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I Need Some Feedback: Critique in Inquiry-Based Learning

How can you create a classroom that can't live without critique - the structured process of giving, receiving, and incorporating peer feedback to improve student work? It all starts with creating a safe space for critique practices to thrive. What are two ways you can begin to do this? Start by trusting the language and striving for consistency.



Trust the Language


Critique is a step by step process with detailed rules about the use of language: how you say something is very important during a critique session. The specific language used makes the critique about student work - not about the students themselves.


For example, when we give any feedback during a critique, it is always in reference to the goals, or success criteria , that were selected before the critique began. What happens when a student gives this kind of warm or cool feedback?

  • "I see you are meeting the goal of supporting your claim with relevant evidence, because I see...

  • "I'm not sure you are going to meet the goal of supporting your claim with relevant evidence, because I don't see...

It's almost impossible to take language like that personally - or to shrug it off as just another person's opinion. And before you say - "My students would never use language like that!" think about how simple it is to give them sentence stems - so they can lean on those stems as they give critique. These stems also help the students who are giving the feedback - they don't have to fret over how to say something to avoid offending their classmate.


Strive for Consistency


To feel safe in a process, it must be consistently and faithfully applied. Students will look to you to find out if the rules of critique regarding language and type of feedback are the kinds of rules that matter - or the kinds of rules that can be broken. There are several things you can do to make sure you are consistent in process of critique:

  • Regardless of whether or not you think your students understand the rules of critique - review them every time before a critique session.

  • Make the rules physically present in the room - on a poster or written on the board.

  • Model language and behaviors.

  • Take time to stop and deal with problems early.

  • Gradually hand stewardship of the process over to students - allowing them to lead the review of the rules - or model the proper use of language and behaviors.

The image above comes from inquirED's critique rules posters. You can find these posters and more resources about critique on our handouts page.