Austin’s Butterfly – the power of kind, helpful and specific critique

In his book “An Ethic of Excellence: Building a Culture of Craftsmanship with Students,” Ron Berger talks about five key pedagogical practices.

  1. Assign work that matters – make sure that students are given assignments that will challenge and inspire them.
  2. Study examples of excellence –  allow students to consider the process of achieving high quality.
  3. Build a culture of critique – teachers and students must learn to provide one another with “kind, helpful and specific” feedback.
  4. Require multiple revisions – a first draft should be exactly that… a draft
  5. Provide opportunities for public presentations learning – teachers should not have to be the sole judges

The following pictures illustrate how these steps (especially critique and revision) can help a student to create a product that exceeds traditional expectations.  A six-year old boy named Austin was asked to draw a butterfly.  His teacher and his peers gave him kind, helpful, and specific critique.

The first picture is of the butterfly that he was asked to draw.

Now… check out his six drawings.  Try to imagine the feedback he may have received after each revision.

About Larry Espe

Superintendent of Schools
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