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Feedback in a secondary art class

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Nikki Maetzig, from Wellington College, discusses the learning to learn principle in the context of her art classes where students learn how to give and receive feedback. Criticism is an important skill for artists, and the skill of effective critique supports students to be self reflective, plan for improvement in their own work, and to ask each other for help. 

Professional learning conversations

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

Effective feedback

Feedback contributes most constructively to learning when it is:

  • provided in the context of a genuine learning conversation
  • given at the time of the learning so that learners can make improvements as they go
  • initiated by the learner and in conjunction with self- and/or peer assessment.

Teachers need to:

  • gauge when (and what kind of) feedback is needed
  • provide strategies to help the learner to improve
  • allow time for the learner to act on the feedback
  • check the adequacy of the feedback with the learner.

NZC Update 21, May 2012, The learning to learn principle

  • What kind of processes do you have set up for regular and meaningful self and peer assessment?
  • In what ways do you promote learning conversations and invitations for feedback with your students?
  • What new skills and teaching do you think staff and students at your school need in order to give and receive effective feedback and critique?

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Assessment: Feedback to promote student learning
This PDF contains teachers' commonly asked questions about feedback and answers based on research literature.


From year nine, we teach the students to be willing to take on criticism, or constructive criticism in the form of critiques - which I think, are in the junior level and at level one, is quite informal. We do tend to ask them to perhaps tell the person next to them how can they improve their work, or does it look how it is expected to look, that sort of thing. I do think that art is very lucky in the fact that the work is very obvious. It’s there. You know instantly how it’s looking. You don’t have to, sort of, read through an essay to see how it’s going - we need to make the most of that opportunity. I think at level one and level two we do have critique processes where we do talk to them using the language more often. It’s more often one on one with the teacher but then we will also get students to talk about each other’s work and see if they can help each other if they’re off or on the right track.

Most of my teachers in class do give us an opportunity to share our work. Like in art, for example, he usually lets us stand up and we go round the class looking at everyone’s work and we can just pick off techniques that we learnt from looking at their work and try it out on our own.

I do what is called a worm and they all stand up, push their chairs in and they have to walk around the desks to look at each other’s work to, kind of, see what everyone else’s work is looking like because it’s important that they are aware of what other students are doing as well.

It just gives us - if you’re sitting there and you’re stuck for ideas, you don’t know what to draw or what to think about you can just go around and pick off ideas to drag into your work.

By doing that they are constantly reflecting on their own work and, ‘Where does my work sit within the standard of the class?’ You can tell that these questions are coming up in their head and as they walk past a few which are obviously rendered really well, or the student is quite talented in the drawing area, for example, they will all make a big fuss of it and I think from there I tend to give them permission to ask each other for help.

A lot of my ideas I just come up with on the spot and chuck it in and most of the time it works out and heaps of people like to know how I came up with it. And so if there’s more people just coming up with ideas, random ideas that work out everyone can try it out in their own piece of work.

So I’ll say if you saw a work that you really liked, perhaps at that point go and talk to that student and find out what they did and they can teach you. I think the result becomes a more collaborative process. That learning to learn is when they can learn from each other. Know that they can actually teach rather than it all being the teacher the only one that can actually give the feedback and talk to them about what is expected of them - the standard of work.

When I get feedback from other students I feel like I’ve accomplished something. Accomplished something that everyone wants to be a part of. So they just want to implicate it into their own piece of work. Just makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something.

It is really quite a wonderful thing when I can take a step a back, and I can see students helping each other out as opposed to always having their hand up, needing me, and of course I find it hard to get around 30 students to help them with their work during any one lesson. But if they can help each other in that situation I think that's more valuable than perhaps what I can give at times.  

Published on: 08 May 2013