Public Critique: A practical example

A recent post on creative learning environments Pimp my Classroom: 8 ways to confuse the cleaner provoked lots of interest and some very positive feedback. One suggestion, the personalised ‘critique’ space, or gallery, is a very straightforward idea that is easily transferable across subjects. It’s not a complicated concept and has been extensively written about: Read here and also here. I would encourage all St Peter’s staff to follow these links. Both examples, by English teachers, cite Ron Berger and his work ‘Ethic of Excellence’ as the initial inspiration. Berger’s video ‘Austin’s Butterfly’ has certainly done the rounds, and more on that can be found here.

As previously explained, students were each given a display space. My Year 12’s customised theirs with a previously made self-portrait. Not essential but heightened their sense of ownership. We had the benefit of exhibition boards but this exercise could work equally well with noticeboards or designated wall spaces.

gallery critique_boards

The groundwork prior to the session is of particular importance. Before commencing the critique students had already been introduced to the concept via ‘Austin’s Butterfly’ video. Importantly the specific focus of the critique was outlined, and support materials were accessible.


Click on example above for pdf

Students were presenting ‘first draft’ photographic experiments in response to ‘The Selfie’ and contemporary approaches to self-portraiture. They were asked to pin up their work, initially annotating alongside it, justifying and explaining their decisions using coloured pencils and colour coded key vocabulary to comment on different areas, in this case Technical, Contextual, Visual or Conceptual Values of the image. These resource sheets are double sided and include examples of colour-coded analysis. They are laminated A3 size and kept easily accessible by students as required.


Students then circulated adding feedback (Honest, Helpful & Specific) for each other in the relevant colours also ensuring the use of correct subject specific vocabulary. Time was then provided at the end for students to read, discuss and take on board the peer feedback provided. Examples of these first drafts can be found here. Subsequent time is then provided for development and further critique.

‘Students need to get used to drafting and redrafting their work with regular Public Critique sessions where students offer each other advice and guidance on how to improve their work’
@LearningSpy with reference to Ron Berger

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