In both writing and teaching of writing, peer critiquing is a big deal. It’s one of the hot topics in both worlds. There’s a certain knack of being able to critique another person’s writing. It’s an absolutely essential skill to becoming a better writer. Critiquing teaches a writer how to accept criticism and sharpens the eye for mistakes in his own writing.
I use it when I write, and I’m eager for as much feedback as I can get, and happy to reciprocate.
I don’t use it when I teach.
As I said before there’s a certain knack to a critique. The fact is my students don’t have the ability to critique. They don’t know what to look for or how to make comments. They simply don’t have the level of expertise necessary to point out mistakes.
Furthermore, they’re too afraid of hurting an author’s feelings to offer valuable, necessary criticism. They mistake the content of the message for the tone of the message. Because of this they simply write something positive (I agree, I like what you said, this is good) and be done with it.
Consequently, when the writing moves on to me, I find obvious mistakes are shot throughout the writing, and that the peer experience has done nothing whatsoever to make them better writers. For an activity such as Peer critique, it’s a bit of chicken and the egg. What comes first, language proficiency or peer feedback?
I’m still looking for a way to make it work, but haven’t found it yet.