Improving Public Reviews:
Critiques, Juries and Other Presentations of Students’ Work
It is imperative to the learning process that our students have opportunities to receive feedback, including that which is negative, and incorporate that feedback into further understanding and/or performance. How we provide that feedback is equally important to assure that our students do, indeed, hear, process and use what we say as they continue to develop. Constructive criticism, performed effectively, is a productive educational activity.
As faculty we need to make the purpose of any public review explicit to our students. Obviously the purpose will change based on such things as when the review is held (e.g., mid semester or end of semester) and what level the students are (e.g., first year undergraduates vs. seniors). However, there are a variety of reasons we may use public reviews as part of our pedagogy.
The role of the faculty member in charge is to situate the review, for both the reviewers and the students, within the context of 1) the course and 2) the scope and objectives of the project.
The reviewer should use her/his expertise to help the faculty member meet the course and project objectives through critical and constructive feedback of student work.
In secondary education students rarely learn how to accept and respond to criticism, so in the early undergraduate years they must develop and hone these skills.
The stress that public reviews can cause in students can mitigate the value of the review unless they are able to accurately recall comments, criticisms, and suggestions to use in their current or future work.
Hopefully our thoughtful attention to goals, roles and responsibilities, and preparation of students and reviewers will minimize problems. However, even the most thoughtful preparation may not completely eliminate difficulties.