Design Pursuit: A Critique Game
Hande Burcu Deniz, M.F.A. | University of Wisconsin-Madison
Overview: While critique is an essential part of design education, traditional presentation-based critique sessions are frightening to most students, and group critiques often lack active student participation. It is important, however, for students to become accustomed to receiving critiques, especially from peers, and to actively participating during critique sessions. Deriving from Landers’ (2014) theory of gamified learning, I created a board game that encourages students to give feedback without the pressure of presenting or the possibility of hurting each other’s feelings, and creates a stronger and positive learning environment. The game can be played in class during a critique session, or students can play it outside of class to get feedback from each other in an informal and joyful context.
Level: This critique game can be tweaked for all levels, but is especially useful for freshmen and sophomore classes.
Duration: Depends on the pace and number of players. Four players can expect to finish the game in approximately an hour.
Learning Objectives: The game aims to ease freshmen and sophomores into the concepts of group critique and peer feedback. The students will become accustomed to receiving feedback, and learn how to give constructive feedback to their peers. The game also aims to increase participation of upper-level students in group critiques.
Critique is a central element of design education (Hokanson, 2012). It is a way to direct students to improve their designs. Critique comes not only from instructors, but from peers. However, developing skills to communicate with peers and give constructive feedback on their works takes time and effort. As Gray (2013) notes, easing students into these habits would improve their critique skills and help them overcome their mostly negative perceptions of peer critique. Previous studies and observations of design students, especially in their freshmen year, shows that it is important to ease students into the concepts of constructive feedback and peer critique to and strengthen their communication skills. To achieve these goals, the present strategy incorporates gamification of learning, which is defined as “the use of game elements (…) to facilitate learning and related outcomes.” (Landers et al., 2017, p. 459). The main aim of this critiquing strategy is to teach students how to give and receive constructive feedback, and to increase participation during critique sessions.
Here are the instructions to play Design Pursuit:
- The instructor or players should decide on categories, based on the projects to be critiqued. The suggested number of categories is between four and six. (Example: The categories for a freshmen interior design project might be: Balance, unity, harmony and variety, layout and space flow, material choice, and color scheme).
- If the game is played as an in-class activity, the students or the instructor will form groups. This step is not applicable if students are playing the game outside of class, since they will play it as a group.
- The students bring their projects and set the board (See Fig. 1).
Fig.1: Example board design with categories written in the middle
- Each player picks a token to mark where they are on the board, as in Monopoly.
- Players roll a dice and move their token forward on the board. Every time they roll the dice, the players land on a square representing a category. (For example, the category can be unity.)
- The player picks another players’ project. Players cannot talk about the same category on the same project twice, so by the end of the game everyone has received feedback on every category.
- Players should talk about the aspect of the project specified in the category. They should answer three questions about the category: (a) how it was used or achieved, (b) what was successful, and (c) what can be done to improve the design. (As per the example, the player should pick another player’s project and explain how the unity was achieved, what is successful, and what could be done better).
- Other players will be able to reject the response if the feedback was misleading, not appropriate for the project/level, or if did not answer all three questions. By giving acceptable feedback to one player’s project, they will collect a card for each category. (As per the example, the player collects the unity card.)
- To finish the game, players should finish all categories. (As per the example, a player should finish all six categories).
- The players try to finish all categories first.
- The last two players should finish all remaining categories and feedback.
Design Pursuit is expected to play both mediator and moderator roles in learning outcomes. Mediator behavior has a determining role in the learning outcomes. By playing Design Pursuit, students will become accustomed to the critiquing process that comes naturally with design education. The mediator role is seen more often among freshmen and sophomore students, since they are relatively new to critiquing. The game omits the negative feelings that the word “critiquing” brings and that most of students experience in traditional critique sessions.This game aims to make the process more fun and turn critique into a positive experience, encouraging students to learn from each other and appreciate each other’s contributions in the design process. The second behavior, moderator, refers to the alterations that change the effectiveness of existing learning outcomes. By playing Design Pursuit, students will be more attentive in critique sessions and more willing to give each other feedback. They will start thinking more critically. Students who play the game together will have a chance to get to know each other better in a positive environment, and the trust they build in the game will create a stronger cohort.
Design Pursuit was created by applying goal-setting theory via rules/goals game elements. Goal-setting theory suggests that well-designed goals can maximize performance or expected outcomes (Locke & Latham, 2013). In this game, the goal is to give and receive constructive feedback. As suggested by Landers et al. (2017), when players can see their progress in the game, they engage in self-regulatory processes and are encouraged to perform better or produce the expected outcomes. In this game, players collect cards to monitor their progress.
Landers notes that the application of goal-setting theory to a game may lead players to show “wrong” behaviors like shortcuts, or just aiming to finish the game instead of learning. To avoid this, the game could be regulated in some ways. In Design Pursuit, answers to three specific questions are required to collect a card, so players receive more comprehensive feedback and take time to think about the categories and design in a more critical way. The questions are: (a) how the design category was used or achieved, which aims to make sure that viewers are able to see what is correctly implemented in design; (b) what was successful, which aims to highlight the strength of the design and encourage the designer; and (c) what can be done to improve the design, which aims to give an idea to the designer about next steps to improve the design. I believe that using these questions will also increase students’ appreciation of each other’s contributions. A potential problem that might occur in a rules/goals game is that when the rules are too straight, the player might be bored and not motivated. To avoid that, dice were included in the game. Rolling dice might also help creating a chance factor that increases the excitement and would be an excuse for not finishing the game first, so no one feels inferior in the game.
Gray, C. M. (2013). Informal peer critique and the negotiation of habitus in a design studio. Art, Design & Communication in Higher Education, 12(2), 195-209.
Hokanson, B. (2012). The design critique as a model for distributed learning. In The next generation of distance education (pp. 71-83). Springer, Boston, MA.
Landers, R. N. (2014). Developing a theory of gamified learning: Linking serious games and gamification of learning. Simulation & Gaming, 45(6), 752-768.
Landers, R. N., Armstrong, M. B., & Collmus, A. B. (2017). How to use game elements to enhance learning: Applications of the theory of gamified learning. In Serious games and edutainment applications (pp. 457-483). Springer, Cham.
Locke, E. A., & Latham, G. P. (Eds.). (2013). New developments in goal setting and task performance. Routledge.