The Critical Move – A History

What is a Critical Move? 

The critical move is a specific step you can take to make headway in your written assignment, be it in analysis or response. The critical move is scripted by your teacher, based on one of the “cool spots” in your work, and may take the form of the following:

  • Write or rewrite your introduction / conclusion
  • Analyse a new method or new evidence you didn’t previously consider
  • Analyse with a focus on the effects (you probably tried to describe or explain the text)
  • Add on or review the purpose or your discussion of concerns (you may have ended abruptly, or not linked your analysis to your ideas)

You should generally complete your critical move within 7 days of receiving your work back. Remember to write down the instruction given to you so that your tutor can understand the “destination” you are supposed to get to (see the next section).


What’s the background of this nifty idea?

Unfortunately, it isn’t mine. I adapted it from a book called Switch which is essentially a management book that is, despite the raised eyebrows that management books incur, useful and practical. The concept of the critical move could not do without the premise that we all want to become better at what we do, and we sometimes don’t know how.

The critical move is decidedly NOT a big picture statement like “Become a better writer!”, “Lose weight”!”, “Get smart!” or any other vague call to action. It is an attempt to shrink the change to something you can manage in less time. For some, it’s about changing what you eat for lunch every Monday, or adding 10 min of reading time to your schedule tomorrow. For us, it’s about reviewing a specific line or paragraph, or adding a few lines of analysis. It is also an attempt to point you to the destination. You may not have really covered the concerns, so your critical move guarantees that you’ll move one band up in the ‘Response’ column.


Wait, hang on a second, are you sure it’s that easy?

Well, of course not. The Heath brothers, the writers of Switch, tell us that it is important to motivate the “elephant”, that residual big beast of instinct in all of us. We all need to find the emotion to get started, to get better, to stare at our own work; that’s why we are dangling the carrot of additional marks to each of your CAs.

The critical move per se seeks to direct the rider – to tell the rational side of you where to go (i.e. you are definitely going to score 25/25 for all six of your answers), and to get us started on these “critical moves” so that you have a habit of relooking your work. 🙂 Enjoy the process!

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