Critiquing the Crit…

Today we presented our posters from Assignment 4 and had a group crit. For some of the cohort it was the first time they had experienced the process of a group crit, particularly those from non art and design backgrounds such as performance or writing. As a Craft graduate it is a practice I have experienced as a student, however as a technician I rarely facilitate group crits.

Therefore it was a really valuable to observe how they can be facilitated to safeguard against the various risks of peers critiquing each other. Steph asked the group to use post-it notes to issue written feedback to each others posters. This type of practice ensured a degree of anonymity. In turn each of us reflected and summarised the feedback we had received, sharing it verbally with the rest of the group.

I have facilitated a similar group crit process in a previous job. As an outreach coordinator for the University I delivered an Art and Design Saturday Club for local young people. I used the post-it note technique when I asked the group to critique paintings they had produced. The use of written feedback followed up with some verbal discussion/engagement is a good way to gradually introduce to students to the process – opposed to chucking them in at the deep end. In addition, the process of walking around a room applying sticky notes promotes students to engage more with the work. This was notable in Steph’s session too. The choice of teaching space was of particular importance for Steph. We used the Sandpit in the Air building, which is a flexible learning and teaching space, which encourages an informal approach to learning, with comfortable, casual seating. I think this type of learning environment puts students at ease and encourages dialogue, particularly within the often intimidating experience of a group crit.

After the exercise we noted down and discussed some of the pros and cons of the group crit. This slideshow shows the feedback to my poster and summarise some of the disadvantages and advantages of the group crit…

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Blair’s article (2006) concluded that the size of the crit group is an important determining factor in the effectiveness of the crit. Blair’s research suggested that students find large groups intimidating, confrontational and are less able to give and receive feedback to peers – overall the quality of the learning experience is lessened. It contrast students felt small group sizes were more intimate, more supportive, non-threatening and there were great opportunities for learning to take place. Smaller groups were also considered to be more relevant to professional practice and the workplace.

Various other assignments have identified a need for me to design more group activities, self reflection and peer feedback into my teaching. My perceptions prior to this session were that it was very much the academics’ role to facilitate crits – not a technician’s responsibility. However, I have a new found appreciation for the crit and I would like to consider about how I could incorporate peer feedback and critique type excerices into my teaching.

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