Improving your crits
I N T E R A C T I V E D E S I G N F O R U M
Issue 6 | December 1999
worked for me:
State the obvious (it may not be)
Spend about 10 minutes at the start of class discussing these questions to get things rolling. I ask for ideas and write them on the board, regardless of what they are. At this stage we're simply thinking about anything and everything we might want to talk about.
Then we go over the list item by item and decide which are MOST important. I circle or underline these half-dozen or so ideas. Then, most importantly, I leave the list on the board so we can continually refer back to it to keep the discussion on track.
2) Level the playing field
One solution is to announce at the start of class that you will spend the same amount of time, say 10 minutes, talking about each piece of work. You can occasionally allow things to run longer when you feel it's important, but students seem to appreciate knowing that everyone will get an equal time in the spotlight (for better or worse).
Lay down the law
To counteract the natural tendency to be defensive, I tell students to make no response to comments while their work is being discussed other than to ask for clarification if they don't understand a particular remark. I frequently have to remind them NOT to react, but to simply hear out the comments. Then, at the end of their time period I ask each student to respond to the comments.
Keep your mouth shut
Your input is valuable (and valued by the students). Simply wait until the end to make your comments. I always try to refer to specific remarks made by students. This lets them know that you're taking their input seriously, as you should.
WORKED FOR ME
I went to the supply cabinet and found a box of colored thumbtacks. When students came into the room I asked them to put their work up on the board and to take four tacks: red, yellow, blue and white.
When everyone's work was on the board, I told the class to each pick two pieces that at first glance caught their attention, and to mark their first choice by sticking a red tack next to it and their second choice with a yellow.
While they were milling around and talking at the front of the room, I asked them to study each piece carefully, reading the copy and looking at the design. After this closer look they again each marked the most effective piece (blue tack) and second-most effective (white tack).
The discussion flowed easily from this: similarities and differences between first-glance choices (red & yellow) and second-look choices (blue & white). Why some work got lots of red AND blue tacks, why others got only red OR blue. And so on.
The combination of activity (milling around, sticking in tacks), anonymity (everyone's opinion counted, but no one had to publicly state it), and voting (we like comparing our opinions with others, that's why "Top 10" lists are so popular) made for a lively class that I enjoyed as much as the students did.
worked for me. What about you?