Gamifying Critique: Spin the Wheel
Noorh Albadi, Ph.D. | King Abdulaziz University
Overview: Design educators believe in the importance of peer feedback, but it is a challenge to get students to participate in critiques and give thoughtful feedback on their classmates’ projects. Spin the Wheel is a critique activity that mimics a family board game. There are many benefits of using this technique: (a) it provides the presenter with specific feedback on elements of the design; (b) it gives design students the opportunity to focus on one design element at a time; (c) it gives the presenter direct feedback, prompting “reflection-in-action;” and (d) it fuels a true and open discussion as students critique each other. Additionally, the randomizing of the prompt tells the students which elements to give feedback about, removing the pressure of a formal critique session. With the action plan sheet, presenters have a reference document to guide improvement of their work based on the peer critique.
Level: First and second year.
Duration: Typically, Spin the Wheel is played in groups of four. Each student presents for 8–10 minutes, and each critic has 3–5 minutes to provide feedback. The entire presentation and critique session require at least an hour.
- Ensure a meaningful critique session that discourages cronyism and obtains an unbiased evaluation.
- Give and gain directed feedback that focuses on one element at a time.
- Develop the ability to present an interior design solution for a distinct program and client to a like-minded audience.
- Develop a vocabulary for communicating interior design concepts and solutions.
- Improve the presented design solution based on feedback.
- Develop an appreciation of peer feedback.
Peer feedback is a communication process whereby students enter into a dialogue related to performance and standards. Feedback and critique are crucial elements to the learning process (Henderson et al., 2019). Feedback gives students the opportunity to improve their future performance and learning strategies (Ryan & Henderson, 2018). However, ensuring the productivity of feedback sessions remains one of the major challenges in higher education among students and educators (Henderson et al., 2019).
In design education, critique is a distinctive type of assessment that gives students the opportunity to present their work and receive feedback from faculty, peers, and guest jurors (Bender, 2018; Cennamo et al., 2011; Güler, 2015; Dannels, 2005; Demirbas & Demirkan, 2007). Critique in all its forms is central to education in design. Design processes, skills, and solutions are developed within the studio-based learning (SBL) environment via efficient critique methodology and practice (Güler, 2015; Hokanson, 2012; Hynes & Kwon, 2018). Critique sessions teach students to receive feedback and criticism and apply them to improve their design solutions (Bender, 2018; Sipahioglu, 2012).
Design instructors often organize peer critiques in which students learn by sharing information and critiquing each other. Blythman et al. (2007) noted that peer critiques “are run by the student group with the instructor acting as a facilitator, and they are highly informal. Peers can give feedback to each other in many ways—verbally or as anonymous written comments given to the individual.”
Despite the importance of critique in SBL in design education, the delivery of successful critiques is still rare (Scagnetti, 2017). Recognizing the need for an effective critique strategy to promote a healthier critique culture among instructors and students, the author designed a Spin the Wheel game as a tool to encourage open communication among peers, reduce anxiety, and support meaningful, focused, thoughtful, and detailed feedback.
The kit has two components: (a) the wheel and (b) an action plan in which the presenter documents the received feedback (see Figure 1).
Figure 1: Spin the Wheel kit
The outer wheel is divided into four sections: research and programming, concept, design development, and presentation techniques (see Figure 2). The wheel allows design students to focus on one element/phase at a time, giving the presenter the opportunity to reflect-in-action when receiving the peer critique. Schön’s (1987) reflection-in-action theory brings “reflection” to the center of understanding how individuals access and react to situations, and gives the presenter direct feedback.
Research has found that critiques often evoke negative emotions caused by hurtful and personally abusive juries. Consequently, many students suffer from critique anxiety (Scagnetti, 2017). To help change this critique culture, the inner wheel has six prompts:
- Strong point in this phase . . .
- You should try researching . . .
- Ideas that you could explore . . .
- Other things to consider . . .
- Things to reconsider . . .
- You can refine this stage by . . .
These prompts encourage students to provide positive and detailed critiques.
Figure 2: Spin the Wheel sections
Figure 3: The wheel with the covered sections
Students who played Spin the Wheel said that it was fun, helpful, and productive; it improved their attitudes toward giving and receiving a critique. Gamification has received significant attention in educational pedagogy as a means of improving learning processes (Chung et al., 2019). Several studies have found that educational gamification affects students’ commitment, behavior, and perceived motivation in learning, which can lead to enhancement of skills and knowledge (Chapman & Rich, 2018; Huang & Soman, 2013).
According to Brown (2014), students dislike critiques for several reasons: they may lack sufficient design language, so they feel ill-equipped to contribute; they hesitate to hurt their classmates’ feelings; they fear that others will give them negative feedback, so they choose not to say anything; or they simply do not care to share their opinions. Spin the Wheel eliminates these barriers. The game prompts students to make statements that are positive in nature when giving feedback, helping to ensure all criticism is constructive. The randomly chosen prompt questions tell the students which elements to give feedback about, which discourages cronyism and obtains an unbiased evaluation. The game allows students to gain feedback that focuses on one element of their designs at a time, and helps them develop vocabularies for communicating interior design concepts and solutions. And the action plan serves as a reference that can help develop and improve the presented design solution; in the action plan sheet, presenters must immediately write their plans for the future development of their projects based on the feedback they have received.
As a new peer critique tool intended for use in design studio classes, Spin the Wheel reinforces the importance of peer critiques and creates the conditions for meaningful participation.
Design critique may take place at any time in the sequence of a project, encouraged by the open nature of the studio environment. Accordingly, Spin the Wheel can be used at any time during a project.
Instructors can make the wheel themselves or can use websites or apps such as Decide Now or Tiny Decisions for some decision wheel options. The wheel comprises three circles containing, respectively, the prompts, the divider to hide the other sections, and the sections (see Figure 4).
Figure 4: Wheel assembly process.
As long as the positive nature of the prompts is maintained, the wheel can be customized to the studio/critique activity by changing the sections or prompts.
The target audience for this activity is lower-level design students. A group of 4 students present their work in an informally structured environment. The game format is as follows
- Students choose a colored index card from a stack, and, for randomization purposes, get sorted into groups based on the colors they picked up.
- Each group then gets the Spin the Wheel kit. The kit includes one spinning wheel and four action plan sheets on which students will document their feedback (see Figure 1).
- After the presenter finishes presenting, the critics start with the first section (Research and Programming), covering up the others. The other three students in that group spin the pin and comment on the chosen question (see Figure 3).
- After all three students/critics give their feedback for this section, they repeat the process with the other three sections (see Figure 5).
Figure 5: The format
- During the critique session, the presenter documents the feedback in the action plan to have a reference for the needed development.
To evaluate the effectiveness of Spin the Wheel during SBL, the authors implemented an online survey via Qualtrics. Students were asked to compare the game-based critique activity with their previous formal critique experiences. The results showed that 84% of participants preferred the Spin the Wheel critique to the formal critique, and 94% of participants said that Spin the Wheel created less pressure than did formal critiques.
The second method of evaluating the effectiveness of the game was an in-depth interview with the students over the two years when the game was used in studios. During the interviews, students were asked semi-structured questions about their gamification experience during studios. A student who was asked about his critique experience before using the wheel said:
When we didn’t have the game prompting us . . . our feedback . . . was just kind of like, “Oh yeah, your project is good, maybe you could try this.’’ Like we didn't have much to say . . . And I think the game helped [guide] us.
When students were asked about their game-based peer critique experience, one said:
I think we're so used to critiquing kind of being like we have to do it in class, and you don't . . . wanna hurt anyone's feelings and . . . it feels like a task. [With the game,] it still feels like you're helping your fellow students and it still feels like a task, but it feels a little bit more comfortable. It’s a little bit more fun having the action of spinning the wheel.
When asked about the game after two years of using it, one student responded,
I think we now consider giving more constructive feedback and . . . we value it . . . We look for constructive feedback rather than just getting compliments that our designs are good. We want people to tell us narrower specific things.
The last method of evaluating the effectiveness of the game was the instructors’ observation of students and their development over the years while they used the Spin the Wheel tool. Generally, the most important finding during the observations of the game was the relaxed critique style of the students. Additionally, the studio vibe during the critique session tended to be more relaxing, positive, and fun. Moreover, the students seemed to take the responsibility of giving peer feedback seriously and provided that feedback in a positive, helpful manner. Another benefit from the Spin the Wheel tool is that the students became invested in each other’s projects. They started to provide feedback frequently and used the wheel of their own volition.
The game tackles the issues that Brown (2014) raised about peer critiques. Kim et al. (2009) defined game-based learning as focusing on achieving a particular educational objective through game play. Players’ attempts to solve problems are tested throughout the learning session. In today’s classrooms, educational games often focus on entertainment rather than learning (Kim et al., 2009). The author designed Spin the Wheel as a tool that attempts to balance entertainment and learning.
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