Critique – it’s a culture thing.

Posted: October 22, 2012 in learning, PBL, Punk Learning
Tags: , , ,

This morning, on a cold, windy and drizzly East Leeds Break-time  I stood (avoiding the flying rugby balls, footballs, basketballs and Year 7 students) chatting to a colleague. Her dance group had just performed a practice routine in an assembly ready for their National Final competition on Saturday. The performance wasn’t great and my colleague was keen to articulate this to her troop that the “fire in their bellies” was missing and that the routine needed to improve technically and lacked a certain professionalism – of which is needed to win stuff.

In turns out that the dancers didn’t take this feedback very well, some stormed off in (I what I imagined to be a very elaborate ‘jazz hand’ manner), some were seen crying in the toilets and others refused to take the criticism. My colleague was upset at how her students had dealt with this critique – by all accounts the feedback she gave was to the point and yet very useful in allowing them to understand what they needed to do, both individually and as a group, to get better. And that’s the point isn’t it?

If critique is not helpful – then what’s the point?

If critique doesn’t help the student  to improve – then what’s the point?

If students don’t except the critique and aren’t allowed to act on it – then what’s the point?

Critique – it’s a culture thing. It’s not an add-on or an activity, it’s certainly not a once in a blue moon task or something you should do when SLT observe or to be used because people talk about it on twitter. It’s a culture thing, or more specifically it’s often a change in culture thing. My colleague was right to be upset that her students hadn’t taken her critique well and equally perhaps her students were acting completely naturally by feeling upset about receiving it.

If critique is done well and often, it will have a transformational effect on learning. Yes, as teachers we can plan and deliver formal critique workshops for our students – but it’s the informal critique sessions that happen regularly between students that can take critique to the next level. And please don’t think critique is the end of the learning, it’s just the start! Give your students time (yes time – and I don’t want to hear about time being better spent – because I can’t think of anything better) to act on it and use it. My colleague has now set up more rehearsal opportunities and extra assembly performances so that her students can act on her critique.

We need to create classrooms full of editors, scientists, architects, designers, artists, historians, musicians – that willingly critique and see the importance of critique not only for their own work but that of others. What better way is there to teach how to write a great poem or deliver an amazing presentation or perform a fantastic dance routine than by critiquing the student work. Not only will the successes be highlighted and shared but the analysis and improvements required will be highlighted for all to see.

Critique – it’s a culture thing.

Below is the presentation that I delivered on Public Critique at last week’s TeachMeet Clevedon. Thank you to @ICTEvangelist for inviting me to deliver a session – Mark it was a great night and you should feel extremely proud of the legacy you have created at TMClevedon……I’m only saying that so I’ll get invited again next year!! In fact it needs to be pointed out that Mark critiqued my Prezi on numerous occasions and I redrafted it each time and it (hopefully) got better – so the actual presentation is an example of effective critique – cheers Mark!

Also thank you to @AmyG2191 for filming the session – thanks Amy.

Here are the YouTube clips

Thanks so much for the critique on the night from @KDWScience @dockers_hoops and @Pekabelo – I’m not sure you realised it, but it really helped and will do in the future.

I have also received fantastic critique from @57Mason @Textilesteacher and @hgaldinoshea this week – thanks guys, I appreciate it……and I also received some top-notch critique from my Mum! Who said I looked “very dapper” but “walked around too much”……..kind, specific and helpful!!!

I would really welcome critique  – it’s how I get better.

  1. houten Ramen says:

    This іnformation iѕ invaluable. Wɦen can I find ߋut more?

  2. Helene says:

    Being Kind: Nice strong voice, impeccable hair and confidence – looks like you know your topic.

    Now for specific and helpful… Well, lots of good things.
    – Liked the Top 5. Makes the point very aptly about how feedback is meaningless if the students are not trained/coached to do it better.
    – Berger’s three rules nicely explained and supported by useful extracts.
    – Video of Berger/ cat drawing – makes the point of course but a shame it is a drawing… The EBI can only be limited. Something a little more advanced would have been useful to show more specifically what we could expect from older children in terms of quality feedback.
    – Good example to follow and mention of using a visualiser – YES! It really helps (that or any other way of projecting work whilst critiquing)
    – Important emphasis on REDRAFTING – That’s the whole point, isn’t it? Nicely done.
    – Good point about the “two grades” idea: Top grade and the unfinished… Although we might argue that anything can be improve even further (Is there a ceiling?)
    – Clear on the 3 types of critique: Gallery, In depth, Peer.
    – The second extract is useful and interesting.
    – PBL project explained briefly and again the point is clearly made that PC is an integral part of the process (“Hard on content; soft on the person”)
    – Why critique works – repeated point here about the importance of PC advice to be ACTED upon. But repetition has its place to drive home the main messages.
    – Interesting analogy – Social Media Critique. I liked that because it resonated with me and probably did with your audience.
    – Bit of comic relief – brilliant clip to illustrate and break up the session a little.
    – Coming to the main message: It’s about instilling a culture and it takes time. YES! This point could have been emphasised further I think. We need to realise it’s not a quick fix and embedding such habits and attitudes does take time.
    – Good point again on how PC enables us to share the expertise – enabling everyone to improve.
    – Moving on to examples from the classroom is useful. Might even have come earlier.
    The use of the X Factor I can understand but after telling us that the students came up with “fantastic ideas” whilst critiquing the contestants, the advice you quote is not so helpful… (sorry, maybe that’s just me). I wonder whether the students could have been quickly moved on to critiquing something more challenging. Would have been great to have some feedback / ideas / questions from your audience at this point to gauge their understanding and whatever worries they might have had.
    – Lovely to have some examples of students’ work for your audience to look at. Again, a pity they had no time to feedback, discuss, question…

    … your audience could have been allowed to critique your talk (I would not have dared myself!!!) – would have made for an interesting discussion.
    … there had been some discussion about the terminology; we are talking about peer-assessment after all and looking at the language might have reassured teachers that they are doing the right thing. Also, when doing peer-assessment, one of the key things is the use of a clear set of criteria. Maybe this should have been touched on. At first, it seems natural to provide student with the success criteria but we all hope that gradually they can come up with it (or part of it) themselves. Perhaps they can refine the success criteria AFTER the PC.
    Anyway.. Just a few thoughts.
    Thank you for this interesting presentation and post, Tait. May Berger’s Ethic of Excellence take deep root 🙂

  3. Greg Seal says:

    Enjoyed your presentation at TMClevedon and the thing that stood out the most was the importance of giving enough time to act on feedback. It’s not just about reading it, or listening to it.

    And I agree with your Mum you do walk about it a lot.

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