Providing good feedback is a critical skill for anyone wanting to judge or coach debaters. Debaters are looking for honest, constructive feedback on they can improve their debating skills. We recommend that the feedback be structured to provide encouragement. Consider these three questions when giving feedback:
Is what I am saying helpful?
Ensure your feedback is specific, phrased in positive language, and focussed on a particular skill that was displayed or needs improvement.
What did they learn from my feedback?
Feedback should be structured so that the debater is clearly able to see what went well, what did not, and how to improve.
How will my student use the feedback?
It can be tempting to spend time talking about what you would have done (especially as a former debater). Before you give a piece of feedback, ask yourself if the comment will help your debaters in the next round. If it won’t, hold that comment unless your debater asks for feedback on specific argumentation in the round.
Your speech was very persuasive; the loaded language that you used in the introduction really hooked the judges. Try adding more concrete examples to drive home your argument.
Your speech needed a lot of work, put more effort into the material next time.
Good feedback is important because it addresses learning and motivates debaters. It shows the next steps students should take to be successful and it allows them to feel in control of their own learning, providing the motivation.
For a new coach, a basic method of evaluating your students is provided below. If you answer no, that is an area of improvement.
- Does the debater avoid both unsupported assertions and the continual citation of authorities?
- Are the contentions supported with sufficient well-documented evidence?
- Does the debater show convincing knowledge of the resolution?
- Has the debater highlighted the important issues that have emerged in the debate? Does the debater follow through on these issues?
- Are the definitions and the interpretation of the resolution sound and responsible?
- Is the refutation clear-cut in its attack on significant points of disagreement between the two teams?
- Is significant new evidence or argumentation presented in refutation, or is it merely a repetition of ideas presented earlier?
- Is the reasoning sound? Is it quick and agile?
- Are fallacies avoided and detected?
- Is there evidence of original thinking?
- Is there a clear outline of constructive arguments?
- Do the members of the team co-operate to present a unified case?
- Is refutation well organized and easy to follow?
- Does the speech contain an effective, clear introduction and a summary conclusion?
- Is each argument organized in a logical fashion?
- Is the debater convincing and effective?
- Does the debater seem sincere?
- Does the debater use persuasive words and emotion to connect to the audience?
- Does the debater speak with a clear style?
- Does the debater give the impression of genuineness and sincerity?
- Does the debater adapt, in manner and content, to opponents and the audience situation?
- Does the debater introduce variety and humor effectively?
- Does the debater use good diction and pronounce words correctly?
- Does the debater seem at home on the platform, in posture and gesture?
- Does the debater maintain eye contact with the audience?