The response of students in fundamentals of speech to oral criticism
Albright, Merlyn D.
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Criticism is regarded as essential to the teaching of speech. What the authorities do not agree on is how best to utilize criticism and to what degree it affects students. If criticism is to be effective in influencing improvement in speaking it must be perceived, understood, accepted, recalled and utilized by the student. Because of concern about this presumption and the results of studies that show oral criticism after each speech to be the method used most widely, this study focused on the responses of students in Fundamentals of Speech to oral criticism by their instructors. Information is lacking regarding how much and how correctly or Incorrectly students recall "oral criticism," and whether they react to these comments positively or negatively. What proportion of instructors' oral comments on speeches are made positively and negatively? Are there differences in the responses of male and female students to oral criticism of their speeches? The assistance of eight speech instructors and sixteen of their Fundamentals classes were employed. One of each of the eight instructors classes was assigned to Group I; these thirty-five subjects were asked to recall on a questionnaire administered at the end of the same class period the comments were made, the oral criticisms of their speeches made by the instructor. To investigate the effect of delay on the recall of criticism, the other eight classes were assigned to Group II; these twenty-eight subjects were asked to recall on a questionnaire the oral comments on their speeches immediately preceding the presentation of their next speech. Students in Groups I and II were asked to classify comments as either accurate or inaccurate criticisms of their speeches and to react to each comment recalled either positively or negatively. Students' attitudes toward the value of oral and written criticism and of listening to the speeches and the criticisms of speeches were also surveyed. Students in the sixteen classes who were not tested on recall and five additional Fundamentals classes (253 total) were given the questionnaire during the second semester. At the end of the first semester a similar attitude questionnaire was given to eight Fundamentals classes (152 students). The percentage of oral comments recalled correctly for Group I was 42 per cent^ for Group II 40 per cent, which parallels closely the 41 per cent recall of written comments found in David Arnold's investigation. The responses indicate that students feel that 90 per cent of their instructor's oral comments are accurate appraisals of their speeches. Students in Group X reacted positively to 72 per cent, Group II to 54 per cent of the comments they recalled. Of all of the comments made by instructors in this study, 210 were recalled correctly by the students. Only 26 per cent of those 210 criticisms were positive comments about the speeches, 74 per cent were negative. Students reacted positively to 57 per cent and negatively to only 43 per cent of the comments that criticized their speeches negatively. The results of this study cast doubt on Robert Bostrom's conclusion that negative criticism elicits largely negative speech attitudes. Three-fourths of the students in this study rated written comments from the instructor as the most helpful form of criticism, giving a mean rating of 6.10 on the seven-point semantic differential for the fall and 5.88 for the spring. Oral criticism was regarded by two-thirds of the students as helpful, with mean ratings of 5.85 in the fall and 5.75 in the spring surveys. Oral comments from their fellow students received mean ratings of 4.52 in the fall and 4.66 in the spring, while written criticism from fellow students received mean ratings of only 3.92 and 3.70 in the fall and spring respectively. Students consistently rated listening to the speeches and the criticisms of the speeches of their fellow classmates as informative, valuable and helpful in improving their speaking (approximate means, 5.50). The results of this study are not conclusive, but they are a step towards greater understanding of the impact of criticism on students in Fundamentals of Speech.