Holistic Grading Overview for Oral Presentations

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Holistic Criteria Used for Evaluating Speeches

For more information on this Holistic Grading Approach, read a summary of pros and cons of this method.

The Informative Speech Feedback Form offers an example of the following holistic grading approach.

The following lists give the general criteria by which the student will be evaluated for each assignment. The grades earned are based on individual performance according to these criteria as well as the student's ability to meet the specific requirements of the assignment.

A failing (F) speech is seriously deficient and is characterized by one or more of the following:

  1. It is not delivered on the day assigned and the speaker has not contacted his/her instructor prior to class.
  2. It has serious ethical flaws such as plagiarizing another person’s speech, using sources without proper citation, or manufacturing support material and citations.
  3. It does not correspond to the definition of the assignment (e.g., it is persuasive when the assignment calls for an informative speech).
  4. It does not come close to conforming to the time limit.
  5. It insults, humiliates, or demeans the audience or members of the community at large or is in other ways inappropriate for a presentation in a university classroom.

A below average (D) speech is significantly deficient and characterized by one or more of the following:

  1. It fails to clearly conform to any of the patterns of organization.
  2. It is delivered in a way that ignores the audience (e.g., it is read to the audience).
  3. It is delivered late with prior approval of your instructor.
  4. It fails to conform to the time limit.
  5. It fails to use or cite support materials as required by the assignment.

An average (C) speech is an adequate speech. It is usually organized and clear, but it may lack audience impact or interest, strong support material, sustained eye contact, and effective non-verbal delivery. It should match the following description:

  1. It conforms to the kind of speech assigned.
  2. It is ready for presentation on the assigned date.
  3. It meets the time limit.
  4. It fulfills any special requirements of the assignment – such as preparing an outline, using a visual aid, or citing the appropriate number and type of sources.
  5. It has a clear specific purpose and central idea.
  6. It has an identifiable introduction, body, and conclusion.
  7. It follows one of the patterns of organization reasonably well.
  8. It shows reasonable directness and competence in delivery.
  9. It is free of repeated errors in grammar, pronunciation, and word usage.

An above average (B) speech is a good speech. It has significant content, good organization, and proficient delivery. It should meet all the criteria for the average speech and also match the following description:

  1. It fulfills all major functions of a speech introduction and conclusion.
  2. It displays clear organization of main points and support materials.
  3. Its main points are supported with evidence that meets the tests of accuracy, relevance, objectivity, and sufficiency.
  4. It exhibits proficient use of connectives.
  5. It is delivered skillfully enough so as not to distract attention from the speaker’s message.
  6. It demonstrates skill in winning agreement from auditors initially inclined toward apathy or disagreement or in winning actions from auditors.

A superior (A) speech stands out from the crowd. It has superior content, excellent organization, and distinctive delivery. In short, it represents the speaker’s best creative effort. An A speech gets nearly everyone in the audience thinking, excited, concerned, desirous to hear more, read more, or do something about what was said. It should meet all the criteria for the average and above average speeches and also match the following description:

  1. It constitutes a genuinely individual contribution by the speaker to the knowledge or beliefs of the audience.
  2. It meets the assignment exactly.
  3. It contains elements of vividness and special interest in the use of language.
  4. It is delivered in a fluent, polished manner that strengthens the impact of the speaker’s message.
  5. It illustrates mastery of the use of connectives.
  6. It exhibits creative thinking about and logical analysis of the topic.

Sources

  • Atkins, Martha. “Fundamentals of Speech Communication,” Iowa State University, 1993.
  • Dwyer, Karen. Public Speaking Workbook. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1996.
  • Lucas, Stephen. Instructor’s Manual to Accompany the Art of Public Speaking. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1995.
  • Oliver, Robert. “The Eternal (and Infernal) Problem of Grades.” The Speech Teacher, IX (1960): 8–11.

Submitted by Amy R. Slagell, Director of the Fundamentals of Public Speaking Program, Iowa State University

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