Supporting students through crits

Most students are frightened by crits – particularly large-group crits, which are probably counterproductive experiences (Blair, 2006) and could usefully be avoided. Small seminar group crits may be the most effective (ibid).

Students with SpLDs are likely to be particularly anxious (Carroll and Iles, 2006) with the probable exception of ADHD students, who may thrive in this arena. Many international (Sovic, 2008) and introvert students (Cain, 2012) may also be very anxious.

Crits will be new and alien to many international students.

As with dyspraxics, international students are likely to have word finding issues; many students, notably dyspraxics, will also have organisational difficulties, and their plans will unravel if they are interrupted.

The stress comes from worrying that my image to others will be damaged. (Hong Kong student)

 (Sovic, 2008:155)

© Matthew Tizzard


What is a crit

There is no one definition of a studio critique. Make clear that it is not about finding fault (a standard use of the term ‘criticism’); instead, ‘critiques and art criticism are occasions for contemplation and commentary’ (Barrett, 2019:2).

The value of crits

Explain what a crit can be and what students can gain from it. The introduction to Crits (see below) is a useful starting point. Be a model for a good crit, and avoid connoisseurship (aesthetic judgements).

Rules of engagement

Make clear what ‘good’ or ‘poor’ might look like, relating these to the learning outcomes and assessment criteria.
To ensure parity, maybe have a crib with a list of questions students are asked.
Suggest to students (and model this) that all negative feedback is turned into a positive. ‘You shouldn’t have done this’ might become ‘It would probably have been stronger if you had done this [e.g. more research].’
(see also Groupwork)


Remind students of the value of simplicity:

‘Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.’  

(attrib. Einstein)


Give students a target vocabulary and ensure they can pronounce it so that they can use it (e.g. Suggest they practise this vocabulary and create word clusters (synonyms and antonyms) to support memory. Use multisensory techniques to learn the vocabulary (see it, say it, hear it. And maybe make it kinaesthetic).

© Matthew Tizzard


Offer suggestions for ‘prompts’ for the presentation, e.g. mind maps, cards.


Remind students this is work in progress; they will not know the answers to everything, and this is fine; they may be given ideas that they can usefully explore later.

References and further reading:

Barrett, T. (2019) Crits: a student manual London: Bloomsbury

Blair, B. (2006) ‘At the end of a huge crit in the summer, it was “crap” – I’d worked really hard but all she said was “fine” and I was gutted’ in: Art, Design & Communication in Higher Education 5:2, pp 83-95

Brown, J. and Brown, L. (2013) ‘The international student sojourn, identity conflict and threats to well-being’ in: British Journal of Guidance & Counselling, 41:4, pp.395-413

Cain, S (2012) The Power of Introverts

Carroll, J. and Iles, J. (2006) ‘An assessment of anxiety levels in dyslexic students in highereducation’ in: British Journal of Educational Psychology, 76:3, pp.651-662

Slovic, S. (2008) ‘Coping with stress: the perspective of international students’ in Art, Design & Communication in Higher Education 6:3, pp.145-158