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Celebrating Inquiry: Fall 2015 v.2 no.1

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Critiquing Online...Angela McPeake & Samantha Davis

Is there a benefit to cross-classroom collaboration within the art critique practice as a means of formative assessment?


An important element of any art practice is the critiquing process. By learning to speak about the formal elements and intent behind a piece, as well as through receiving constructive feedback in relation to their own work, an artist experiences growth in all areas of their craft. Sadly, many factors within the high school art classroom often result in the removal of this beneficial practice and as a result, students are not pushed to think and create in a highly critical manner.

The purpose of our Professional Inquiry Project was to experiment with the application of formative assessment and critique within a secondary art classroom. The goal throughout our PIP was to create an environment which connected students from various art classrooms in differing schools, exposing them to the works of other students their age. We aimed to create an authentic and engaging experience for our students while establishing the importance of the art community. Aware of the importance of teaching to the 21st century learner, we chose to create a website to foster web-based interactions. Our hope was that in having the students connect in a less structured and semi-private manner, they would not feel the same stress and pressure that accompanies vocalizing opinions within a traditional art critique. Students would be given time to read over the provided artist statement and view a digital image of the work, formulating a response based around handout prompts discussing the formal principles of the artwork, as well as the artist’s intention. We believe that in structuring our critique in this manner, students will have the opportunity for personal reflection in relation to their own artwork and that of others, as well as providing them with the purpose and motivation that accompanies creating artwork for an audience.


Students were asked to create a meaningful collage critiquing some aspect of social media. Our decision to provide our students with this theme was to help generate ideas with an element of cohesion in order to ensure they had a similar understanding when it came time to critique their projects. By scaffolding our instruction and building upon concepts as we worked, we were able to talk to specific ideas and issues within the theme throughout the entire process. By providing the instruction and discussion gradually, students gained confidence in their understanding of the topic and were better prepared to critically assess the artworks they were assigned to.


Throughout this process we were able to watch students think critically about their own artwork and the works of others. They began asking more questions and worked to create meaningful decisions within their projects. Knowing that their piece would be viewed and critiqued by another student, most worked to create something that they were proud of and looked forward to receiving feedback. While we did experience successes within this process, we also came up against a few problems. Coordinating dates between schools proved to be an issue as the students in one school had art class every day for three hours, while the other school had art twice a week for 80 minutes. For this reason, the students of CCH were able to complete their tasks much quicker than those at Myers, resulting in a delay before the critique and a loss of student interest in the project. In order to combat this issue in the future, we would align the project differently, having the students with less frequent work periods begin earlier, resulting in a similar completion timeline. Another problem that we encountered was that some students were not engaged in the given theme, which decreased their motivation and dedication in both the creation of their own artwork and the critique of others. We feel that this could be resolved by providing a more open guideline for the project, allowing for further individualization and interpretation, even if there was still an overarching theme. While our first attempt was not as successful as we had hoped, we still believe that this is an important concept to include within our future art classes and plan to continue working with this process. We also note that this method of critique could be adapted as a tool for online distant learning classrooms and independent studies.

Angela and Samantha are Education students with a passion for the Fine Arts. They share an interest in teaching their students about the benefits of critical thinking and creative problem solving and believe in the importance of embedding art into our everyday lives.