Consider the Crit: Putting the "Crit" in "Critical Thinking"

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In this series of posts I am looking at what we can learn from peer feedback practices in other disciplines. Andy Brown and Sharon Hart talked to me about the studio art critique.

Many differences emerged as I discussed critique with Sharon and Andy.  But I was heartened to note one important similarity across our disciplines: critical thinking.  I generally like to think that critical thinking is at the heart of what I do in the writing classroom.  I acknowledge that students are going to leave our FYC class and go on into their majors.  The specifics of the work we do may not carry forward.  But I would hope that the skills of critical thinking we practice in the classroom will go forward, as those are the skills I imagine students most need as they proceed in their academic careers.


Andy was quite explicit about the role of critical thinking, particularly in relation to the practices of art in an academic context and the myth of talent in the field generally.  He explained that while it’s useful to have an inner spark, art in an academic setting is more about hard work.  I find this to be a useful notion for my writing classes, as well.  Many students think they just “can’t write,” but the truth is that within the FYC context it’s much more about hard work.


Critique assists that work, as does peer revision.  And when it’s good, it’s good.  Both Sharon and Andy had similar descriptions about really good critiques: students are engaged and invested, responding to each other, questioning each other, and carrying the class through their own discussion.  They become thinkers in relation to the work and they also feel empowered to share those thoughts, and perhaps to defend them, with others.  Again, so similar to the processes of writing I hope to encourage.


It feels like students often resent peer revision as a kind of “busy work.”  Perhaps it would help if I were to better contextualize it in the larger work of critical thinking for the class.  What do you think?

About the Author
Barclay Barrios is an Associate Professor of English and Director of Writing Programs at Florida Atlantic University, where he teaches freshman composition and graduate courses in composition methodology and theory, rhetorics of the world wide web, and composing digital identities. He was Director of Instructional Technology at Rutgers University and currently serves on the board of Pedagogy. Barrios is a frequent presenter at professional conferences, and the author of Emerging.