I was very surprised when we came into class on Tuesday and Cheryl told us to scatter. No professor had ever tried to get rid of me before! But when we’d made our way to a quiet spot in the library and our group had its best conference yet, I realized her point. Sometimes a change of scenery, or the freedom to choose where you will work is much more beneficial than having a teacher hover over your shoulder, looking for holes in your work ethic.
By reading our papers aloud to each other and then talking through the various aspects of the work, we were able to give each group member critical, complete advice. I found this time, that by jotting down notes as the person read, or that by marking errors on my own manuscript, I was able to give better advice as well as remember the advice that was given to me.
I also made an effort to balance the advice I gave with a mix of honest criticism and honest praise (both with clearly explained foundations). One technique I learned from listening to Megan was to start off with what you like about the paper, and then subtly move into how it could be improved. In the end, the writer still feels good, but she knows how to improve her work.