Learning to Work with Critique

The Cherokee Legend of Two Wolves

An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life.  “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy.

It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.”

He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.  (A Cherokee Legend of Two Wolves.)

As soon as I read Cranston Holden – Today’s Manager, I wrote a lesson plan called

Helping Students Manage Their Emotions During Critique

This lesson designed to help students become comfortable with classroom critique, fits with project based inquiry learning in Virtual and Traditional Jigsaws in the Classroom.   Soon to be released on TPT. 

Click to Mix and Solve

The Aims & Objectives of the process are to 

  • Learn how to participate in critique
  • Understand the purpose of critique
  • Relax while drawing
  • Receive feedback about drawing technique

Critique Process

When using this body of work with Middle Years Schooling in a project based inquiry context it is better to conduct classroom critique according to one method so that students always know what to expect and so that they can feel comfortable.  The process outlined below has always worked for me – but I welcome feedback about Critique Methodology.

Part One (Please see lesson plan for drawing instructions) 

Helping Students Manage Their Emotions During Critique

  1. Students are to sit in a circle on the floor with their artwork in front of them.
  2. Decide a place to start in the circle.  Often the question “Who would like to go first?” is enough.
  3. Once started the student is only allowed to say two sentences.
    1. S1. What I like about my drawing is  (e.g. the lines are strong the colours convey meaning) and I think this (aspect e.g. composition) could be improved. (by …e.g.  using the golden mean)
    2. S2. I like (Names) drawing because (e.g. the lines are strong the colours convey meaning) and I think he/she might be able to improve his or her drawing by.
  4. This process takes a while (5-10mins) Each student must speak in turn and the class remains silent while they speak.

Part Two

  1. Students take their journal and write down tips, tricks and insights they have learned from the critique.
  2. They might set it out like this
    1. Where my drawing is now. (e.g. I like the strength of line but composition has let me down)
    2. Where I would like it to be. (e.g. An expressive line drawing that conveys meaning through lines, colour and composition.  Each part works together.)
    3. What I will need to do to get it there. (e.g. use the golden mean and take more care with placement.)

Part Three. (Specific to the A Cherokee Legend of Two Wolves)

  1. Students now journal about how they felt when others were offering criticism of their work.  Indeed some even feel bad when they have to talk about their own work in front of others.
  2. Students are encouraged to list
    1. what was helpful
    2. how they felt when criticized
    3. were their time when the criticism felt unhelpful

Ask them whether they found that their feelings about critique have changed now that they have thought about criticism in this way?  Learning how to function well during critique can take a while but it is well worth the effort.   Usually teachers would not have time to conduct part three but they can say to the students, “Whenever you are feeling negative about critique use your journals and log your feelings.”  This will be very helpful.

To paraphrase Holden: there is an easy way to work with the information and feedback that comes from critique situations.  Filter what is said according to how it makes you feel.  I might not like being told that someone thinks my composition is a little off.  However, if they also draw my attention to a way to improve this aspect of my drawing I will be energised by the thought of improving my work.  Even if taken a little a back at first, I will soon be back at work fixing the problem.

Holden says:

select who or what gets your attention. After spending time with that person or doing that activity ask yourself, “Do I feel drained or do I feel energized?” If it drains you…….DON’T WASTE YOUR TIME WITH IT. If you feel energized, it’s probably adding value to your life and making you better.

One of his mentors, Darren Hardy, puts it like this.

Your mind is an empty glass. When you fill it with dirty water that is the lens you see the world through. The only thing you can see is negativity, doom and gloom. When you begin to pour clean water into it, the dirty water begins to overflow and leave the glass. Soon, if enough clean clear water is poured into the glass container, it will flush out all the murky water and you will be left with a glass of clean beautiful water, and that how you will see the world.

To finalise the critique session read the above quote.

Ask the students

  • “Are you taking in more clean water that dirty?”
  • “Which wolf are you feeding?”


3 thoughts on “Learning to Work with Critique

  1. Jo Murphy Post author

    Hi Alicia, I have fixed this now. The links in a PDF won’t save for Mac. I have now fixed this problem. Thanks for your patience, Jo


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