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A major aspect of design education and indeed one which may differentiate design education from most other disciplines is the group critique, known in brief as the ‘crit. Crits take place at different stages in a project and are to provide students and lecturers an opportunity to step back and reflect on the project, to exchange critical or supporting ideas, to clarify intentions, and to develop the ability to discuss or even defend one's own work—a necessary skill that will later be important with clients. Interim crits, which are generally less formal than the final crit, take place throughout stages a project. The number of interim crits varies due to the size and length of the project. Although the critique is generally looked upon with trepidation by the student (and quite a lot of the time by the tutor), it enables students to deal openly with criticism while also assisting them in the building of their verbal skills as they must explain the reasoning behind their design solutions. It can be difficult for students to separate their work from self, however as their years in design college progress students acquire the maturity to develop the perspective to benefit from constructive criticism. Students learn from other students whilst taking part in a critique. It is very much a ‘showing’ of your work to an audience.  

Learning Outcomes which can be achieved through this method of assessment

Students must learn to verbalise beyond “because I like it” or “I cant get it to work.” Critiques help students to internalise standards of excellence, to develop a shared vocabulary for discussion, to learn to incorporate useful suggestions from others, and to evaluate their own and others' performances.

Advantages of this method of assessment

  • allows students to see and learn from each other 
  • places the project at the centre of the learning experience 
  • enables students to develop critical skills and critical thinking 
  • evaluates and offers feedback of the work in progress
  • students see their work in the context of other students' work 
  • tutors can evaluate the entire body of work from the class
  • the crit deadline focuses the mind of the student to produce work by a set date 
  • critical awareness development through the understanding of different ideas and approaches

Disadvantages of this method of assessment

  • comments from tutors can be overly negative 
  • multiple tutors may offer conflicting opinions
  • student debate does not exist as the tutors focus primarily on their own area of interest 
  • language used by the tutors is too-obtuse to be understood by the student 
  • the promotion of one students' work over another 
  • time consuming place with each student presenting their work for 20-30 minutes.

Assessment in Practice

The crit (depending on the number of students and the detail of the work to be shown) can be very time consuming. In the first semester of first year they may quite daunting to the unsuspecting student. Flynn’s (2005) research on the use of the crit in architectural practice in DIT and UCD offers a model for best practice.

Assessment time

  • Preparation time: No prep, just a strong cup of coffee needed
  • Student time to complete: depending on what work is due to be presented, students may have spent a lot of time in prep for the crit.
  • Marking time: if the work being shown at the crit is being marked, it happens either during the crit and/or is discussed among tutors afterwards
  • Ease of Feedback: instantaneous

DIT Publications

Flynn, Patrick: Critting the "crit" in the education of architects: from Bauhaus to Bolton Street. Dissertation. Dublin, Dublin Institute of Technology, 2005.

Web based guides

Dannels, D. P. (2005). Performing tribal rituals: A genre analysis of “crits” in design studios. Communication Education, 54(2), 136-160.

Goldschmidt, G. (2003, November). Expert knowledge or creative spark? Predicaments in design education. In Expertise in Design, Design Thinking Research Symposium (Vol. 6, pp. 17-19).

Percy, C. (2004). Critical absence versus critical engagement. Problematics of the crit in design learning and teaching. Art, Design & Communication in Higher Education, 2(3), 143-154.

Kurt, S. (2009). An analytic study on the traditional studio environments and the use of the constructivist studio in the architectural design education. Procedia-Social and Behavioral Sciences, 1(1), 401-408.

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