Evaluating Oral Assignments

Student improvement of oral communication skills is dependent upon specific feedback following the oral presentation. Several types of evaluative techniques may be used, including evaluation by the instructor, peer evaluation, and self-critiques. You may consult the Oral Presentation Scoring Rubric as a resource. Before constructing your evaluative tool, review these considerations.

Considerations in Evaluation of Oral Assignments

1. Student perception of evaluation: Because one's speech is so much a part of one's identity, students sometimes view criticism of their speaking skills as criticism of themselves. It is helpful to differentiate the two and to remind students that learning to speak well is similar to learning other activities. It takes preparation, practice, and coaching.

2. The goal of evaluation is to improve performance.

3. Positive and negative evaluation is helpful. Students need to know what is working as well as what can be inmproved.

4. Immediate, specific feedback is most useful. Not "your delivery was o.k.," but "your eye contact to the professor and the students on the right side of the room was effective, but you rarely looked to the left."

5. Combine both written and oral feedback to reach both visual and auditory learners. An advantage of specific written feedback is that students can review it before their next oral presentation and incorporate your suggestions.

6. Timing is important:

Faculty and peer evaluators should pen their written responses immediately following the presentation.

If several students are presenting oral presentations in the same class period, present oral evaluations at the end of class rather than immediately following each speaker. This will prevent earlier speakers from feeling like later speakers are receiving "hints" that give the later speakers an edge.

Faculty members may also choose to give oral responses at the end of an entire round of presentations for the same reasons as above. On the other hand, if feedback is given after each class period, later presentations will indeed have the benefit of "hints," but they will also be expected to be stronger presentations than earlier ones.

Feedback for student participation in class discussion and group work is also appropriate and can enhance students' communication skills.

7. Variety in evaluation is effective:

Faculty reviewers may utilize written responses such as checklists, narratives,and scale ratings; oral critiques with a description of what was done during the speech coupled with statements of concern for the student's improvement; presentation of a student's videotaped performance with discussion following; and private conferences, particularly with students who exhibit signs of speaking anxiety.

Types of Evaluative Techniques

1. Evaluation by Instructor: Remember that you set the standard for excellence, so strive to model effective communication. When offering criticism, focus on the positive first, then offer suggestions for improvement. Use precise language when offering criticism, and employ private conferences when appropriate.

2. Evaluation by Peers: Training of reviewers (in effective listening and in giving criticism) is necessary for constructive peer critique. You may wish to consider ways to motivate respondents to be responsible reviewers. Peer review may take a variety of approaches: Student moderated discussion; panel of critiquers, each of whom critiques a different facet of the presentation; student evaluation of audience responses to the presentation; and question & answer session after a presentation where peers ask for clarification of points they did not understand. Another helpful evaluative measure is to pair students up for the duration of the assignment -- the partners assist one another in the preparation and practice steps of the project and are therefore able to offer very specific responses to the presentation itself.

3. Student Self-Critique: Videotape student presentations and provide the speaker with the tape. After the student reviews the tape, he or she will be able to note strengths and weaknesses of the presentation. Encourage the student to articulate effective parts of the presentation as well as weaknesses. Encourage the student to identify the possible causes of problems in the oral presentations. For example, was excessive anxiety due to fear of the audience or lack of proper rehearsal? If so, that problem can be alleviated. Finally, encourage the student to set one or two goals for the next presentation.

Many examples of varying types of evaluative tools are available in the Ferguson Center For Public Speaking. Professor Claire Deal, director of the Center, is available to assist you in developing an evaluative measure that will work for your oral project.