ST65 – The Alternative Crit: peer feedback in art and design

Room C – TUESDAY 13:00-14:00

Rachel Dickson

Belfast School of Art, Ulster University

Rachel Dickson is a graduate of the Royal College of Art, and is currently Associate Head of School of Belfast School of Art. Pedagogic research interests include student engagement, transition, induction, peer mentoring, student employability, and assessment and feedback. As a practicing artist, research interests explore ideas of memory, the narrative of objects, and the space between art and craft. Rachel Dickson is a Senior Fellow of the HEA and Fellow of the Centre for Higher Education Research Practice.


This paper will explore the implementation of a peer feedback project in art and design as an alternative to the traditional ‘crit’. A range of evidence exists on the benefits of providing students with the opportunity to give feedback to, and receive it from their peers. Peer feedback can demystify assessment strategies, develop skills in self-driven improvement in the quality and depth of work produced. It is vital in preparing students for the demands of progression from year one to two, and onwards.


This paper will explore the implementation of a peer feedback project within BA Hons Contemporary Applied Arts (ceramics, jewellery and silversmithing). The design, implementation, attitudes and responses of students frame the context of the introduction of a more formalised approach to peer feedback within the art and design learning and teaching environment. Student consultation and input will be addressed.
There is a range of evidence of the benefits of providing students with the opportunity to give feedback to, and receive it from, their peers. Peer feedback can demystify assessment strategies, develop skills in self-driven improvement in the quality and depth of work produced, and recognising high quality outcomes in the subject area (Sadler, 1989). The involvement in, and the participation in developing a peer feedback session can also enable students to ‘take an active role in the management of their own learning’ (Liu and Carless, 2006). The QAA has stated that encouraging students to reflect on their own performance as well as receiving feedback from their peers is worthwhile, and even more so “when opportunities for self-assessment are integrated in a module or programme” (QAA, 2006). The process of formalised peer feedback should work more successfully when responsibility is equally shared, where each student both gives and receives feedback, where the feedback occurs on a ‘real’ project, and where ground rules have been explained to students including explanations and value of constructive and formative feedback.
Within art and design, various teaching methods are utilised, including lectures, seminars, individual and group tutorials and critiques. Students will have the opportunity to receive a range of feedback in many forms. As teaching is usually studio-based, many discussions are informal both between staff and student and student to student. This has many positive aspects, including continual informal, formative feedback. However, when students are required to provide feedback to their peers within a ‘crit’, often there is a lack of confidence in providing constructive criticism to their friends. The pilot peer feedback project aimed to overcome this tentative response through formalising the process and introducing elements of confidentiality.

Peer feedback can take many different forms (Hounsell, 2008), through students commenting on a tutor’s written feedback, they can provide criteria on which a piece of work is assessed, or they can comment/ give feedback on work which accompanies a tutor’s written feedback. Peer feedback can take another form, which was employed in this project. Students are asked to assess and give written feedback to another student, on a piece of artwork and oral presentation. Module Feedback Forms are chosen at random, and the assessor remains confidential. This allows for honest, constructive and more rounded feedback. Each student will both give and receive feedback, and as a consequence, will have a richer understanding of the assessment process and its requirements.

In consultation with students, the process was implemented and through feedback from students, further sessions were requested. It is extremely encouraging to see that students responded positively to peer feedback and recognised its value to their learning and development, and the benefit of alternative forms of feedback. Peer feedback is now used as an alternative to ‘the crit’, and has been introduced to all year groups of the program.

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