A conversation about critique as a signature pedagogy in the Arts and Humanities
Reflecting on the project
PM: I found a lot of common threads about critique, and feel that several of the contributions are fairly in line with each other—especially the essays that focused on creative writing, composition, art/design, dance, theater, music. Each of these essays spent some time unpacking the process and value of critique in the classroom, focusing to some extent on the hands-on aspect of critique. I also saw overlap in the structures of critique, such as the need for iteration, the value of reflection, expert/novice relationships, social dynamics and power structures, the need to use disciplinary language, formative vs. summative feedback, procedural steps of a critique, modeling how critique works, etc. Some of the other essays seem a little bit more focused on meta-level issues. Nancy, your essay with Jen and Ben’s on foreign languages are broader in my view, more about the big picture of signature pedagogies writ large. Others, Jill’s in particular, critiqued the process of critique and pointed out that it’s not always rosy and good. I also like Jen’s thoughts about growing as one who critiques towards a level of autonomy and self-sufficiency.
NC: Yes, a developmental activity, not a discrete classroom activity but part of a series that occurs over time. This reminds me of one of the common features of the arts and humanities mentioned at one of our ISSOTL Interest Group panels: the process of any learning activity is as important as product. It strikes me that critique—when facilitated well—is firmly grounded in some of what we know about the processes by which learning happens. In Knowing What Students Know: The Science and Design of Educational Assessment, Pellegrino et al. (2001) conclude that “assessments, especially those conducted in the context of classroom instruction, should focus on making students’ thinking visible to both their teachers and themselves” (4). In most situations, critique or peer review or workshop does precisely that work of making thinking visible—but a very specific moment of guided thinking. Again, Pellegrino et al. say that “students learn more when they understand (and even participate in developing) the criteria by which their work will be evaluated, and when they engage in peer and self-assessment during which they apply those criteria” (9). What’s made visible in critique is the practice in applying these criteria. This metacognitive work is powerful, something we know for certain about how learning best happens…