Learning to evaluate a speaker is a valuable skill to have and should be practiced even beyond a public speaking class. Evaluation employs the skills involved with critical thinking to listen to, dissect, analyze, and critique a message. This provides an opportunity to commend what worked well in the speech, as well as list areas of improvement for future speeches.
Essentially, a peer evaluation serves as a formal critique based on a set of pre-established criteria used to evaluate the speaker. To complete this task requires practice of all that has been laid out within this chapter, including setting aside all distractions, focusing on individual portions of the speech objectively, and maintaining a laser-sharp focus.
Good evaluators act like good coaches, and a good coach encourages good behaviors. In a quest for excellence, good coaches also point out areas that need improvement. When good coaches can express their opinions accurately with good interpersonal skills, the participants can excel and feel good about that important teaching moment. Encourage good behaviors, and help the speaker become even better in the future.
Here are some points to keep in mind:
- Be prepared to evaluate. Bring peer evaluation forms (if required) to class on speech days. These forms offer invaluable guidance to help evaluate the various components of the basic speech organizational pattern.
- Learn how to evaluate correctly early on in the semester. During speeches, your evaluations will count toward your grade. Bottom line: learning how to do a proper peer evaluation will not only help your grade, but will also help you become a better speaker!
- Know the “criteria” for evaluating speeches. The criteria are the standards by which you will judge the speech. Look over the assignment objectives and the appropriate evaluation forms for criteria.
- Write while the speaker presents the material. This may seem rude at first, especially if you are not accustomed to note taking. It may seem difficult initially, but you will soon feel that it comes naturally as you learn to listen for and provide constructive feedback. Most students don’t take long to become efficient and effective at completing evaluations.
- Read over and study the samples at the end of this chapter. These were taken from actual student evaluations. Use them as a model for your own evaluations.
- Use the “3-2-1” method of evaluation:
- Begin by listing three positive aspects of the speech, or three things you think the speaker did very well. Be sure to support these with specific examples. Do not just say, “Good speech,” or “I really liked it.” Take it further and articulate not only which details you found effective, but why.
- Follow this up by discussing two areas that need improvement. What could the speaker have done better? List and then support your assertions with clear and specific details. How might the speaker improve upon these areas or learn from them for the next speech? For example, if you found the speaker’s opening statement rather lackluster, provide a suggestion or strategy for how to improve it, such as, “In future speeches consider opening with something such as a quote or staggering statistic for improved impact.” This last component is essential to growth; the speaker must not only know what needs improvement but also how to improve it.
- Lastly, include your overall impression. If this was an informative speech, how well informed did you feel afterward? How unique and innovative was the speaker’s treatment of the topic? How well did the speaker relate the topic to you as an audience member? Again, support this impression with details from the speech itself.
Above all, remember that the peer evaluation process helps others learn from their experiences to become better communicators, so all feedback provided during this process should pursue that purpose. Positive feedback should encourage speakers to capitalize on those strengths. Constructive criticism should not break a speaker down, but instead, point to areas where further development and refinement are required to communicate more effectively.