Evaluation of Student Presentations1

Many students perceive criticism just as uncomplimentary or even destructive. The legitimate purpose of all criticism should be improvement. Only if we are aware of problems can we do something about them. Few of us are honest enough and discerning enough to give ourselves the impartial objective view of ourselves which we can get from a friendly critic on the outside. By exposing ourselves to criticism we give ourselves the opportunity to improve in unexpected ways.

All presentations are subject to evaluation. (This course itself will benefit from your criticisms at the end of the semester.) Much can be learned from the evaluation of poor seminars. Good seminars could have been even better. Two principles of criticism should be kept in mind: recognition of existing merit is essential in criticism, and faultfinding without a suggestion for improvement is not useful. Only when one understands the art of criticism as an appraisal, recognizing both good and bad, and offering constructive suggestions is one ready to evaluate the performance of others and ready to receive criticism oneself.

As a rule, students tend to be too polite to tell the truth to their colleagues even when the colleagues ask for it. They are likely to say "Good talk" or "Nice job" without meaning it at all. Such comments are a waste of time if someone wants to improve. They may make the speaker feel better, but they do not help him or her to speak better. Objective analysis need not cause the harm of resentment and self-consciousness that negative criticism, tactlessly stated, can produce.

A critic should constantly be thinking "Why?" Why did I like that example? Why can't I follow this argument? Why did my attention wander? Why was the information presented this way rather than some other? A critic should also learn from the experience of others. We all have room for improvement. As we proceed through the semester, the quality of the seminars should improve as the result of our collective experience.

1 Portions adapted from Smedley, R. C. (1947) Speech Evaluation, The Art of Constructive Criticism, Toastmasters International, Inc., Santa Ana, CA.

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Last updated 3 August 2001 by Hal White
Copyright 1998 & 2001, Harold B. White, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, University of Delaware, Newark, DE 19716