is for students to offer critiques to one another. This may seem like it goes without saying but as a believer in peer review and as an educator who has and continues to use peer review in my courses, I have learned this has to be stated. Critique is not a synonym for critical as in mean-spirited, it is a synonym for critical as in offering substantial suggestions for improvement.
The point of peer review is not just to make a colleague feel validated about what is good in their work. Certainly a good critique does point out what is done well. However if all the reviewer does is say "This is great, very interesting topic" their colleague has no idea how to improve their project/writing.
What I suggest to learners is to try the sandwich method. Offer a kind or positive comment, then offer suggestions for improvements, then end with something positive.
I have learned as an educator that peer reviewers often need an explanation of what it means to peer review the work of others, and they need tools to assist them. If there is a rubric/checklist for the assignment, reviewers can use this as a baseline for their review. If there isn't a rubric (there should be!) the teacher can explain what they will look for in grading the assignment.
I used peer review very successfully when teaching 8th grade and it works equally well with adult learners... once you get them past the point where they are endlessly positive and much too polite. I believe in stating things politely but there has to be some meat in a review. One way to remain polite and still offer good critical comments is to ask questions. "I was reading this section and I am not sure what is meant by the acronym XYZ. Can you explain this to me? Your readers may need this explain too."
Peer review has many positive aspects. First of all, the more a student helps others, the more they will learn themselves! Critiques require critical thinking about the form and substance of the work being reviewed, this critical thinking is then almost always applied back to the reviewer's own work. Reviewing also allows new eyes to see the minor errors which might be overlooked by the author of the work. Peer reviewing also builds community among the learners. Trust is needed when putting work out to be reviewed and when accepting reviews from others. Trust is a key element in building a learning community. Community is what it is all about!