Feedback for learning

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

Alignment and assessment

In my role as a tutor on the short courses unit at UAL, formal assessments have not been part of my role.  I found it challenging and subjective when teaching on the BA for a term as had no previous experience and felt under some pressure from colleagues to quickly adapt to an assessment format without fully synchronising with the marking system.  Whilst trying to be as fair as possible – I wondered if it was truly possible. So it is with interest to read: ” art and design students are often in pursuit of a ‘quarry’ of which they are given only partial knowledge….. For art and design students, formulating and finding their own quarry is an essential part of the discovery process. They do, nevertheless, need to know the ‘landscape’ and the ‘boundaries’ when they are in full pursuit. It might be that these are better articulated in the form of a discourse than in specific outcome form and more usefully manifested in project briefings, team meetings, etc.”

This made more sense to my teaching role where assessment outcomes would more usually be in project briefings and planned session guidance. Recently on the online course I was teaching I encouraged students to consider their own assessment and made a simple slide for this based upon our own reflection and assessment criteria which I had found to be useful – see image attached.

assessment and reflection

It was helpful to be reassured that in relation to assessment…”Common sense often prevails…. there is a virtue in keeping the outcomes to a minimum even if this means a loss of specificity and apparent ambiguity. Rather than measurability, the focus should be on meaningfulness.”

This quote also resonated in terms of connection and integration with my teaching roles.

At Morley  College where I also teach, students are given a simple form to fill in at the beginning and end of each term evaluating their own goals and ones set by tutor as potential course outcomes. This is called RARPA (Recognising and Recording Progress and Achievement) and is a five stage process for delivering good assessment, teaching and learning, which ensures that students’ progress and achievements are monitored and recorded. If students feel they have “achieved” their own goals and ones set by the tutor set on a grading scale, this helps measure quality and success and also ensures government funding for courses, so it is an important document. Here is a link to the Rarpa criteria as potentially another interesting measure.

I am doing my first assessment for the end of term this Wednesday and will ask students for their feedback on assessment too. Learning curves all round.

Source: Davies, A. (2012) Learning outcomes and assessment criteria in art and design. What’s the recurring problem? Networks 18.


Inclusive Learning and Teaching in Art and Design

How inspiring to discover Commonplace which I previously wasn’t familiar with. It evidently functions as a useful landing spot for students and staff. I tested out a few headlines such as ‘being  a shy student’ which offered reassurance and sound advice and a post on ‘presenting tips’ which I will be incorporating onto my online teaching course this week. I am asking students to present their portfolios verbally and visually  and the pictogram is an ideal aide memoire for tips on successful presentation.

I was impressed by wealth of information on liberation, equality and diversity in the curriculum and thought a diversity audit sounds a vital part of CPD to integrate these values. As a short course tutor I am not part of CPD at UAL although at another college I teach at it is included. There we ensure that field study trips take into consideration cultural diversity as simple as referencing The Fabrics of India exhibition at V&A.

I try to ensure diverse images are used for my online teaching course in introductions aiming to reflect potential participants and in light of reading think this could be extended further. I also encourage students to draw on their own cultural capital to bring a richness to their design research and think this could also be extended to research specific local heritage skills where applicable. All interesting food for thought.



I was intrigued to read the discussion paper “University Challenge: Towards a wellbeing approach to quality in higher education”. It inspired me to research and develop a lesson about individual and collective wellbeing in ways that are environmentally sustainable and socially just. This week my online session plan will focus on sustainability and ethics for the “Fashion Portfolio Preparation” course. My challenge is how to fit this information into a digestible and exciting 1 and a half hour format.

One of the key points I found of interest from the paper was The Dynamics of Power and Influence, which was part of a considered seven point vision plan for effective and transformative education.

The paper highlights the importance of equipping learners to understand the distribution of power and influence, and the impact of inequalities. The fashion and textile world can look very glamourous and glitzy on the outside but a reality is many poorly paid workers work long hours to produce cheap fashion demanded by richer nations. Have you ever wondered why a tee-shirt costs £2.99 when it may have circumnavigated the globe depending on where the cotton was grown, harvested, processed, spun, woven, pattern cut and made into a tee-shirt, then shipped or flown and driven by lorry to a shop near you? How is this ethical or sustainable for the workers involved in the industry and all those fashion miles it has travelled? The recent True Cost Movie will feature as a short clip as it highlights the collapse of the Rana Plaza Bangaldesh factory that killed so many workers and gained media attention and a Fashion Revolution movement.


On notes of positive action to do with power and influence, we can look at a clip from the film Do the Math – which explains divestment and how people have galvanised across the planet to educate shareholders to divest out of companies that support finite fossils fuels. With the fashion industry creating over 80 billion garments a year, energy use is high and global interconnectivity an important point to raise.

UAL current student divest campaign…


Enlightened business leaders such as Ray Anderson who had an epiphany after reading the book The Ecology of Commerce, turned his textile company around from the traditional “take/make/waste industrial system to a sustainable business blueprint which increased sales and doubled profits. His TED talk shares his powerful vision.


I want students to be curious and empowered through their roles as designers and consumers to source fabrics by highlighting fabric provenance – where the fibres are grown, processed and made into fashion and by whom. I will draw on a project I have been involved with ( to see if it was possible to grow a garment from seed in an urban environment – inspiring people to reconnect with where their clothes come from. We grew flax and transformed it into a linen tunic, involving schools, community gardens, spinners and LCF to sow, grow and make a garment from seed. 500 people came together in collaboration fostering a sense of wellbeing and collective learning.

I aim to involve and question the students as much as possible via chatbox and video link. Longer videos will be added to workflow so students can follow up and access in their own time.

As part of their assignment I will ask them to research and write a few words on any of the following subjects: Why has the Aral sea been allowed to completely dry up because of cotton production in Uzbekistan? Or how do pesticide residues on cotton affect skin?

Any thoughts on lesson plan online format and ideas  most welcome as I am due to be observed this Thursday by my personal tutor, so want to make the session as exciting, thought provoking and dynamic as possible – thank you.

In response to the New Economics Foundation’s report on Healthy Universities: Steuer, N. and Marks, N. 2008. University challenge: Towards a wellbeing approach to quality in higher education. London: New Economics Foundation. Available at:

Group Learning

  • Describe a group learning strategy you have encountered that you think you might try (as a learner or a facilitator/teacher); how would you use it in your context?
  • Describe a group learning strategy that has worked for you.

I watched the 3 minute, Serkan Delice video on “can pre-session assignments enhance student interaction and engagement”. I am due to teach an online course later this month for LCF in Fashion portfolio preparation. Part of preparation for the course content is developing assignments over the 6 week programme which takes place once a week. This is my first experience of teaching online. I will be trying out this group strategy to enhance student interaction and engagement by explaining the collaborative learning activity in a clear document so people know what is expected of them and are given guidelines for how to go about responding to the assignment. Delice notes how theory is a key to learning, self-development, professional practise, identity formation, self transformation and the belonging to a particular community (of enquiry). This reminded me of my own cultural studies input at CSM and how it enriched my wider understanding of art, politics , connectivity and creativity. I would like to establish a cohesive engaged community of enquiry as part of this online course and it reminded me to integrate theory, as part of the pre-session assignments enabling students to make comments, be fresh and active and engaged in ways that are not “pedestrian or descriptive”. In Delice’s example she put forward the impact of postmodernity on Alexander Mcqueen’s catwalk shows & asked students to watch a youtube catwalk video whilst thinking about a series of questions and concepts before coming to class. When I have previously taught the fashion portfolio short course in the Lime Grove studio – the focus has been on active physical research and creativity –not much writing at all(less theory more experience). Tasks have included research in the specialist LCF library – how can I get online students to interact in the same ways with bound vogues from the 1920s? At the fabric shops in Soho – how can I get them to feel, identify and select fabrics? And with a museum visit (how does visiting a museum online compare?) – so am well aware that will need to get the new online group practically, intellectually and creatively integrated in a relaxed, focused and secure manner whilst being more sedentary and in front of a computer screen. Can anyone recommend any other interesting theory and fashion narrative avenues to explore, or links/websites?

It made sense to hear how group work can help develop key professional skills such as: listening/presenting ideas/persuasion/self direction/self monitoring and team working as identified by David Jaques and Gilly Salmon in Learning in Groups by Routledge. Naming these as part of the group online learning experience at the outset will also help focus the value of our groupwork sessions in a wider ‘life-lessons’ context.

Noting how Lindsay from our PGCert has created a relaxed setting for our recent online seminar and gave space for student interaction on the chat forums, whilst commenting when appropriate helped foster a sense of freedom and connection, hope to integrate this too.

A recent group learning strategy that worked in establishing trust and connection in a new group was asking people to bring in an item that held a story for them and to share that with someone else for 2 minutes then swap and the introduce that person to the group. From this relationships were formed and connections made. People really had to listen to each other knowing that they had to introduce that person to the group, a focus was taken off the “I” whilst a sense of identity was established and intimate story shared. It was a successful ice-breaker in establishing trust and sharing. I am not sure how this would work so well online – any suggestions?

Learning and Teaching for Art Design and Communication, blogpost 1

Dall’Alba, G. (2005). Improving teaching: Enhancing ways of being university teachers. Higher Education Research and Development 24 (4), pp361-372. 

  1. If you had to summarise Dall’Alba’s article in three bullet points, what would they be?

To create awareness of the responsibilities of being a university teacher and develop renewed capacity to effect change, the article highlights: 

  • The value and emphasis of ontonlogy ( being) in the learning experience as opposed to just epistemology or a transfer of skills from the “teacher” . The article demonstrates how to integrate knowing, acting and being – through examining our teaching anew, drawing upon research literature, experience of colleagues and critical reflection of our practice.
  • Active collaboration (ALP active learning approach) of participants is key and allows an exchange of information from unexpected sources to be utilised.
  • Reflection, trust & openness are also necessary components to enhanced transformation of the learning/teaching experience.
  1. What connections can you make with this article and things you already know, have read before or experienced?

I found the quotes by Martin Heidegger intriguing as it resonated:

Martin Heidegger…. highlights the central task and challenge of teaching: Teaching is even more difficult than learning. We know that; but we rarely think about it….why is teaching more difficult than learning? Not because the teacher must have a larger store of information, and have it always ready. Teaching is more difficult than learning because what teaching calls for is this: to let learn. The real teacher, in fact, lets nothing else be learned than—learning. His conduct, therefore, often produces the impression that we properly learn nothing from him, if by ‘learning’ we now suddenly understand merely the procurement of useful information. The teacher is ahead of his apprentices in this alone, that he has still far more to learn than they—he has to learn to let them learn.

(1968, p. 15)

Transformation of the self can be liberating and empowering and can also be fraught with uncertainty and anxiety.

  1. How did the points raised in the article relate to your own thoughts and feelings about staff development in general, and your own forthcoming studies in particular?

The article notes teaching in the past decade has shifted towards a skills focused knowledge transfer and acknowledges a greater drive towards vocation, profession, corporation and technology. I think this  directly relates to us living in the Anthropocene age in a capitalist society.

Open, trusting encouraging facilitation of active participation is healthy and necessary to the collaborative learning experience.

Looking at teaching models: transmission teaching and constructivism – where a change of hierarchy and social status can aid peer-to-peer open learning.

This PGCERT course sounds like it will be promoting participation in a community with a commitment to student learning; dialogue about educational practice; interrogation of teaching with reference to educational literature; modeling of teaching; and action learning projects.

Reflexive learning as a key component.

Innovation is to be encouraged as long as students are adequately prepared.

…”teaching is not only what we do but who we are”

Key teaching skills that may arise on the course: clarifying the requirements of the course; providing an environment for participants to raise questions and discuss efforts to improve their teaching; critiquing higher education policy at local and international levels; designing learning activities in a range of formats (e.g. individual, small group, whole group, discussion, reflective exercises, analysis of course documents and teaching practice etc. encouraging participants to respond to one another’s queries and ideas; explaining educational theory encountered in the course; providing constructive comments on written work; and seeking feedback on participants’ experiences within the course.

“participants (will be) challenged to transform their ways of being university teachers through transforming their knowing and acting”.

Regarding assessments – learning outcomes, opportunities for feedback and motivation that assessment techniques can provide.

Potential outcomes of the PGCERT: a conceptual/practical framework from which I can reflect and improve my teaching practice in an ordered and structured manner.



Zoe Burt – Introduction

PGCERT prep:

Brief description re context of work with students:

I teach with artscom on the short courses unit Fashion Portfolio Preparation and Fashion Design for 16-18 year olds. I also teach ISS students Print for Fashion – design development and specialist textile techniques. I have given private tuition for international students on fashion design at LCF.

I will be teaching for the first time an online course Fashion Portfolio this October. I also teach Advanced Textiles at another institution & lead workshops in creative textile & print related practise.

The purpose of my courses is to give students direction and skills to learn how to research for a given design brief. Part of the skills I teach is how to gather research at museums, galleries, online, at libraries and develop that research in sketchbooks & to create a moodboard; I help bridge the gap between research and design using a variety of techniques and aim to inspire an experimental, supportive and creative forum for individual development.

My fashion & textiles passion concerns beautiful design, wearability, ethics in production, sustainable material sources, ecological awareness, slow fashion & textiles models, and compelling stories of incorporating this growing movement into course content.

I have over 20 years’ experience as a textile print and fashion designer in industry and as a tutor. As an active award winning artist I also run my own practise and exhibit work, this wide experience helps give practical breadth to my teaching.

What I hope to gain from forthcoming studies?

To find tools for becoming a better teacher. To network and share skills, insights, experience and ideas. To utilise technology for optimum teaching delivery. Also how to encourage and support as well as being discerning and directional with feedback to students.