If there is one thing that has really improved my learning design practice in the last few years, it is the use of critique protocols. I was first introduced to this by my great friend and inspiration Darren Mead. Daz was lucky enough to visit High Tech High to see some really powerful project based learning, and one of the things he brought back to share at school was a critique protocol. Critique is a really powerful lens through which learners can look at their own and others' work in order to improve it.
At this point, I would like to use another phrase that I coined in a different professional learning session Darren was leading on feedback and assessment for learning; feedforward. Essentially, feedback is a description of what and how you have done so far in your learning and feedforward are the steps you can take to improve and critique protocols are essential in developing this.
After Darren talked to use about being kind (but realistic), specific (focussing on the parts to improve the whole) and helpful (providing feedforward) I wanted to further understand this simple but powerful concept, so I read and continually recommend the book "An Ethic of Excellence" by one of the former High Tech High teachers and one of my edu heroes, Ron Berger. So as my understanding deepened, I really started to build critique into my everyday practice both in my classes and in my wider working life. I also realised the importance of being mindful when giving and receiving critique and started to integrate the idea of the Chinese character ting which means to listen and is built up of symbols meaning ears, eyes, heart and undivided attention. Bringing these things together gave me a language which allowed me to promote this type of thinking in the classroom.
Last year Tom Barrett and I worked on a graphic which could be used to support this and came up with the image below:
To briefly explain, the top left quarter represents the need to be mindful when giving and receiving critique. Unless you are totally in the moment you will miss what is important feedforward. On the top right, we specify that it is ok to be hard on content, because everyone wants their work to be as good as possible, but we need to be soft on people because people feel emotionally attached to the work they produce and critique should be seen as about the work, not an attack on the person. In the bottom left, we acknowledge that if you are quiet and do not participate, it is important to step up and say your piece, whilst equally important, if you are always giving your opinion it is important to know when to step back and listen. Finally, in the bottom right hand corner, we hit the crux of critique and feedforward; all critique should be kind, specific and helpful if it is to be of any value at all.
I love the way that this video exemplifies the power of critique and often use ot with my learners;
I truly find critique an incredibly valuable part of the learning process and encourage you to try it. Here is a post I wrote a long time ago with a very specific critique fine tuning protocol and here is a photo of Ron Berger the time that I missed meeting him...