Printer Friendly

Critiquing vs. debriefing.

During the past couple of years, I have taken some graduate classes in which all I heard was "debrief, debrief, and debrief." Gee, I teach art I want to critique, critique, and critique. Critiquing and debriefing ate very different from one another. Yet, both can be beneficial to the closure of an art lesson.


Critiquing art entails examining the use of the art elements and the principles of design. Describing what one sees as well as how the work is organized is a major part of critiquing. Determining what the piece is communicating and whether the piece is successful or not ate the final steps in studying a piece of art.

We have students examine works from master artists to learn from them. They explore the arrangement of the composition, the use of texture, and the quality of the lines. We also critique student work so that they can recognize their strengths and weaknesses. By doing this, student artwork improves and becomes more meaningful.


Debriefing refers to the method in which the teacher guides students in making the connection between the activity and the learning experience. It allows transference of learning to the "real world." Debriefing permits the opportunity of growth and self-awareness from the activity. Without a follow-up discussion, the experience becomes just another activity with little value.

The key to debriefing is to ask open-ended questions to encourage sharing and discussion. The teacher is the guide through the session, adding and interpreting information as needed. Students can reflect by discussing the activity orally--either as a whole class of in small groups. Individual journal entries work as well.

The debriefing session should start with reflection. Describe what went on during the activity. Focus on the work that was done and the interaction of students in the class. Did students ask their peers for advice? Did the student work alone? Did students at the table discuss the process of one of the pieces of work being created at their table?

The next step is generalization, which describes what the class learned from the experience. Ask questions that explore the consequences of what happened and/or what did not happen. What happened when red was added to Jon's piece? Why did he change the color from black? Goals must also be examined. How did students accomplish their goal of creating an expressive sculpture? How was the class successful?

The session ends with the transferring and reapplying the learning to real situations outside the artroom. The teacher guides students in self-examination and reflection. How can color affect one's mood? How would a person feel and react if their kitchen were painted black? Red? Pink? To insure that nothing has been left unsaid, always end with "Are there any last thoughts before moving on?"

So, it still comes down to critiquing or debriefing--which one do you do? I feel it comes down to the objectives of your lesson. If students were studying different line qualities and do a project to enhance their understanding of line, then a critique would be appropriate. If students were involved in an activity that illustrates the steps to creating an abstract piece of artwork, then a debriefing session would be beneficial. Then again, you could debrief the critique....


Students reflect analytically on various interpretations as a means or understanding and evaluating works of visual art.


Kay M. Reist is an art teacher at Elizabethtown Area High School in Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania.

The Steps to Art Criticism

1. Description--What do I see?

2. Analysis--How is the work organized

3. Interpretation--What is the artist trying to communicate?

4. Judgment--Is this a successful work of art?

The Steps to Debriefing

1. Reflection--What went on during the activity?

2. Generalization--So what did I learn?

3. Transfer--Now what do I do with this information?
COPYRIGHT 2005 Davis Publications, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2005, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Title Annotation:All Levels
Author:Reist, Kay
Publication:School Arts
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:May 1, 2005
Previous Article:Par for the course: students design their miniature golf course sculptures while considering functional, technical, and communication elements.
Next Article:Dilemma discovery decision.

Related Articles
The elementary critique: talking about children's art.
Line-of-duty death policies: preparing for the worst.
The many faces of critique.
Peer debriefing: who, what, when, why, how.
Warning issued for trauma debriefing.
Thoughts on psychological debriefings: a noted authority on psychological debriefings cautions against "throwing the debriefing baby out with the...
Assigned seating.
From the critique of institutions to an institution of critique.
Australia: rethinking the strict CISM model.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2020 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters