How Might We develop a culture of critique?


I regularly try to develop my students’ ability to critique each other’s work. If collaborative learning is to work effectively, this ability to praise the right parts and challenge other ideas is critical for progress to be made. But, I am now wondering if we as adults are even modelling this for students?

Two tweets from people whose thinking I greatly admire have raised this point recently:



I have written previously about how empowering the New Zealand Curriculum is. There is however, the flip side of this where as schools adapt the NZC to fit their needs, do not take the chance to think critically and just make it fix what they have always done. The Education Review Office add to this as they congratulate different schools on their interpretation of the NZC even as they have interpreted it wildly different – from Grammar style schools doing things very traditionally to Hobsonville Point Secondary School redesigning things and everything else in between.

This to me, says the critique of the New Zealand Curriculum must first happen by looking at how it has been implemented. This means that teachers and schools must develop a culture of critique towards each others’ practice and external visitors must be able to join in that critique to remove the blinkers. Is there a gap between the espoused approach and the reality in classrooms (or open learning spaces as the case may be?).

My approach with students to critique has been along the method of Rose, Bud, Thorn

And I really find this is a great method for starting critique: It encourages you to find praise points, opportunities and to be critical. If any of these are missing then I don’t believe you have set your bias aside to truly critique.

Now, how about we get started on really critiquing each other for the benefit of the education system and especially for the benefit of our students futures.


This post was Day 7 of my Question Quest.


7 thoughts on “How Might We develop a culture of critique?

  1. Maybe we need to add rose/bud/thorn to next iteration of our critical friend obs sheet? Happy to hear suggestions for improvement and how we can make critical friends setup more critique-ful. Have you trialled the obs sheet yet?
    Really enjoying your questions Steve.
    Can’t believe you didn’t use the warm and demanding mantra in this post!

  2. You are spot on that student assessment is critical. In fact, I think “grades” and assessments are always much more meaningful when students peer and self reflect out loud and in writing and that informs the “grade” rather than in addition to the grade. One way that really encourages our students to ask good questions and think about each other’s work is to use “I like”…”I wonder”…”What if” as starters. This type of reflection on another’s work removes critique and encourages true reflection and shared perspective. What other ways can we ask students to add their commentary to each other’s work? I love rose, bud, thorn…I wonder if after a while these types of practices will lead to a feeling of collaboration and ownership over classroom practices? Great in intended consequence!

    • I like the critical and creativeprompts that your sentence starters give. Absolutely a goal for me is increasing effective collaboration. Thanks for your thoughts!

  3. I was fascinated last week when my class was peer marking an activity. They were happy to use the class written criteria to assess each other, but not their own. ‘We’re biased!’ they cried. I had to insist they would self-assess, and made the point we’re often much tougher on ourselves than on another. So, I think we need to encourage self-critique as well, in all learners.

  4. Pingback: All is well, or is it? | Steve Mouldey

  5. Hi Steve,
    I’ve been trialing this method of feedback to improve formal/persuasive writing with my Year 10s. At first they were very uncomfortable with giving thorns — but when using the feedback to improve — the students were keen to give and receive thorns.

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