities for students to do all of the above in ways more closely aligned to situations outside of the classroom. This presentation details the ‘specifications grading’ methodology, and explore Diana’s experiences using it, including what was successful, what proved unsuccessful and the classroom environments for which it is best suited.

Diana Varma RGD

Toronto Metropolitan University

Diana Varma RGD is an award-winning design educator by day and a podcaster by night; getting creative with creatives about all things creative. She is a woman in STEAM who operates a traditional offset printing press, a variety of digital press technologies, as well as engaging in exploratory print-making practices such as LEGO letterpress. She teaches within the School of Graphic Communications Management (GCM) and the Master of Digital Media (MDM) program at Toronto Metropolitan University, as well as through digital learning platform, Domestika.

Diana has written 150+ published articles in Graphic Arts Magazine and through the Association of Registered Graphic Designers, as well as 170+ episodes through her podcast called Talk Paper Scissors, speaking with global experts about design, printing, typography, branding, books and publishing.

Diana holds the position of VP of Education on the RGD Board of Directors for Canada’s largest professional association for graphic designers and she’s actively involved in organizational initiatives, chairing the RGD’s Education Committee, regularly speaking at conferences and conducting workshops.