In medical school, it’s common for students to practice clinical skills within small groups. They interview a professional actor who’s been coached in a particular role, then receive feedback from their peers, instructors, and the so-called “patient.”
I taught Human Sexuality. Each year, as a fresh crop of students filed into my room – some puffing out their chests in a display of bravado, some slinking to their chairs and staring longingly at the door – it was clear they anticipated feedback like the dialogue above.
Scary, wouldn’t you agree? Particularly in such a personal realm.
Fortunately, I had M. Therese Cave as a mentor, and she dialed down the emotionality by providing a critiquing framework. Once we established and modeled the ground rules, small groups became safe and valuable places to learn. (Not necessarily comfortable, you’ll note, but safe.)
So let me pass the model on to you, shifted subtly to reflect the writing world.
You might find the CORBS model helpful if you’re:
- settling into a new critique relationship
- hoping to revive a stagnant, too-polite group
- still see potential in an acrimonious one
- are avoiding a valuable opportunity, not by choice, but because you believe you have to feel crucified to learn.
I’d suggest you discuss the principles in your critique group first, before doing actual work on manuscripts. Seek adoption through consensus.
One final note: CORBS doesn’t fix everything, of course. We had actors who gave inappropriate feedback, and participants who delighted in carrying personal grudges into the group, but that’s what facilitators are for, right?
*allows self to indulge in momentary nostalgia for her ball-busting days*
For similar reasons, some critique groups choose to establish a moderator – a goodwill-code enforcer, if you will pardon a touch of irony.