I felt compelled to clarify the definition of the term crit after reading The Strengths and weaknesses of the Crit – a discussion paper. This wikipedia definition was helpful: “critical understanding is a term used commonly in education to define a mode of thinking, described as an essential tool for participating in democratic processes, at whatever level. It is a defensible position reached through the examination of ideas, issues or sources.”
This was particularly helpful with my current teaching role with a mature group of students who possess a variety of creative and intellectual skills and am keen to discover ways of holding the space for a constructive crit and feedback. Previously I have encouraged “sharing” – ideas and work in the form of an informal group presentation – perhaps this is actually a crit? This peer review helps students talk about their project, research methods, developments and surprises, any best work and “disasters” together with inevitable learned outcomes – receiving feedback from myself and other students. Encouragement is always offered and space to explore. However as yet we have not had (time?) for any exploratively strong arguments and feedback- I think this maybe to do with wanting to foster an encouraging atmosphere, or perhaps (my own) aversion to conflict or an ingrained politeness ( have only taught one term so far) – which am very happy to challenge if feel have created enough of a trusting atmosphere and room for stimulating dialogue. I agreed with many points from the paper regarding the crit and feedback as being a ‘potential for dialogue and less judgmental’ and it being a healthy leveller between tutor and students. Doubtless there is a communal and fun element too.
As ever I am mindful of treading the line with feedback regarding taste and personal opinion and find it challenging at times when natural instincts gravitate towards certain expressions of creativity. How to not be personal and be truly open and supportive of all types of person and talents – this I would like to get better at – any advice please let me know?
The group I work with has 14 students and as we only meet once a week I have learnt that timing and a controlled (time) system for a crit could help. Much as people enjoy sharing, too much can become a frustration for “precious” studio time.
I therefore conclude that I will incorporate crits at mid term during the next 10 week session and before the end of term. Leaving an hour for students at the end of day after clearing up to discuss work. I think I will now set an agenda of questions to help stimulate debate and provide bridges – any succinct advice with this would also be most welcome.
Phil Race book The Lecturers Toolkit offers some digestible advice in assisting learners in creating their own objectives to help facilitate feedback .. he says, ask them ‘what do you need to gain from the coming group session?’ AND ‘do not be tempted into filling every silence’ with regards to feedback he recommends gearing students towards taking ownership ‘how useful it will be for you to hone these skills. Don’t lose them!’
Blythman, M.Orr, S. Blair, B.(2007)’Critiquing the Crit’: ADM Subject Centre, Higher Education Academy.
Race, Phil (2002)’The lecturer’s TOOLKIT’, SEconf Edition, Kogan Page