It's not failure; it's your launch into iteration.

Teaching students how to encourage each other through mindful criticism to improve the design process.

Photo of Karen Qualey
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Evolve (Sept 2015):

    Create a self-paced course for teachers to learn about the design process and mindful criticism. 

    This presentation is my prototype / outline for a self-paced course for teachers to begin thinking about using the design process in their classroom or makerspace. It would be arranged into six smaller categories with opportunities to share, reflect and build community. It's really just an organized, more linear approach to what I've been thinking on sharing with teachers.

    • Introduction
    • Maker Myths
    • Design Thinking Rationale
    • Design Process (Needs more resources)
    • Mindful Criticism
    • Resources to Get Started

    Create resources for students to practice the design process and mindful criticism.

    I've created a Google Form for students to record their feedback.  However, after sharing this with a teacher, I've decided that student feedback needs to be in a more open and publicly visible environment. I propose having students use Google Classroom as safe and well-moderated place for sharing their feedback and ideas.  I just haven't had time to get the students together and try it out - after all, they just got back to school!

    My biggest take away is to SLOW DOWN the feedback process. I'd also like to create a video that goes with Feldman's formalist model of art criticism. It will lead kids through the thinking at a moderate pace - giving time for thinking at each level (description, analysis, interpretation and judgement). Students could play the video at each part of the feedback process (peer, formative, and summative) which would help deepen their thinking and pace their conversation, ensuring they spend enough time on each step. The video would only serve as a scaffold as they begin to become more confident in their mindful criticism  / feedback skills.


History and Context (August 2015):

I think it’s important to teach the process and keep it visible for students. I’ve been using NASA’s engineering process because well, if it’s good enough for NASA, it just might be good enough for my students ;) This example of the design process was modified by Carlyn Maw (Crash Space LA / @carlynorama). This process requests you layer in a theme or design challenge.  It keeps the objective the same for all students; but the solutions varied.  Students are required to state the problem, generate ideas, select a solution, build the item, evaluate and present results.

However, I find it is most important for students to give, get and use mindful criticism to improve their designs and creative process.  Reliance upon iteration and fast prototyping requires feedback, you have to be open to criticism to be innovative.  My new (at this very moment) mantra: You have to be open to criticism to be innovative.

Considering my very recent and very new mantra for the year; critique is most important.  It shouldn’t occur just once, but at many levels of the design process on the same same project.  Rosanne Somerson (RISD / @rsomerson) and Mara Hermano (RISD / @HermanoMara) helped me to outline three forms of critique that could be built into any project.

  1. Peer Critique (your team): Once students select a solution, they pause to discuss and take a “once over” critique of their proposed idea before moving into the build phase.  This helps kids stop and reevaluate “where am I going?” and “why am I going there?”
  2. Formative Critique (other teams / outside perspective): Once the item is built, students share it with another student team.  This encourages kids to see their project through new eyes and they should be open to criticism.  It encourages students to ask, “did I leave anything out?”
  3. Summative Critique (formal and by a master/expert): This would be the final (but not really as they may enter another round of iteration) level of critique. This could be a presentation to the teacher/facilitator, but I would prefer to see students connect with experts outside of the classroom walls. The presentation of results should also show the design process students used; not just the product. It should also acknowledge the mindful criticism that influenced their project; keeping it visible. This is key for growing as a sophisticated thinker and designer.

The graphic below helps to explain how the design process and these levels of critique can work together.

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Model of Criticism: At this point, I still plan to utilize Edmund Feldman's Formalized Model of art Criticism do guide the design of how to teach mindful criticism.  I see this process (pictured below / links to Google Presentation) being transferable across multiple disciplines.

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Getting to the Point:  I’m fortunate to be part of a coding in the classroom cohort where I’m working with an instructional partner to help build resources for teaching students how to provide mindful criticism. We want this to be valued equally with the design process.

My partner and I will make:

  • Resources for teachers to build the design & critique process into a classroom project
  • Online course in a shared LMS on design thinking (prep for makerspace use)

Our students will make:

  • Videos for modeling mindful criticism
  • Videos that provide explanation of design process & level of mindful criticism
  • Thinking prompts for the rehearsal of providing mindful criticism
  • Social / emotional strategies for providing and receiving mindful criticism

I need your help!  What do you think should be added to this list? What sort of quality assurance recommendations would you add?  How would you help teachers and students make mindful criticism a part of the school culture? How would you incorporate this into the design process? We’re just getting started, so we’re wide open to suggestions!


Join the conversation:

Photo of Becka Nathan

I really like this idea! Useful feedback is something that you have to explicitly each both in terms of being able to give it and receive/use it, I think. We use a method of peer assessment/feedback called Rosebud Feedback that I started with the kids at the start of the year to encourage them to give feedback that was really purposeful rather than just "I love how you've finished your story!". Like in your model, this gives students a reason for giving feedback as formative assessment so then they're able to see why it needs to be given in such a specific way to work.

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