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"This Uncertain Space of Teaching": How Design Studio Instructors Talk About Design Critiques Along with Themselves when Giving Critiques



In this study we explored how design studio instructors depicted the design critique, themselves as people offering critiques, and what can be learned from their depictions about improving instructors' abilities to offer critiques. To investigate these issues, we conducted a case study of studio instructors from design programs at a university in the United States. Our data consisted of three semi-structured interviews and one class observation each with six instructors from different programs, organized into a thematic structure that revealed insights into participants' self-interpretations. We found that our participants depicted critiques as being a complex challenge, often placing competing demands upon them that they were required to reconcile. They depicted themselves as meeting these challenges through their cultivation of four dispositions that helped them balance tensions they experienced. We report these challenges and dispositions using our participants own words as much as possible. We also discuss implications of these findings for helping studio instructors improve their ability to offer critiques; assistance should take into account the inescapable need instructors will face to balance challenges that arise during critiques and should also help them cultivate affective dispositions that will help them successfully respond to critique situations.
Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, Vol. 22, No. 1, March 2022, pp.48-66.
doi: 10.14434/josotl.v22i1.30888
This Uncertain Space of Teaching: How Design Studio Instructors
Talk About Design Critiques Along with Themselves when Giving
Jason K. McDonald1 and Esther Michela2
1Brigham Young University
2University of Tennessee, Knoxville
Abstract: In this study we explored how design studio instructors depicted the design critique,
themselves as people offering critiques, and what can be learned from their depictions about improving
instructorsabilities to offer critiques. To investigate these issues, we conducted a case study of studio
instructors from design programs at a university in the United States. Our data consisted of three
semi-structured interviews and one class observation each with six instructors from different
programs, organized into a thematic structure that revealed insights into participants self-
interpretations. We found that our participants depicted critiques as being a complex challenge, often
placing competing demands upon them that they were required to reconcile. They depicted themselves
as meeting these challenges through their cultivation of four dispositions that helped them balance
tensions they experienced. We report these challenges and dispositions using our participants own
words as much as possible. We also discuss implications of these findings for helping studio
instructors improve their ability to offer critiques; assistance should take into account the inescapable
need instructors will face to balance challenges that arise during critiques and should also help them
cultivate affective dispositions that will help them successfully respond to critique situations.
Keywords: design critique; design studio; case study research; philosophy of design.
The purpose of design studio pedagogy is to prepare students to take up the habits and skills of
professional design practice. Characterized by structures like assigning students realistic projects and
modeling design practice (Cennamo, 2016; Schön, 1985), the studio has drawn attention from
researchers not only for its affordances in building skills, but also as a potent means of nurturing
dispositions that are tacit and difficult to explicitly teach (Hoadley & Cox, 2008). Studio pedagogy
not only has a long tradition in conventional design fields like industrial design (Christiaans &
Venselaar, 2005) or architecture (de la Harpe et al., 2009), but it has generated interested on the part
of scholars and teachers in emerging design fields like human-computer interaction (Gray, 2014) or
instructional design (Boling et al., 2015; Clinton & Rieber, 2010; Gibbons, 2016; McDonald et al.,
Because of the growing interest in many disciplines to adopt studio approaches, it is
important that the scholarship of teaching include research to help educators better understand and
apply its techniques. In this study we aim to better understand one of the central components of the
studio approach: the design critique. Previous research in design education has studied critiques
from a number of perspectives. For instance, Belluigi (2016) focused on various roles instructors
might play when offering critiques, such as a master overseeing an apprentice, a critical friend, or as
a servant giving wise counsel. Alternatively, Cennamo and Brandt (2012) highlighted structural
dimensions of the critique, drawing attention to how instructors use it to organize the studio
environment to co-constructknowledge with their students (p. 839). Still others have emphasized
the nature of instructors’moment-to-moment interpersonal interactions(Sonalkar et al., 2016, p.
73), or how critiques model forms of professional design practice (Budge, 2016).
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While we recognize the value of these analytic perspectives in understanding the critique,
including how to carry out critiques in ways that maximally benefit students, in this article we focus
on the experience of being an instructor who offers design critiques. Philosophers such as Dreyfus
(1991), Guignon (2012), and Yanchar and Slife (2017) asserted that a rich understanding of the
human experience includes understanding peoples self-interpretations about how they fit into the
everyday communities to which they belong. In the context of the studio, this includes recognizing
that although instructors are the dominant authority in the setting, the environment itself is not of
their own making. They cannot arbitrarily choose what is expected of them as studio participants,
but they can choose the stances they will take on the various possibilities that the studio offers.
These stands constitute their self-interpretations as studio instructors, or, as Yanchar and Slife called
it, “a kind of commentary on the options and possibilities made available through [their culture] (p.
151). Therefore, studying how studio instructors talk about critiques along with how they view
themselves as people who offer critiques can be a valuable source of insight for other instructors
seeking to implement critique methodologies, especially in the context of studio environments.
To investigate these issues we interviewed instructors who teach in a variety of studios. The
research questions guiding our interviews were: (a) how do studio instructors depict the critique
experience? (b) how do instructors depict themselves as critics? and (c) what can be learned from
their depictions about improving instructorsabilities to offer critiques?
Literature Review
The Critique in Studio Pedagogy
Design critiques are an examination [and evaluation] of an idea, phenomenon, or artifact
(Hokanson, 2012, p. 74). Critiques are one of the definitive aspects of studio pedagogy (Schön,
1985), being a primary method by which instructors evaluate students’ work and design ability
(Cennamo et al., 2011), communicate design knowledge (Adams et al., 2016), model how designers
think and act (Budge, 2016), and support novice designers in developing their professional identity
(Percy, 2004). Critiques play such an important role in design that Gray (2013b) identified them as
the centre of design practice, both in the education of a designer and in formal design practice(p.
110). As Orr and Shreeve (2018) also noted, when practiced well, the [critique] is a pedagogic tool
which helps students to develop a critical and evaluative approach to creative work(p. 88).
Studio critiques can take many forms. They include informal conversations between students
(Gray, 2013a), both formal and informal critiques between an instructor and one or more students
(Goldschmidt et al., 2010; Hokanson, 2012), or high-stakes juries that review final projects or other
milestones of work (Anthony, 1991). The purpose and form critiques take can also vary between
disciplines, or even between instructors within the same discipline (Brandt et al., 2013). Despite
these differences, however, critiques have a reputation for typically being unstructured,and even
somewhat unpredictable(Huet et al., 2007, p. 261). They unfold moment to momentas actors
within the studio respond to other participants or to situational saliences they experience (Adams et
al., 2016, p. 39).
Critiques are not merely an educational technique, however. Gray (2013a) argued that they
help shape the normative behaviours and beliefsof studio participants (p. 203). Seemingly simple
decisions about when, how, or in what form to offer critiques provide tacit clues to both students
and instructors about who is in charge, what kinds of relationships participants should have with
each other, who is authorized to talk, and how much compliance is expected (Oak & Lloyd, 2014;
Webster, 2006; 2008). This does not mean that critiques are deterministic forces that simply replicate
cultural patterns, however. Students actively interpret what they experience in critiques, using what
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critics offer to pursue their own goals even if those critics may have intended something different
(McDonald & Michela, 2020). But critique patterns and forms do function somewhat like a language
that participants deploy to achieve certain effects, whether they are fully aware of those effects or
not (Dozois, 2001; Thiessen & Kelly, 2017).
But despite the benefits critiques might hold, one should not assume they are a universal
good. Critiques are often public, and because of their visibility can create a climate of “fear,
defensiveness, and anxietyamong students, especially with the harsh form they may take in some
fields (Scagnetti, 2017, p. S782). Other researchers have questioned whether critiques might
normalize unequal and unjust relationships between instructors or students, as well (Belluigi, 2016;
Dutton, 1991; Glasser, 2000; Oh et al., 2013). Further, critiques can reflect instructors’ personal
preferences of good work, rather than arising out of students’ own interests, the goals of their
educational program, or broader disciplinary norms (McDonald & Michela, 2019). Yet instructors
may also present critiques as if they were based on objective and unquestionable standards of good
design (Anthony, 1991). For more about critiques in general, especially their pedagogical and cultural
functions, we refer readers to more detailed studies of studio pedagogy (Hokanson, 2012; Orr &
Shreeve, 2018; Sawyer, 2017; Sims & Shreeve, 2012; Williams & Stables, 2017).
All these aspects of critiques their form, benefits and disadvantages, and assumptions or
beliefs held about them provide a background against which studio instructors see possibilities
being made available to them, along with providing tacit standards by which they understand
themselves as achieving (or perhaps not achieving) good forms of studio practice (McDonald &
Michela, 2019). So given the ubiquity of the critique within the studio it seems almost unescapable
that how instructors view critiques along with themselves as critics will be a meaningful influence in
how they understand themselves as instructors, and how they carry out the practice of studio
pedagogy. Recognizing this suggests that the study of studio critiques should also include study of
how instructors interpret these aspects of their experience.
Self-Interpretation and Social Practices
As Brinkmann (2008) explained, human beings are more than only a collection of objective facts,”
such as height, or the colour of [one’s] eyes.” We also take stands on a variety of issues that
definewhat matters to [us], . . . [and] what [we] find valuable(p. 405; emphasis in original).
Sometimes the stands we take are the result of deliberate reflection and decision. Often, however,
they are the result of our adoption of norms and expectations placed upon us as members of the
various communities to which we belong (Guignon, 2012). The totality of these views provides us
with a generally coherent identity calleda self-interpretation,” or a way of being that informs and
orders all [our] activities.” Examples include, being a father or being a professor(Dreyfus, 1991, p.
95; emphasis in original). Self-interpretations are not purely subjective ways of viewing the world.
They are in large measure a reflection of the social practices in which we engage (Dreyfus, 1991;
MacIntyre, 2007). Our views are enabled by the objects we encounter, which in the context of our
various communities already have meaning that transcends any private interpretations we may hold
(Dreyfus, 2014). For example, if one is a writer one will tend to see a table a place where one can
write. Or, if one is a carpenter, one will see tables as places where one can store tools.
Additionally, when we express an identity, it places certain demands upon us about views we
should hold or activities in which we should engage, to which other people will expect us to
conform (Taylor, 1989). Yanchar and Slife (2017) illustrated this using the example of teaching:
Teachers . . . do not act in accordance with any arbitrary account of what students
are and need; rather, if these people are to be teachers, they must cope with the
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needs of students who struggle to learn particular concepts, who are cognitively
unchallenged by certain subject matter, who fail to follow rules that protect the safety
of others, and so on. One does not constructthose classroom realities into or out
of existence in the act of teaching; rather, teachers seek to foster student success in
light of . . . obligations that define the practice of teaching. (p. 150)
As Guignon (2012) observed, studying the self-interpretations that emerge from various
practicesgives us a distinctive way of understanding what it is to be a ‘person’ in the fullest sense of
this word (p. 97). Research that investigates people’s self-interpretations can help articulate and
clarify how we as human beings make meaning out of the various practices to which we feel
committed (Stigliano, 1989). It can also provide insights into the nature of those practices
themselves, that cannot be uncovered through analytic methodologies alone (Yanchar & Slife, 2017).
For these reasons we have scoped our study to focus on the self-interpretations of studio
instructors, as understood through how they depict critiques as well as themselves while giving
To investigate these issues we conducted a case study of studio instructors from design programs at
a university in the United States.
Our participants were studio instructors who teach at a university in the United States. Using Brandt
et al.’s (2013) framework that defines a studio environment, we identified programs containing at
least one studio course, including some outside of traditional design disciplines, which at this
university included areas such as cybersecurity and education. We then purposefully sampled six
programs for this study: two with historical roots in the studio (graphic design; industrial design);
three in which studio teaching was an emerging interest at least at this university (clothing design;
information technology; mechanical engineering), and one where the studio was a new pedagogical
approach, using design inquiry to teach a non-design topic (entrepreneurship). One instructor from
each program was then selected as an interview participant. All instructors approached about the
study chose to participate (see Table 1). Their ages ranged from their late 30s to early 60s. All
participants taught undergraduate courses, with student populations ranging from 18 24. In
addition, Daniel and Nick also advised some graduate students, with students ages ranging from
mid-20s into their 30s or later. Although this recruiting method resulted in a small pool of interview
participants, this was justifiable given our case study methodology. Our focus was to describe the
nuance and detail of individuals and their self-interpretations rather than attempting to discover
generalities found in large populations of research participants (Flyvbjerg, 2001; Stake, 1995).
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Table 1. Summary of Participants.
Year s teaching experience
Information technology
Industrial design
Clothing design
Mechanical engineering
Graphic design
Data Gathering
We conducted three interviews and one class observation with each participant. Interviews ranged
from 45 60 minutes and were transcribed for analysis. Observations ranged between 25 40
minutes and were video recorded to serve as discussion prompts during participants’ second
interviews. The first interview focused on instructors’ backgrounds, common class procedures, and
perspectives on the critique. The second elicited detail about how they critique by comparing their
comments from interview one with activities recorded during our observations (using video
segments as prompts). The third interview allowed participants to clarify thoughts from earlier
discussions, share additional examples, and respond to some of our findings generated from earlier
interviews. Each interview started from prepared prompts; based on their responses participants
were asked follow-up questions to elicit detail and examples (see Seidman, 2006). In general,
participants were allowed to tell their own stories even if an interview protocol could not be
completed (Brinkmann, 2013).
Data analysis
Our analysis procedure followed Yanchar and Gong’s (2019) approach for studying participation in
practices, that has been used successfully in previous research of a similar nature (e.g., Matthews &
Yanchar, 2018; McDonald & Michela, 2019). Our procedure included the following phases, carried
out iteratively throughout the analysis process: (a) identify sections of interview transcripts that
expressed how participants viewed their critique activities or themselves as critics; (b) develop a
preliminary thematic structure based on interview keywords that reflected details of participants’
experiences; (c) refine the initial structure by comparing/contrasting individual keywords, looking
for relationships between keywords, merging similar keywords, etc.; (d) carry out each of the
previous steps again as further interviews were completed, revising our thematic structure to reflect
the additional detail uncovered; and (e) ask each participant to review our initial findings for their
corroboration, and further refined our themes based on their input.
Trustworthiness and Limitations
We used reflective memos, negative case analysis, and member checking to help establish the
trustworthiness of our findings (Lincoln & Guba, 1985). Memos were created at milestones
throughout our process and provided an audit trail of our activities. Negative cases were sought for
each theme by examining transcripts and keywords to look for plausible counter-interpretations of
our data. As relevant, negative cases are reported in our findings. Finally, we conducted two member
checks of our interpretations. First, we shared early findings with participants during their third
interviews, allowing them to add detail, and in some cases challenge our initial interpretations.
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Second, we provided participants with a draft of our findings and asked them to comment on our
use of their statements. At most they requested minor clarifications in how we excerpted their
comments. All their requests have been incorporated into our findings.
Even with our efforts to build trustworthiness we are aware this study does have limitations.
We recognize our findings are based on the comments of certain types of instructors. Both because
of our in-depth interviewing method and because of the specific programs taught at this university,
not every field with a studio tradition could be included. Also, our participants all seemed to enjoy
their work as studio instructors, meaning our findings are not informed by those who might view
the studio unfavorably. All participants were from the same university, so we recognize that
institutional culture could play a role in how they viewed and depicted their experiences. We also
only found one woman to include as a participant in the study. While this reflects the percentage of
women teaching in the studio departments at our selected university, we acknowledge that it limits
the type of self-interpretations we encountered. Although the study’s limitations do not negate the
experiences of those we did interview, we acknowledge that additional research should be conducted
to address gaps in our findings and provided other, important accounts instructors’ experience with
the critique. Finally, we recognize the value of including student perspectives in understanding
design critiques; although out of scope for this study we point to a companion study we have
completed that addressed studentsviews (McDonald & Michela, 2020).
We also note that we do not view our interpretations of participants’ experiences as final.
Our aim is to present a version of the studio’s pedagogical form of life as seen by those who have
had a certain type of experience in this world of practice. While we hope readers find our
interpretations insightful, we are also open to their alternative interpretations, as well.
Our research interest was to understand how studio instructors depict critiques along with
themselves as people offering critiques. Throughout our interviews, participants depicted the need
to balance complex, and sometimes competing, demands that critiques placed upon them. In fact,
over a third of our interview content related in some fashion to this overarching theme. Our account
of what participants reported includes three challenges that illustrate the type of complexity they
faced, along with four dispositions they told us helped them cope as they strove towards equilibrium
(see Tables 2 and 3).
Table 2. Summary of Challenges.
Complexity involved
Interpersonal dynamics
Critiques are more than only assessing students’ work; participants also
consider how students might respond to being critiqued, as well as how
their own personality might influence the critique experience.
Prior experience
Participants’ prior experience can help them offer better critiques, but
that experience might also be diff
icult to communicate explicitly or
Critique standards
Clear guidelines, criteria, or standards can focus participants’ critique
actions, but might also oversimplify or constrain the types of critiques
they offer.
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Table 3. Summary of Dispositions.
Risk tolerance
Attempting to resolve the tension of competing demands by taking
chances on activities with uncertain outcomes.
Observing critique situations with sensitivity, alertness, and awareness.
Pausing, examining critique situations more deeply, reflecting, or
otherwise taking measures to act thoughtfully in the face of complexity.
Being relatively untroubled when problems or complexities arise during
For our participants, the experience of being a studio instructor was one in which they engaged in
almost constant decision-making about why, when, and how to offer a particular critique to a
particular student (or group of students). While these decisions were sometimes straightforward,
they were just as likely to create challenges, as they required participants to carefully balance a
multiplicity of factors: how could they provide detailed advice without simply doing the work for
their students? How could they encourage students to pursue their own interests, while also
maintaining disciplinary standards and norms? How could they help students be as successful as
possible while also recognizing it was useful to sometimes allow them to fail? To better understand
how such issues affected our instructors’ experiences, we present three challenges they expressed
that illustrate the type of complexities, paradoxes, and problematics they faced, namely, the effects
of: (a) interpersonal dynamics; (b) prior experience; and (c) critique standards.
Interpersonal dynamics. As participants reflected on their critiques, they described complexities
that arose from interpersonal factors in their environment, including the challenge of trying to
predict reactions students could have to judgments they made. We particularly noted this as
participants described two, competing ways they might offer critiques. The first was to be very direct
and candid, but risk hurting students who may have been unaccustomed to such blunt evaluation.
The second was to soften critiques to be more emotionally supportive, but risk that students might
misunderstand the substance or importance of feedback they were given.
In the abstract it may seem simple to conclude that our participants should have harmonized
the extremesoffering direct, clear critiques that were also encouraging and nurturing. But some
participants described how such balancing could be difficult because standards such as direct or
encouraging were viewed differently by the various students they critiqued. Sam provided an
When I was teaching at [another university] I had a number of studentssome of
them very talentedwho were afraid to stand up in front of the class and show off
their work, even if no one gave them feedback. I had students that would even leave
class when it was their turn to share. It shocked me to realize that in some groups,
maybe students have enough social anxiety that I’m not able to just turn over
critiques to them in a way that is very easy to do in other groups.
Other participants remarked that even the same student might react differently to being
critiqued at different times. Jeff called this an emotional mismatch,” where some subjective
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factor, perhaps even external to the class, wasoverwhelmingto a student in-the-moment, eliciting
an unanticipated reaction to seemingly benign feedback.
Students’ reactions to critiques were not the only interpersonal dynamic our participants
reported. Some also noted complexities they could introduce into the environment themselves. We
recognized this as participants described occasional incompatibility between the stance they took
during a critique, and the actual progress they thought students had made. For example, Nick
described, I want to be positive, but there [may not be] a lot to be positive about. And then I say
things that are insincere, which bothers me.Daniel similarly described, there are times when I’m
too kind. . . . And the risk is that sometimes I might not provide as much feedback [as I should].”
These instructors described critiques as more than dispassionately assessing students’ performance
against objective criteria; rather, the evaluations they made were also colored by deep-seated desires
they had in relation to their students. And because such desires could affect how students responded
to critiques, they added an additional challenge to the interpersonal dynamics described so far. In a
sense, the effects of all these interpersonal dynamics could lead to a type of triple balancing during
critiques, where instructors tried to manage the substance of the critique itself, their projections of
possible student reactions, and the influence of their own personalities, all at the same time.
Prior experience. Participants also discussed balancing complexity that their prior experience,
both as design professionals or as teachers, could add to critiques. This is not to suggest they said
prior experience was unhelpful; participants described many benefits that experience brought. One
of the most common was that experience helped them more easily recognize problems their
students might face. Sam, for example, noted that at this point in his career, I can draw on more
principles [when I critique] than I could when I was a first-year adjunct.” He elaborated, once you
see a hundred student projects . . . it becomes easier to see potential pitfalls and give advice.” Ben
similarly described, lots of history has given me the ability to say . . . I’ve seen this movie before,
and I know how it ends.’” And Daniel described a benefit of his experience as a sense of
confidence,helping him feel at ease when he provides feedback on the fly,with little time to
Accompanying these benefits, however, participants identified at least two ways that prior
experience might complicate the critique process. First, their design expertise was tacit, and could be
difficult to communicate. As Daniel described:
If somebody asks me . . . Why?That's a tough question. I can often come up with
an answer, but not always right off the bat. . . . There is a role for intuition or gut-
feels that is usually right, but articulating why you have that gut-feelyou may not
even know yourself.
Second, and related to the first, some participants observed that while experience gave them
sophisticated views of design on which to base critiques, those views might be too advanced to
communicate in a manner that novice students could easily understand. Nick reflected that, I have
a tendency to make [design] complex because I’ve experienced it so many times. . . . I have to try
really hard to not let that complexity come in and confuse [students].” Or, as Sam expressed,
[sometimes] I launch into something . . . but then realize that I'm speaking way over [students’]
heads because they're still struggling with some basic principle that I really needed to talk about
first. While experience was clearly an attribute that participants would not give up just to simplify
their critiques, they did recognize that it could also require them to balance how to best draw upon
that experience, without either miscommunicating something that was difficult to put into words, or
otherwise overwhelm students in the process.
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Critique standards. A third challenge our participants expressed was balancing the benefits and
drawbacks of explicit evaluation criteria or other standards. Some departments, like Sam’s, provided
at least high-level criteria of how students were expected to perform, while in other cases when they
discussed standards our participants meant their own personal assessment criteria. But regardless of
the source, when talking about standards we noted how instructors would sometimes describe the
benefit these assessment tools could provide, such as helping focus their attention on salient
elements of work they reviewed, facilitating communication between themselves and students, or
helping them manage the critique process for a large number of students in a limited timeframe. Sam
summarized some of these possibilities when he said, “we have parameters and strict guidelines in
terms of what [students] bring in at what time, so that . . . I’m able to prepare, and think about
where they’re at.Lindsay also argued for the value of formal criteria, I list what I'm going to be
looking at . . . so [students] know exactly . . . what the standard of excellence is.Overall,
participants’ use of standards seemed to be for the purpose of bringing at least some predictability
into the environment, and to provide both their students and themselves some assurance that
judgements they make were grounded in something stronger than their own biases.
At the same time, however, participants expressed that there were disadvantages of relying
on explicit guidelines when offering critiques. One was there could be so much variability between
studentswork that the criteria might not be powerful enough to account for all the legitimate
differences that instructors observed. Jeff noted:
[Students’] projects are all unique, and [the skills they develop] are different than the
students next to them. . . . So, do I look at the intellectual and meaningful capacity
[students gained]? Or the final outcome? Maybe one student who didn’t quite finish
his project learned a lot more than the one who did, but chose a simple thing.
Ben asserted that unambiguous criteria might even mislead students about the nature of the
practices they are learning:
The core theme of this class from day one is we're going to walk into a world that is
full of uncertainty, and . . . the only way to do that is through experiments, and
introspection, and just going out and doing it. So, I am fairly cautious about saying
[in advance], “This is the right thing.
Participants seemed to express that the more they explicitly specified the criteria by which
they critiqued, the more they might inadvertently constrain what their students were able to
accomplish. The criteria themselves might have narrowed the range of critiques they offered, and
encouraged students to only pursue ideas that were simple enough to be communicated through the
standards that instructors were able to create. The balancing in which they engaged, then, was using
explicit criteria to the extent that those criteria strengthened their critique activities, without relying
on them so much that they oversimplified or otherwise limited the critiques they offered.
Participants’ interviews also provided insights into how they reacted when confronted with
challenges and complexities during critiques. While we noted wide variability in the actual techniques
by which participants responded, we also observed some dispositional tendencies seemed to help
them better cope with challenges they faced. Four dispositions our participants said helped them
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cope with the complexities of critique situations were: (a) risk tolerance; (b) attentiveness; (c)
carefulness; and (d) self-possession.
Risk tolerance. When reflecting on how to balance complexities that arise during critiques,
some participants argued that instructors should be open to risks that can accompany the process. In
one sense this included encouraging students to take risks; as Jeff described, “I reward risky
behavior, whether it has a positive or negative outcome. . . . In the creative world, making your own
rules is so important, so I reward flexibility of thought. . . . That’s what designers do on a daily
But of additional relevance is how participants described being willing themselves to take
chances on activities with uncertain outcomes (trying something risky) when faced with demands
and challenges. This might have taken the form of turning a critique over to an observer (like
another student), even though they may not have known what kind of critique that observer would
offer. It might have meant adjusting a critique procedure at the last minute if a potentially better
option emerged. It might also have meant experimenting with the type of feedback one gave,
making declarations or offering examples that hopefully improved students’ understanding, but
might have also ended up confusing them further. In this regard, Nick observed, [Critiques are]
risky, right? They could totally go in a direction that’s bad. . . . There’s [always] risk that students
won’t know how to interpret feedback, and [understand] how they’re supposed to turn it into
something positive.
Some participants asserted that this tolerance for risk was foundational for successfully
balancing competing demands, because the nature of the critique environment was such that there
may not have been an obvious response to a challenging circumstance. If instructors were not
willing to take a risk on actions with uncertain results, they may have found themselves not taking
any action at all. In other cases, being open to risk broadened the range of options they could try
when working in problematic situations. From this perspective, Ben noted, “we're looking for a
pathway in this uncertain space of teaching. We're looking to get to the best outcome, and the easy
path isn't it. In this way, risk tolerance may have been like our participants trying to physically
balance themselves on an unstable surface. Balancing is easier when one has more positions to place
one’s feet. Similarly, balancing competing demands during critiques may have been easier when
participants were open to as many alternative courses for addressing issues as possible.
Attentiveness. Being attentive connotes observing with a sense of sensitivity, alertness, and
awareness. Participants expressed that being attentive during critiques often consisted of two,
complementary ways of observing.
The first was being attentive to details, or, as Lindsay called it, paying attention to the cues
that students or the broader environment might offer about a helpful way to approach a critique.
This type of attentiveness was important because even a minor detail could contain insights about
how to successfully respond to a challenging circumstance. For example, Jeff recounted how when
he found himself wanting to push a student to work harder, or otherwise encourage them to better
live up to their potential, he sometimes relied on his knowledge of theirfunny quirksto help him
judge how to best deliver that message. Usually these only give him small insights, as he called
them, yet these might have been what made the difference for him to alignthe form of a critique
with his underlying intent, and ensure that he was not read falsely by a student who was in a
potentially vulnerable, emotional state.
Other participants described attentiveness as paying attention to the entirety of a situation,
focusing less on particular details in favor of considering, and responding to, circumstances as a
whole. Nick called this addressing the substance,” and noted that it helped him focus on
meaningful issues instead of becoming distracted bydetails that don’t matter.He elaborated:
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I’m constantly trying to find the substance [of a situation]. . . . I'm only going to be
able to say one or two things that are really going to matter to these students, and so
am I going to waste that on [something tangential]? . . . No, I'm going to try to focus
on the most systemic, substantive [problem I can].
As our participants were attentive to both the whole and the parts of complex situations,
they found themselves experiencing a sense of clear-sightedness that helped them understand how
to better balance competing demands placed upon them. Nick described this asgetting a senseof
what critique is most helpful to offer. We interpreted this as meaning that he did not always see a
definitive factor in a situation that clearly told him what to do; rather, the cumulative weight of
everything he observed (nothing which by itself provided sufficient evidence to justify a course of
action) pointed him in a direction, with each complementary manner of being attentive helping
correct deficiencies in the other. Attending to the whole gave instructors a foundation in which to
ground their overall critique, one that was informed by situational totalities instead of potentially
giving too much weight to a relatively trivial, but very noticeable, point. And attending to details
helped them remain sensitive to factors that might transform their understanding of a situation, but
that were easy to overlook against the background of the environment in its entirety.
Carefulness. As participants discussed critique experiences, we noticed that they often referred
to moments where they would pause, examine a situation more deeply, reflect, or otherwise take
measures to act carefully and thoughtfully in the face of complexity. Sometimes this concerned the
content of a critique, as when Sam described certain types of evaluative judgments where he thinks
both he and his students need outside input:
Sometimes I have to [tell students] that I really don't know what the best answer is. [I
tell them] to wait until we can do some user testing; or, to wait until they can actually
workshop [their idea] with other students, because there's no way I could make a
judgment on it alone.
At other times being careful related to the dynamics that existed with a particular individual.
Daniel recounted an example of a student who seemed to regularly get defensive when being
critiqued. After speculating on some possible reasons why, Daniel concluded, what I need to do is
have a good discussion [with him] to understand. I don’t know what’s going on in [his] head, so I’m
kind of at a loss as to how I can help.
In calling our participants careful, we do not mean to suggest that they disregard their
intuitive judgements. Even when participants described taking an intuitive stance, they also
sometimes noted how at the same time they at least attempted to be careful, as well. Ben seemed to
express this when he observed, I’m [not] scripted in what I ask [during a critique]. . . But sometimes
[I tell students], ‘I need to digest what you’re saying right now’ [before responding]. We also do not
suggest that being careful meant that participants emotionally disengaged from a critique to examine
the situation from a detached, objective perspective. Rather, participants discussed critiques as a type
of questioning, or exploration, that should be undertaken with thoughtfulness, but that did not
require each step to be formally verified before they could act. In fact, exploring is a metaphor that
many of them used, such as when Ben called critiques, “exploring a brand-new topography of
Participants indicated that being careful helped them balance the complexities that arose
during critiques because it helped them resist the pressure they could feel to respond to situations in
a hasty or thoughtless manner. Ben noted this when he said that in the interest of being fast,”
instructors can sometimes misdiagnose the real problems students face. Because of this possibility,
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he encouraged other studio teachers to pay close attention when something just doesn’t feel right.”
They should spend timewith the problem, and not feel an obligation to judge quickly, even when
the overall class dynamic was fast paced. Being careful during the critique process might be likened
to walking through an environment with uncertain footing. Care does not prevent one from making
progress, but it does mean that one might only place a little weight down first to make sure the
ground is stable before fully committing to the action.
Self-possession. None of the dispositions discussed to this point are meant to suggest that
balancing challenges during a critique was a problem-free enterprise for our participants. Not every
risk paid off. Attentiveness did not always help them find a path forward. And some challenges
could not be balanced only through careful reflection. Throughout our discussions, participants
routinely expressed how they could have done a better job handling difficult circumstances.
Sometimes this was due to a situation being more demanding than they had the skills to address.
Sometimes they admitted they simply make mistakes.
When recounting how they respond to challenges, however, participants displayed a sense of
composure and self-possession that indicated they were relatively untroubled when problems arose.
Even giving a student poor advice did not seem to be a reason to worry. Jeff said, “it’s okay to make
mistakes and be honest. . . . The students will recognize that [your advice] didn’t work. And if they
recognize that you recognize it, everyone will all get along better. And Lindsay observed that
making a mistake means, [students] know that I’m human, too. . . . I’m not afraid that they’re going
to think I don’t know what I’m doing.
Not only did participants express confidence that they could recover from even severe
mistakes, some of them also asserted that the possibility of error was a reason to offer critiques
more often. Nick used the metaphor of momentum to describe this, saying that he viewed his
class like a big wheel that’s spinning around, and each review is one little touch of your hand to
keep it going.Frequent critiques helped Nick compensate if an individual experience was less
effective, if you try to hit the wheel and you miss, there’s enough momentum that it continues to
go by itself until the next time you review.Just like a wheel cannot remain in balance if it is moving
too slow, Nick expressed that a class could not remain in balance if critiques happened too
infrequently. This willingness to engage despite challenges seemed to indicate a sense of self-
possession on Nick’s part that was advantageous when balancing complexities in the critique
environment. Individual attempts to balance may or may not be successful, but by remaining
composed and unperturbed he was prepared to take the next chance when it arose, and apply his
best efforts over time towards correcting any mistakes he might have made.
At this point we are prepared to discuss implications of our findings for improving instructors
abilities to offer critiques. We do this through a strategy of drawing connections between our
findings and related theoretical and philosophical literature. Throughout our discussion we focus on:
(a) how our participants could not escape their nature as balancers, and what this implies for helping
instructors improve critique abilities; (b) the nature of expertise in studio critiques and how that
matters when helping instructors improve; and (c) the nature of the dispositions that our
participants depicted as helping them cope with challenging situations, and how they relate to
improving critiques.
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Helping Instructors Improve as Balancers
First, we comment on what may seem like a self-evident point, but is one that we suggest is
meaningful for helping studio instructors improve: balancing challenges that arose during critiques
was an inescapable part of our participants’ studio experience. It did not appear to be a sign of their
ignorance, nor did it seem to be something they outgrew as they developed greater expertise. In fact,
our interviews suggested the opposite. As illustrated by the challenges that could accompany prior
experience, there is reason to believe that expertise contributed towards their need to balance, such
as when Nick said, I’ve experienced [design] so many times. . . . I have to try really hard to not let
that complexity come in and confuse [students].
In stating this we do not claim that our participants explicitly labeled themselves as
balancers.Nevertheless, we do suggest that because of its ubiquitousness in their experience it
became part of their identity, and shaped their perspective on what it meant for them to be a studio
instructor. As Brinkmann (2008) and Taylor (2004) have emphasized, one’s identity is bound up
with the social practices in which one is involved. In the context of our study this likely meant that
as participants tried to balance challenges that accompanied critiques they began to interpret
themselves from the perspective of being a person who balances, even if such understanding was
only a tacit assessment of their selfhood. Consequently, many of their actions may be interpreted as
attempting to find a way to bring some stable meaning,” or sense of order, to their lives (Dreyfus,
1991, p. 37).
Because of this, we suggest that viewing oneself as a successful balancer during critiques
could be seen as important aspect of what constitutes ones personal sense of excellence as a studio
instructor (cf. McDonald & Michela, 2019). According to Brinkmann (2008), when people decide
what actions are appropriate for the circumstances they face, their self-interpretation play a part in
the choices they make. Therefore, our participants’ (and likely other instructors’) self-interpretation
as instructors-who-balance played a part in choices they made about how to cope with challenges
that arose during critiques. This was likely the case even if they were not explicitly aware that this
was the type of person they were. The strength of their interpretive framework, built in part on the
foundation of their critique activities, influenced the evaluative criteria by which they made decisions
(Taylor, 1989). The four dispositions involved in how our participants depicted coping with
challenges seems to support this view. As they described these attributes, participantscomments
tended to show that they cared about being successful balancers in challenging circumstances, even
though they did not use such terminology explicitly, for instance when Ben described his work as
looking for a pathway in this uncertain space of teaching.”
This implies that strategies for how to help instructors become better critics should explicitly
consider their likely identities as balancers. Not being aware of how central this is to the instructor
experience could inadvertently lead one towards techniques that interfere with instructorsability to
respond fluidly and freely to the dynamic circumstances they actually face, such as critique
methodologies that are too rigid or too simplistic to be useful in situations characterized by
variability and change. Attempts to help could actually interfere with instructors’ performance, much
like trying to teach someone to physically balance on an uncertain surface without considering the
shifting movements of their bodies or the shape of the ground beneath them. Conversely, assistance
that does not prescribe, but rather attempts to give instructorsa heightened awareness . . . of what
is already implicit in [their] way of life(Dunne, 1997, p. 160) could help them adjust to changing
circumstances more nimbly than might be possible through their trial-and-error efforts. Such
assistance might be like Aristotle’s (2011) leveling device made out of lead, that “changes in relation
to the shape of the stone [beneath it] and does not stay the same(p. 112). Practically speaking, this
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might mean that critique strategies be intentionally designed to flex or be adjusted depending on the
context in which they are used.
How the Nature of Critique Expertise Affects InstructorsImprovements
We also comment on another seemingly self-evident point: the challenges our participants faced
during critiques were, at least in part, the result of attempts to respond to specific work generated by
students, rather than trying to present principles of design in a general manner detached from any
particular situation. Recognizing this points us towards a better understanding of the nature of
critique expertise, that could lead to more flexible approaches for improving instructors’ critique
As Dreyfus (2017) explained, the expertise required to respond to unique situations in an
appropriate way is not a matter of being more skilled than others at understanding and applying a
system of rules. Instead, an expert response is the result of the actor stay[ing] open and involved
and draw[ing] on his or her past experiencewhen taking action (p. 35). Only after the response is
made does one conclude that it was appropriate for the circumstances, not because of how well
some established procedure was executed but because of the results the expert was able to achieve
(or, in our study, able to help their students achieve).
There must be some difference between the novice and expert response, however, even if it
is not based on skillful application of rules. Dreyfus (2017) argued that this difference depends on
aspects of the expert’s character that allow them to discern possible responses out of the material of
their prior experience, as well as the determination to act on an option even if it runs counter to
cultural norms. However, this usually does not happen in an analytic sense of explicitly calculating
the pros and cons in an array of options. It is more a matter of discriminationseeing what others
do not seeand even creating new possibilities of response that were not viewed as options before
an experts engagement with a situation (see Dreyfus, 2017, p. 35).
In this context we return to the dispositions that undergirded our participants’ approach to
critiques. While we do not categorically claim our participants achieved the level of expertise
described by Dreyfus (2017), we do propose that attributes such as risk tolerance, attentiveness,
carefulness, and self-possession are the type of characteristics one develops along the path to
becoming an expert (acceptance of risk, in fact, being an attribute specifically identified by Dreyfus
when he described the concept). We also note how consistent Dreyfus’s views are with the
conclusions of other scholars who have studied what design educators do during critiques, such as
Adams et al. (2016), Cennamo and Brandt (2012), and Schön (1985, 1987).
We additionally suggest, then, that efforts to help instructors improve their ability to offer
critiques should focus on developing such attributes, possibly before but at least alongside explicit
strategies for carrying out a critique. As Dreyfus (2017) observed, expertise is not cultivated by
explicating what general thing to do, such as might be provided by a critique technique or
procedure, but rather by modeling ways of being that demonstratehow to respond in an especially
appropriate way(pp. 35-36; emphasis in original). Such support (perhaps provided by highlighting
the work of excellent critics) could provide instructors with examples that help them to be more
alert regarding the nature of [their] own task(Dunne, 1997, p. 160). This type of support could also
help instructors remain flexible in their critique activities. For instance, a specific technique can be
modeled as one of many possibilities rather than as a preferred solution, opening space for other
appropriate actions to emerge. Or, techniques could be better contextualized, showing how they
might be helpful in some circumstances but become counter-productive in others. Concrete
examples of what this type of modeling could consist of would also be a productive area for future
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research to explore. Further research is recommended to explore these types of strategies, or other
types of flexible approaches to critique situations.
The Nature of Instructor Dispositions and Improving Critiques
Finally, we comment on the nature of the dispositions that helped our participants cope with
challenges that arose during critiques. To do this, we discuss what may seem like an inconsistency
between the dispositions our participants expressed, especially attentiveness and carefulness, and
Dreyfus’s (2014) analysis that expertise often involves the spontaneous response of a skilled
performer (p. 191).
Our attempt to understand these differences takes two parts. First, Dreyfus (2014) does not
claim that experts never engage in explicit calculation or deliberation. In fact, he explicitly recognizes
expert deliberation of two types. One form actually does involve calculative analysis, such as a
detached evaluation of a set of options. Yet while this might help experts understand some of the
possibilities available to them, it also draws them into a different way of being than that which
allows them to discern a truly situationally specific response (see p. 119). But the other form of
deliberation Dreyfus described was of a type where the expert stays involvedwith his or her
circumstances (p. 118), much like the carpenter who meticulously sets wood for a joint, taking time
to make sure the pieces are properly aligned. This is a qualitatively different type of deliberation than
where someone computes possible reactions based on comparing potential responses against a
formula or technique. And, we propose, it is a better way of understanding what we mean by the
dispositions that our participants expressed, especially attentiveness and carefulness. We illustrate
this through Nick’s description of his attentiveness as not being a technical response, but as getting
a senseof a situation so as to better discern what type of critiques he should offer.
Second, we note that while much of our commentary has drawn on Dreyfus, he in turn drew
on other thinkers, such as Aristotle’s (2011) conception of phronesis, when developing his structure of
expertise. And we can turn directly to phronesis itself as an additional means of gaining insight into
the dispositions expressed by our participants. While phronesis was originally developed by Aristotle
as a virtue that enabled one to perform situationally appropriate actions with wisdom, later thinkers
such as Gadamer (2006) interpreted it as a form of dialogue (p. 21). In Gadamer’s view, wise
actors have both the ability and the attributes needed to metaphorically carry out a conversation with
a situation in which they are placed. And through such conversation they can determine useful
responses, moment-by-moment as the situation unfolds (cf. Schön, 1987). It is through such
phronetic conversation that they judge how to best adjust the general lawof action to the nuances
and specificity of the individual case(p. 21), much like how through conversation with a human
partner one can discern the other’s level of understanding on a topic and formulate a response
designed to increase their comprehension. We cite, for instance, what Sam discovered through his
deep engagement with an individual group of students: that he could not critique those with severe
social anxiety the same way he might critique others. We also note how often Lindsay sought to
understand the cuesfound in her studio environment, that assisted her in better offering helpful
comments to her students.
Using this imagery, we suggest how one can express attributes such as attentiveness and
carefulness, yet still offer a spontaneous response to a critique challenge. Spontaneity in a
conversation does not necessarily imply impulsiveness, but rather openness. We can take time to
spontaneously reflect during a conversation, not because we have planned to but because our
conversation partner may have called for our reflection through a statement he or she made.
Similarly, critique situations can call for phronetic reflection on the part of our participants, such as
when Ben said he sometimes must “digestwhat a student has presented before reacting. According
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to the views we have presented here, this was not because Ben necessarily planned to reflect, but
because the situation presented itself as one where reflection was both the spontaneous and the wise
Certainly, this type of engagement does require skill. It might even require instructors to
develop skills for negotiating within themselves what dispositions they might need to prioritize in a
given situation (for instance, when greater carefulness may be needed so as to avoid their risk
aversion from turning into recklessness). Yet as we have emphasized throughout our discussion the
skills required cannot rest on a foundation of technical rationality by which a critique can be reliably
conducted, any more than a conversation can be skillfully carried out by using a flow-chart or
decision tree to determine one’s next response. Just like the attitudes one brings to a human
conversation spontaneously impacts its tone as well as the overall direction it takes, the dispositions
possessed by our participants in this study, which appear to correlate with phronetic conduct (cf.
Dunne, 1997), set the tone and direction of the critiques they offered at least as much as any
procedural skills they had the ability to execute.
In this paper we have inquired into how studio instructors depicted the critique experience along
with themselves as critics, and what can be learned from their depictions about improving
instructorsabilities to offer critiques. We have suggested that a crucial aspect of our participants’
teaching was the ability to balance complex, and sometimes competing, challenges that critiques
placed upon them, namely the effects of: (a) interpersonal dynamics; (b) prior experience; and (c)
critique standards. We also found four dispositions that seem to help instructors cope with these
challenges: (a) risk tolerance; (b) attentiveness; (c) carefulness; and (d) self-possession.
We believe these findings are insightful not only for interpreting the experience of other
studio instructors, but also provide insights for how to help them improve their critique abilities. Yet
the practical implications we suggest are not meant to develop better procedures for carrying out
critiques. As we emphasized throughout our discussion, stripping studio instructors’ experience of
its richness and contradiction may allow us to develop critique approaches that are simple to
communicate, but that also may be too simple to be useful in the unpredictable contexts that
instructors face. In that sense, our study is more about restoring life to its original difficulty
(Caputo, 1987, p. 1), than in reducing experience down to a straightforward procedure.
Even so, as we suggested, there are still implications we can derive from our findings to help
instructors cope with challenging and demanding situations. But it does require us to focus our
efforts on a different means of improvementencouraging instructors to develop phronetic
dispositions at least as much as recommending any method or technique. We hope the direction we
have pointed towards in this paper illustrates how this can take place, and encourage scholars and
practitioners to engage in the efforts required to help bring it about.
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My purpose in this chapter is to offer a reimagined view of theory in the field of learning design and technology (LDT). Instead of viewing theory as an external storehouse of knowledge, or a rule-like system for professionals to apply, in this framework theory is viewed as an orienting aid that supports practitioners as they refine their personal capacities for perception, discrimination, and judgment. Theory plays this orienting role as it offers insights into LDT-relevant practical knowledge, productive heuristics, points professionals towards opportunities to act, or identifies significant patterns and forms of excellence to which they can pay attention as they attempt to improve their craft. The chapter concludes with some implications for this framework for future research and practice in the field.
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We present a qualitative study of the tension between manipulative and cooperative approaches to instructional design. We found that our participants struggled to resist manipulative tendencies in their work contexts. More specifically, our findings suggest that our participants sought to design with their learners in mind to foster a more cooperative approach. In doing so, participants in our study reported asking themselves key questions in their design practice that had to do with (a) inviting learners to engage through relevant and meaningful instruction, (b) imagining what learners are thinking and feeling, and (c) putting themselves in their learners’ shoes to understand possible learner experience with the designed instruction. For designers in similarly constrained work contexts, we recommend self-questioning that leads toward cooperative (and less manipulative) instructional design practices.
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In this study I present a model of feedback typologies for design education to support sustainable assessments during critique sessions and the results of a qualitative research conducted to evaluate the model impact on the student body. I argue that critique should function as a public social reality where student and faculty meet to talk about Design; it has to be built together within a dynamic exchange of arguments and feedback. The role of critique in design education, in fact, transcends its assessment function. Studio critiques are the moment in which students learn to become members of a community of practice, where the relationships between different members of that community are negotiated, where the ethos of an individual as a designer is voiced, where independent thinking is nurtured, where the culture of egalitarian working space can emerge, where social relationships and professional identities are developed and where self analysis and reflection are mastered.
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The knowledge and skill required by graphic designers is expanding from traditional views that value craft and technical expertise to those reliant on reflective design thinking. This marks a re-definition of design as a social practice more concerned with the facilitation of interaction(s) and that draws on design criticism and principles of rhetoric. Consequently, design practitioners must apply skills that place more emphasis on the impact or outcome of design and where people, and how they respond as part of a communication system, are the priority. However, despite this indication that rhetoric is vital to shifting design thinking and practice, our understanding of the skills related to its application and how they are developed is relatively limited. In this exploratory study we gauge the current state of design education in an Australian university to determine whether and to what extent students reflect critically on the effectiveness of their work.
In this article we consider critiques within the design studio as how students press forward into possible forms of the self that are opened up through studio participation. We contrast this with a view of critiques as primarily being a pedagogical or socialising technique under the control of instructors and other critics. We carried out our inquiry using interviews with six studio students, studying how they depict critiques and how they depict themselves when being critiqued. Students' depictions of critiques included their being: a) signal in the noise; b) windows into their critics' character; c) a type of text to be interpreted. Their depictions of themselves included being: a) clear-sighted; b) street-smart; c) creative. We conclude by discussing what these depictions might mean about how instructors/critics can frame critiques in ways that facilitate students using them to take up possibilities that are opened up through studio participation. Keywords: design critique; design education; design studio; qualitative research; philosophy of design. Reference to this paper should be made as follows: McDonald, J.K. and Michela, E. (2020) ''This is my vision': how students depict critiques along with themselves during critiques',
In this paper we inquire into the moral goods that are significant for design studio instructors, by examining how they talk about the way critiques fit into the studio as a social practice. We studied this issue using in-depth interviews with six studio instructors. Through these interviews, we found that critiques are how they structure the studio so they can pursue three types of moral goods: a) for student development; b) for their own self-cultivation; and c) for other stakeholders. Along with presenting these goods, we discuss what instructors say about multiple goods exerting influence on them at the same time. Finally, we discuss implications these findings have for understanding the studio environment, and why critiques matter within this environment.
The purpose of this study is to investigate how instructional design students perceive the informal, peer critique as an influence in their studio education. Our participants were students enrolled in beginning and advanced studio courses in the department of Instructional Psychology and Technology at Brigham Young University. Groups of 2–3 beginning students were assigned a reviewer from the advanced course, who then led critiques over two face-to-face class sessions with their assigned groups. Students perceived the critique experience to be helpful, although beginning students perceived greater value than did the advanced (possibly due to the time advanced students took to build confidence in the beginners). Students also reported ways in which the critique experience could have been improved, with the most common suggestions being to hold critique sessions more frequently and for longer periods of time. We conclude by discussing the role of informal, peer critiques in the instructional design studio, including how they could complement other forms of feedback that students receive. We also discuss how our findings could contribute towards future research into the value of critique in the instructional design studio environment.
This book addresses notions of critique in Design and Technology Education, facilitating a conceptual and practical understanding of critique, and enabling both a personal and pedagogical application to practice. Critique can be a frame of mind, and may be related to a technology, product, process or material. In a holistic sense, critique is an element of a person’s technological literacy, a fundamentally critical disposition brought to bear on all things technological. This book provides a reasoned conceptual framework within which to develop critique, and examples of applying the framework to Design and Technology Education. The book builds on The Future of Technology Education published by Springer as the first in the series Contemporary Issues in Technology Education. In the 21st century, an ‘age of knowledge’, students are called upon to access, analyse and evaluate constantly changing information to support personal and workplace decision making and on-going innovation. A critical Design and Technology Education has an important role to play, providing students with opportunities to integrate economic, environmental, social and technological worlds as they develop and refine their technological literacy. Through the design and development of technology, they collaborate, evaluate and critically apply information, developing cognitive and manipulative skills appropriate to the 21st century. Critique goes beyond review or analysis, addressing positive and negative technological development. This book discusses and applies this deeper perspective, identifying a clear role for critique in the context of Design and Technology Education.