Critique Guidelines

Leading a crit

Begin the discussion on a positive note, expressing appreciation for all the hard work your students are doing, and how valuable it is to come together to discuss this important work. This way, the critique takes on an atmosphere of mutual esteem.

Negative comments are not helpful and create bad feelings and low self esteem. A better approach is to ask open questions or use positive or neutral words. If you sense the discussion going towards negativity try to steer it back to neutral ground.

Instead of saying, this piece is a failure, try saying, how do you feel about this piece in relation to your other works?

Suggestions for what to do to the work are not always helpful. Odd though this may sound, it is much better for the student artist to arrive at her own solutions. The teacher or fellow student can ask questions or make points that stimulate problem solving by the artist herself.

Instead of saying, why don't you make it much bigger, you could say, Have you considered how scale might affect the work?


It can work better if the other students talk about the work before the artist explains his intentions. This way the artist learns how viewers respond to the work, regardless of his intentions, and how the work is communicating on its own. Allow an open discussion first, then ask the student artist to discuss their own work in response to the points that have been made.

Timing and participation

Very important in a classroom situation. Gage the length of time allowed for each students work to be discussed and stick to the clock. Be prepared to step in if something is going on for too long. Likewise, make sure that no one is left out and everyone gets fair representation. Encourage the quieter students to have their say, you can prompt a discussion if you need to get someone involved. Remember you are the mediator of the critique. You could also ask each student to suggest the next student for critique.

Strengths and Weaknesses

Try to comment on strong and weak points, encouraging an awareness of the different directions that could be taken but being careful not to over direct. Address weak points tactfully but openly and stress strong points as areas to recognize and make the most of.

Some other points to consider


Imagination is the ability to come up with more than one solution to a problem. Has the student been able to do this in a new and interesting way or is the piece simply repeating earlier work or copying some other artist?


With presentation and curatorial skills now part of the assessed criteria, you can use the critique as an opportunity to think about how work is presented, and how methods of display influence the viewers experience, even in the less formal setting of a critique. Discuss how the presentation is effective or perhaps doesn't show the work to it's full potential. When appropriate, look at how the artwork has been displayed, mounted, hung, etc.

Building Art Vocabulary

A critique is an opportunity to use language to express ideas about art. Students should be encouraged to use art terminology, discuss the formal elements of art, cite influences and ideas using articulate correct art language. You can model this during a critique and your students will lean quickly from your example.

  • I see you are emphasizing the negative space around things
  • Is this an intentional use of flattened perspective?
  • Do you prefer the transparency of watercolor or the opacity of gouache?
  • Is there a social context for this piece?
  • Why have you chosen a palette of neutral tones?

Self Critique

A self reflection, also called a self critique, is an evaluation of one's own artwork and an important part of the IB Art student's development. Self reflections help students to understand their own strengths and identify areas for improvement. You can periodically assign a self reflection in the journal, which can be referred to in the  Reviewing, Reflecting, Refining  of the PP and  when writing the Curatorial Rationale.

Kinds of questions to ask in a critique

There are many questions and points for discussion and this will vary according to the students, the work and the teacher. A critique is not an exam, it is a conversation that aims to shed new light on the work and to be helpful to the student's growth. Keep your questions open ended and flexible like these.

  • What do you feel is working well?
  • Why?
  • What are you experiencing difficulty with?
  • Why?
  • What sort of challenges are you setting for yourself?
  • What have you discovered about working with these materials?
  • How did that happen?
  • Where did you get that idea?
  • What does this mean to you?
  • Where do you think this is going next?
  • What ideas are you thinking about?
  • What artists are you looking at?
  • What interests you in this work?
  • What aspect of this work do you want to emphasize?

Download or print Critique Questions

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