Critique Groups

One of my goals this year is to develop my students as active, reflective learners. I’ve been using formative assessment practises in my classroom for quite a few years but I’ve always felt that the students were ‘doing a self or peer assessment’ because I asked them to and not really because they wanted to. Why?

1. It slows me down.
2. But I already finished my work. Why should I do it again after some feedback?
3. I actually don’t really care how I can improve…

And that was the crutch of it. I would say the majority of my class felt like this and that’s why they would give feedback that thoughtless and a waste of time. And even worse, they woud give a token gesture to responding to it.

So – how can increase student’s motivation to improve? If we’ve achieved this then maybe we can reach the holy grail of teaching

 – students seeking feedback independently!

In the Christmas holidays I stumbled on this video on Vimeo. It shows a teacher explaining what a Critique Group is and how it works. But the beauty of this instruction is the story he tells about a young boy, Austin, who had feedback from his peers and the results it gives us! Quality work!

I decided I would show the class this video partly because the video is so powerful in the way the teacher shows the process but also because my students would see children their age!
The result? I was amazed to see the class glued to the screen and ‘oohing and aahhing’ when the end result of Austin’s butterfly picture was revealed. To my surprise they seemed to catch on! This was my perception of how they saw the video, partly based on discussion afterwards.
1. They ‘got’ the idea of multiple points of feedback.
2. They understood why he needed to have lots of attempts at it.
3. They were amazed at his final drawing and how proud he must have felt afterwards.
Again, to my amazement, they were really excited about having a critique group about some art we had just finished- or so they thought. They were excited about it and wanted to have another go, based on feedback from their peers.
So we had a go. How did it work out? That’s the next post!
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