Ivy Guild, MFA, Department of Art

Typically used in design or art-oriented courses, a critique is a collaborative feedback technique for providing students with oral formative and summative assessments from their instructor and peers. In most educational settings, written formative and summative assessments provide the majority of the feedback that students and instructors receive. These assessments vary in form, but are typically restricted to experiences between the student and instructor, the student and a testing format, or the instructor and small groups of students. Intermodal learning engages students through a range of modes of communication, i.e. a critique, which is proven to aid active learning in the classroom (Wandera, 2016).

In-class critiques are intermodal in their combination of visual, verbal, and written communication (Wandera, 2016). Group critiques offer a pedagogically-inclined, multimodal, and collaborative form of assessment that increases student participation and lesson retention by rotating students and instructors through several roles in discussions. Critique formats ask students to observe, question, debate, and reflect on the work of their peers, therefore, reinforcing and diversifying their active learning experience (Wandera, 2016). This article will briefly review the benefits of the various roles students assume in critiques.

Student as a Receiver of Critique

The student being critiqued observes hypothesizing and debates amongst their peers that would otherwise be missed in more individual assessments of their work. Students receive feedback in real-time, making them an active participant in the assessment of their work, because they are also offered opportunities for rebuttal, commentary, and asking questions of their peers. Overall, critiques offer a much more enriching and diverse assessment experience for students, because they integrate a wider range of perspectives and questions raised by the collaborative platform (S. Boudhraa et al., 2019).

Student as an Active Participant in Critique

In group critiques, students are encouraged to ask each other questions, share opinions and perspectives, and openly agree and disagree with each other. These interactions reinforce the lessons that students have been taught in the course, because it develops their active learning experience from the individual to the group when they delve in with their peers, making critiques a mutually beneficial and engaging learning experience (Motley, 2016).

Student as a Passive Participant in Critique

In the group critique setting, students can learn ways to question and improve their own work by listening to and observing how their peers and instructor participate in the critique. As instructors demonstrate professional critique behavior, their students observe, question, and learn new critique techniques and perspectives (S. Boudhraa et al., 2019). Silence does not necessarily imply confusion on the part of students in a critique, rather, they might be reflecting on the comments and questions of their peers, nonetheless learning in an active capacity without visible animation and participation (S. Boudhraa et al., 2019).

The roles students are asked to perform in critiques stimulate increased active learning and deeper engagement in course content, encouraging them to participate in more in-class roles than a normal discussion or assessment might. Each student is engaged in the critique process, because they all rotate through different roles until they have each been critiqued (Wandera, 2016). In the critique setting, individual ideas and questions from students and the instructor become collective, collaborative thoughts that are expanded and dissected by the group, providing a more active and in-depth experience for all involved parties (S. Boudhraa et al., 2019). Although critiques are historically used in studio classes, there is potential for instructors to use critiques to assess written assignments more collaboratively as well. How can you bring the critique format into your courses?

References

Boudhraa, S., Dorta, T., Milovanovic, J., & Pierini, D. (2019). Co-ideation critique unfolded: an exploratory study of a co-design studio ‘crit’ based on the students’ experience. CoDesign, 1–21.

Motley, P. (2016). Critique and process: Signature pedagogies in the graphic design classroom. Arts and Humanities in Higher Education, 16(3), 229–240.

Wandera, D. B. (2016). Teaching Poetry Through Collaborative Art. Journal of Transformative Education, 14(4), 305–326.

Matthew Mahavongtrakul edited this post on December 3rd, 2019.

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