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"Learning is not a spectator sport. Students do not learn much by just sitting in class listening to teachers, memorizing prepackaged assignments, and spitting out answers. They must talk about what they are learning, write about it, relate it to past experiences, apply it to their daily lives. They must make what they learn a part of themselves."

Chickering, A and Gamson, Z. F. (March 1987) "Seven Principles for Good Practice." AAHE Bulletin 39: 3-7.

Making Suggestions in a Tactful Way

Speak from your own perspective. If you are stating facts about how the piece is working visually, it’s okay to be direct (e.g. “The use of overlapping shapes creates depth,” or “The high contrast in this area makes it the focal point.) Acknowledge that there may be reactions to the artwork by using phrases like “My reaction to this is…” or “ I found this to be…” rather than “ This design IS...”

Ask questions; avoid judgement.

A) Ask the artist about choices they have made. For example:

“I’m wondering why you put her face in the center of the design. To me it feels static. Is that the effect you wanted?”
VS.
“Your design is boring because the face is centered.”


Questions allow the artist to explain his/her intentions and are more supportive than evaluative comments.

B) Ask the artist to consider other possibilities. For example:

I wonder how ___________ would change it?
Do you think a ___________ would make it more ____________?


Questions allow the artist to consider your suggestions without seeing them as demands or “the only solution”.

Some useful phrases for making suggestions:

  • You might want to consider...
  • You may want to try...
  • What to do think about (suggestion)?
  • What if you (suggestion)