Unit 02: Teaching Development Project Proposal

Will enabling students to define the evaluation criteria, establish a shared language framework and identify ‘best practice’ in a crit, achieve an active arena of student communication and participation?

“In design learning and teaching the crit is widely considered to provide a key moment of critical debate and intervention” (Percy 2004)

The Foundation course exposes students to exciting and new ways of seeing and thinking within art and design disciplines. The crit is an integral part of art and design education; it is an arena to validate, discuss, share, explain, develop and define ideas, which can enable reflective and critical learning within students (Brockbank & McGill 2007, p227). A crit creates a forum for discourse equipping the students with the confidence, understanding and language to become apart of a community of practice (Wenger 2006).

The Foundation course at CSM is fast paced, running over a 32-week period, diagnostic rotations during weeks 1 to 9 with pathway specialisation occurring in week 11. Pathway specialisation covers Units 5&6; the schema of work constitutes seven one-week projects to introduce key principles, processes and approaches, the outcomes of which are to create a strong portfolio to use for BA course progression. At the end of each one-week project the outcome(s) and supporting work (sketchbooks, mock-ups, reflective journal, research) are exhibited for a crit.

On average class sizes are around 30 students, a mixture of international and home/EU students with varying degrees of English language skills and mixed abilities and proficiency within the discipline. Consequently I have found negotiating a meaningful and valued crit a challenge. The problems I have faced fall into two categories:

1. Communication:

  • International students find it very difficult to communicate their ideas if they are not confident with their English language skills.
  • The students do not posses the specialist language to be able to fully articulate their views or ideas.
  • The quality of feedback tends to be superficial and not meaningful, e.g. “I like it” or “I agree with what they said…”

2. Participation:

  • The ‘uncomfortable silence’ which I feel the need to fill, thus I end up doing too much of the talking.
  • Some students do not say anything, others too much!
  • Maintaining a rhythm, momentum and energy.

The strategies I propose to promote communication and participation are centered on aligning the crit to facilitate discourse, establish a shared framework of language, encourage considered and constructive peer-to-peer feedback and embrace the notions of threshold concepts, communities of practice and constructive alignment. The structure of my intervention is as follows:

  • Split students randomly into six groups of five (+/-1) and cluster around the same desk space. Within each group allocate the following roles and responsibilities:
    • Spokesperson / Team leader
    • Time keeper
  • Each group conducts a 10min brainstorm to establish and define the relevant evaluation criteria for the outcome(s) and supporting work e.g.:
    • Research
    • Ideas development
    • Experimentation
    • Materials and methods
    • Production quality
    • Communication
  • All groups feedback to a larger class brainstorm, to establish the evaluation criteria, which will be listed on the whiteboard.
  • Each group conducts two 7mins brainstorms on:
    • ‘Unhelpful’ words / phrases which are not useful within feedback:
      • “It’s nice…”
      • “I like the colour…”
    • ‘Helpful’ words / phrases which are useful within feedback:
      • “Have you seen the work of such and such…”
      • “I like the print process you have used, have you explored cyanotype…”
  • All groups feedback to a larger class brainstorm to establish a list of words that cannot be used in the written feedback, which will be listed on the whiteboard
  • Students display all outcome(s) and supporting work.
  • Each group rotates to a different group’s desk space
    • Each student spends 5mins responding to the work with written feedback addressing each criterion with:
      • Two positives
      • A constructive suggestion for further investigation
    • In groups students share their findings and choose an example of best practice for each criterion
    • Feedback paper is folded and put into the first page of sketchbook
  • Each group rotates to another group’s desk space and repeats the process.
  • At the end of two rotations each group showcases and discusses their chosen ‘best practice’ criterion examples to the rest of the group.
  • On the whiteboard collate all definitions and examples on what constitutes ‘best practice’ for each criterion.

“Communities of practice enable practitioners to take collective responsibility for managing the knowledge they need…” (Wenger 2006)

This intervention establishes an open framework where students take ownership of their learning which increases their depth of understanding. Enabling the authorship of their own evaluation criterion constructively aligns the intended learning outcomes, to the learning and teaching activities with the assessment tasks of Units 5&6 (Biggs 2007). The students identify evidence of their own learning through this process, establishing a reflective practice.

“…learning can become a source of motivation, meaningfulness and personal and social energy” (Osmand, Turner & Land 2008)

The first of ‘Seven Principles Of Good Feedback Practice’ (Nicol & Macfarlane–Dick 2006) states that clarifying what good performance is (goals, criteria, expected standards) greatly assists the student to self-regulated learning. Which is key in the process of transformative learning; whereby a student ‘becomes’ what they are studying; they take ownership of their learning, and becoming part of the community of practice and leads to some change in ideas, beliefs, values, ways of being, knowing and doing. (Danvers 2003)

This intervention aims to develop and refine the student’s language skills through discourse with peers; the guided brainstorms establish a pro forma of considered and relevant language to be built upon in future crits. This will enable students to articulate their ideas and give meaningful and valued feedback, ultimately developing their skills of critical analysis.

A group discussion will evaluate the effectiveness of the intervention; students will feedback comments and suggestions, which I shall document. I intend to expand my research and learning of this area to ensure I facilitate a system to fully encourage communication and participation in crits.


Percy, C. (2004) Critical absence versus critical engagement: problematics of the crit in design learning and teaching, Art, Design and Communication in Higher Education Journal, Vol.2, No.3, PP. 143–154.

Nicol, D.J & Macfarlane-Dick, D. (2006) Formative assessment and self-regulated learning: a model and seven principles of good feedback practice, Studies in Higher Education, Vol.31, No.2, April 2006, PP. 199–218.

Boud, D. (1994) The move to self-assessment: liberation or a new mechanism for oppression? 1994 Scutrea Conference Proceedings, PP.10–13.

Amulya, J. (2003). What is reflective practice? Center for Reflective Community Practice, Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Online Resource accessed December 2011 from  http://crcp.mit.edu

Horton, Dr.I. (2007) The Relationship between Creativity and the Group Crit In Art & Design Education, Creativity of Conformity, Building Cultures of Creativity in Higher Education, January 2007

Blythman, M. Orr, R. & Blair, B. (2007) Criting the Crit, The Higher Education Academy. Online Resource accessed December 2011 from http://www.adm.heacademy.ac.uk/news/subject-centre-news/critiquing-the-crit

Osmond, J., Turner, A., & Land, R. (2008) Threshold concepts and spatial awareness in Transport and Product Design. In R. Land, J. H. F. Meyer & J. Smith (Eds.), Threshold Concepts in the Disciplines (pp. 243-258). Rotterdam: Sense Publishers.

Biggs, J., & Tang, C. (2007) Teaching for quality learning at university: what the student does (3rd ed.). Maidenhead: Society for Research into Higher Education and Open University Press.

Wenger, E. (2006) Communities of Practice; A Brief Introduction. Online Resource accessed October 2011 from http://www.ewenger.com/theory/index.htm

Danvers, J. (2003) Towards a Radical Pedagogy: Provisional Notes of Learning and Teaching in Art & Design. iJADE (International Journal of Art & Design Education), Vol. 22, No.1, p. 47-57.

Engendering a culture of the critical review (or the crit). Nottingham Trent University Online Resource accessed December 2011 from http://www.ntu.ac.uk/cadq/quality/res_learn_teach/index.html

McCarth, C. (2011) The Speed Crit – Redesigning the Design Crit. Online Resource accessed December 2011 from http://www.uia-researchcompetition1.org/sub/sub_05.asp

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.