Critiques play a valuable role in student learning at NBCCD. Critiques are a way to involve students in analyzing, describing, evaluating, and interpreting works of art, craft and design. Inderhees (2020) describes a critique as a “conversation in which the student presents their work to their instructor and peers for discussion and evaluation while the work is in development.” Have a read of the best practices below or watch a video on How to Critique Art by Art Prof or listen to a podcast hosted by Tim Bogatz on How to Improve your Classroom Critiques.

  • 1. Explain the Purpose of Critique

    Be sure to explain the purpose of the critique to your students the first time you hold a critique in your class. There are several reasons you might be using critiques, which include:

    • Providing a way for students to develop their critical thinking skills such as evaluating, reasoning, interpreting, and analyzing.
    • Giving students the opportunity to develop new ideas and be inspired.
    • Providing students with real-life experience: part of being a professional designer or artist involves employers and clients critiquing work. Critiques give students the opportunity to practice presenting their work, responding to feedback, and participating in discussions around their work. 

    In subsequent critiques, consider asking students what they want to get out of the critique. Is there something in particular about their work that they would like to receive a critique about? Doing this helps to make the critique more meaningful for the students and helps you find out what type of feedback they are looking for when you facilitate the critique. 

  • 2. Prepare Students

    It is important to help students prepare for critiques as it helps them know what to expect and what is required of them. Here are some ways you can prepare your students:

    • Explain the purpose of the critiques (see point 1 above);
    • Explain the format and/or method of the critique (group, pairs, in writing etc.). Some instructors also like to organize a critique in three stages: description, analysis & interpretation, and socio-cultural context;
    • It’s important for students to understand that a critique is not about them as an artist; it is about their work. Critique is a way of providing feedback; it is not a criticism. Perhaps have students watch How to Critique Art to help them understand the purpose of a critique and how to give one in a respectful, caring and constructive way;
    • Provide students with a glossary of terms that you would like them to use during the critique. This helps students develop their studio language and helps them to know what things they should be considering when giving a critique; and
    • Give students time to think about the work before you invite them to critique a piece of work. Some students require more time to process their thoughts. 
  • 3. Use a Variety of Formats

    Providing critiques in a variety of ways throughout the semester helps students to stay engaged in the critique process. There are a range of formats you can use throughout the semester: 

    • Individual critiques (instructor provides private critique to each student) 
    • Peer-to-peer critiques (two students critiquing each other’s work) 
    • Self-critique (student critiques their own work) 
    • Group critiquing one work 
    • Groups critiquing each student’s work 
    • Anonymous critiques 
    • Critiques by a visiting expert 

    Have a look at Critiques: Discussing Students’ Creative Visual Works-in Progress by Joan Inderhees for a description of some of these types of critiques. 

  • 4. Use a Variety of Methods

    Using a variety of methods for critiques helps students to express themselves in the way that works best for them and also helps to keep students engaged in the process. Critiques can be done verbally or in writing. For example: 

    • display the students’ work through the room and give out post-it notes. Get students to write their critique on the post-it note and place it near the work.
    • give out index cards with guided questions (including the name of student work being critiqued). Hand out the index cards to the artist afterwards for their review. 

    To learn about other types of critiques, such as tag-team, speed-dating format, glow/grow, self-crits, and free-form critiques, have a look at Strategies for Facilitating Critiques prepared by several instructors at OCAD. Art Critique by Blake Smith at UBC also has some great ideas, though it is targeted towards high school visual art critiques. 

  • Want to learn more? Check out these resources.