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Feedback and critique in art

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Nikki Maetzig and Matt Jarry explain the process they use in the Wellington College art department to help students manage their time wisely and drive their own learning. This process supports students to give and receive effective feedback and critique in order to make improvements to their own work and meet deadlines. 

Professional learning conversations

These questions and suggested actions encourage you to reflect on your own school context.

Facilitating shared learning

The NZC (p9) states that:

Students learn as they engage in shared activities and conversations with other people, including family members and people in the wider community. Teachers encourage this process by cultivating the class as a learning community. In such a community, everyone, including the teacher, is a learner; learning conversations and learning partnerships are encouraged; and challenge, support, and feedback are always available. As they engage in reflective discourse with others, students build the language that they need to take their learning further.

  • What opportunities do your students have to give each other in-depth feedback?
  • What can you do to help your students gain the learning skills that they will use in the future?
  • How could you achieve less gatekeeping and more transparency when it comes to student learning?


At level three we create what we call, well we organise what we call, a two panel deadline assessment opportunity. It’s a peer assessment. So at level three of course they do three panels, across all disciplines. So we’ve got painting, photography, design, printmaking.

There’s a slight agenda where we want the students to have two panels of work done by a certain date so that we can really get them to meet the overall deadline successfully. So we thought, well, if we set this date let’s also make the most of this, and have a peer assessment activity. So we get them out of their classes for the afternoon. They all come together and all their panels go up. They basically look at each other’s work and they give each other feedback.

Through the build up to that two panel deadline day we more or less spend a week or two before that just really setting them up for that, so that there’s value in it. We explain to them what will happen afterwards. We try and encourage them to understand that it is a very valuable tool, because critique is very much a part of our practice anyway.

We make the assumption that most of our students will go on to tertiary, go on to visual arts. We would feel very guilty for our colleagues in the tertiary sector to kind of get these students who’ve never done critique, who don’t know how to look at their work, be reflective, look at other students’ work, and be reflective. The important part of them learning to learn is how they know what the evaluation criteria is going to look like. And becoming familiar with it.

We use this form which we cut into four, and it has got sort of questions that students need to answer about their peers’ work and there’s also a star and a wish. This was based on a strategy that one of our colleagues brought back when he was looking at schools overseas. The idea here is that with the star they give something positive about the work they really enjoyed when they looked at the panels. The wish is something that they wish that they would do more of. So it was sort of a gentle approach to giving feedback to each other because it can, I think, some of the students do feel they don’t want to give criticism to their friends’ work. The questions at the top are based the criteria language and then they give them a grade of achieved, merit, or an excellence. So the teachers also do this, as well, and they do as many forms as they want during the time allocated. Then the students at the end receive their forms and take it with them, and they can then reflect on their own panels.

I mean the most important thing, I think, is the transparency of what it is of what they’re being assessed against. It’s really hard for students to understand that they feel that we are the gatekeepers of the information and we’re trying to say we’re not, we’re facilitating that information. We’re trying to make it transparent and I think the other thing too is encouraging them of the authenticity of the two panel deadline. It’s not just good enough to have it all on screen for example if you’re a photographer or designer, or it’s not good enough to have it tucked away into a folio zip case if you’re a painter or a printmaker. That by displaying it you’re actually making it public, you’re putting it out there and it’s sort of that critique which is an authentic, real world experience as opposed to a fabricated thing which “Oh well here it is on screen and that’s what it looks like”.

The next day, during the next lesson that we see the students after the critique, we give them another form which they fill out to reflect on what happened. Things like, questions like:

  • Who do I go to see for further clarification?
  • What were some of the positives about my work?
  • What were some of the things I need to work on?

And then they also are given a calendar of how they’re now going to now meet the deadlines for the rest of the year and what they need to revisit and all that sort of thing. They also talk more about their work using the language of the criteria because they’ve now really understood it by applying it to other students’ work. We feel it really sets them up well leading into that final part of the year.

Published on: 09 May 2013