Learning to give good feedback is a critical skill for anyone wanting to judge, coach, or help others. Feedback is a difficult skill to learn. Students often take debate very seriously, so they want honest feedback about how to get better. That being said, the wording of that feedback needs to be positive to avoid hurting the debater. Use these three questions to ask yourself when giving feedback:
Is what I am saying helpful?
When phrasing your feedback, make sure your feedback is specific and phrased in positive language. Comments about a student rather than their skill or the round of debate will not help that student grow. Always make sure that the number one priority of each piece of feedback is to help the student grow.
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. Missing any of those steps means there will be gaps in the debaters understanding of your feedback.
How will my student use the feedback?
Oftentimes when giving feedback in debate, it is tempting to spend time on talking about what you would have done (this is especially a problem for 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.
Feedback should always be phrased in a positive light, even if your feedback is designed to be constructive. Feedback that is descriptive expresses what is seen in the student’s work rather than pronouncing judgment. For example:
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 your students. It shows students the next steps they should take to be successful and it allows them to feel in control of their own learning, providing the motivation.
As a new coach, it is often difficult to figure out how to read a round of debate, and provide feedback to your students. Explore the resources available on the website so you can become more familiar with debate.
In addition to those resources, if you are looking for a very basic method of judging your students debates, ask these questions during the debate. If you answer no, that is an area where improvement is needed.
- 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?