Successful Art Class Critique
Marvin Bartel © 2002

Teacher Instructions for Critique Response Form for Art Students

Also see Empathic Critique: a search to discover what has happened in the work.
Note:  For a printable Art Critique Sheet student handout, click here
For a page of explanation to accompany the student handout critique form, click here
For an Art Rubric used to assess art (not the same as class critique), click here
For a Rubric to Assess the Critique Discussion and Writing about art, click here

What does the Teacher Do?

  1. I have students display their work so every participant has a work up for discussion. I give some display guidelines for them to follow so the presentation looks good and work can be seen easily by all participants. Students who are not finished might use the time to keep working to finish. It is sometimes found that students without work on display are not as interested and they are more apt to offer negative comments. 
  2. I hand out copies of the Artwork Critique Forms and they draw names from a box.
  3. I introduce the process. I tell them that what they write will be seen by the person whose work they are describing, use the "platinum" rule.  The Platinum rule is: "Try to write what you think that person wants to hear".  The Golden rule would be nearly as good, "What you would like to hear."
  4. If it is peer evaluation, I ask students to avoid all judgmental comments.  I stress description, analysis, and interpretation.  These are comments that say what we see, why it makes an impression, and what it might mean or how it makes the viewer feel. No one may say, "I like . . ."  or,  "I don't like . . . "  I ask them to simply say, "The first thing I see is . . . "  "This ____ stands out for me because of the . . . . (size, color, brightness, placement, subject, etc.) contrast." 
  5. If this is a critique of an exemplar from art history, I do allow them the end up with judgment after they have described, analyzed and interpreted.
  6. I ask students to jot down responses on the critique form.  I encourage them to make a guess and to speculate if they are not sure what to say.  I encourage them use their imaginations.
  7. I tell them they will get to see what other students have written about their work.
  8. If a student makes an observation that may seem a bit unusual, I try to affirm something about it, and invite others in the class to offer alternative observations.  If I strongly disagree with an observation, I do not argue the point, but I first see what other students might have noticed.  Often this takes care of it.   If nobody notices something important that I notice, I might simply say, "I am still curious about something."  I might say, "To me it looks a little more dimensional here than here. Does anybody else see it that way? Why might that be?"  Or, I might say, "I was wondering about the size of this item, what would happen if was smaller or larger?  Which would you try first?"  Or, I might say,  "What would happen if this item was brighter or duller?  Which would you try first?"
  9. To the extent that class time is available, I lead a discussion.  I call on class members to share their answers. I try to be fair by spending about the same amount of time with each participant's work. If I run out of time, I apologize to those who have been missed.  I promise to start with them the next time.  I try to keep my promises.
  10. I often ask for other answers after the first student has spoken.  I like to get the alternative ideas out in the open for discussion.
  11. I try to call on those who are quite.  I may have to do this early so they have a chance to talk before all the obvious responses have been mentioned.
  12. After some discussion, the student who made the work is given the option of make comments.
  13. At the end, calling first on a quiet person who has not said to much, I ask for a summary and review of what has being discovered and learned in this discussion.  If I habitually review it for them, they may grow to depend on my thoughts rather than thinking for themselves.

What do the Students Do?

  1. Students select another student's work by some fair method so that every student's work gets at least one or an equal number of  peer assessments. 
  2. After jotting down their ideas, they discuss under the leadership of the teacher. The teacher monitors the discussion be sure no one makes judgmental or negative comments. 
  3. At the end they allow the student who created the work to see the form before it is turned in to the teacher who can use it review student writing and thinking skills.
Using a Team Learning Collaborative Process

Once a group of students has learned the process, they are encouraged to conduct critiques on their own in small groups without direct teacher supervision.  This type of teacher-free learning is my goal in art education.  The more I can get students to ask questions and develop answers for themselves, the more I can expect them to be life-long learners who will continue to develop their artistic skills and understanding.  I encourage them to think like team members in the same way that athletes work in teams.  Their goal is help each other so that every one can benefit from the practice.  That means not hoarding the ball, but being sure that each person on the team is encouraged to express their ideas.

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If you like this page, try clicking on  Lots-a-Links about Art Education by Marvin Bartel

Note:  This page is for the art teacher.  For printable student handouts, click here, and here.
Percy Principles of Art and Composition

You are invited to link this page from your web site. 
Teachers may make copies of the Artwork Critique Form for Art Students for educational and/or non profit use. 
Teachers are also invited make copies of Notes for Artwork Critique Form for their Art Students.
You must keep the copied by permission line attribution line with the form when you copy it. 
Also see Empathic Critique: a search to discover what has happened in the work.

You may not place this page on your web site unless you get permission.  Your questions, suggestions, and comments are appreciated.  CONTACT the author.

UPDATED: January 2012