By Travis Willmore
The Blog has previously dealt with fear of criticizing others’ work and insecurity about your own writing, two issues that can keep workshops from being that ideal vision of constructiveness and feedback. Another scenario that can arise is when people are willing to comment honestly, but their comments aren’t the kind that lead to improving the paper. For workshop comments to be useful, they need to engage the recipient in a way that isn’t condescending, and leads them to finding their own ways of positive revision. Here are some suggestions for successful ’shopping:
-Distinguish between constructive criticism and criticism for its own sake: When you point out areas in need of revision, do you show a clear path toward possible ways of making those revisions? Raise the possibility that a section of the paper could be revised, and suggest some potential options for doing so…but remember that you’re just offering options. Be suggestive, not prescriptive.
-Balance criticism with praise: You don’t want all your input to be critical, even if it’s all purely constructive. No matter what your intent, it can still be trying for others to listen to an unbroken string of things you think could change in their papers. Intersperse comments on areas in potential need of revision with comments on what you think is positive about the other student’s work.
For more strategies to use in peer response groups, click here.