One of the most important
aspects of a debate is the feedback students receive from
a judge. Debaters look forward to and value the comments
judges make on their ballots. In order to help students
improve and understand the reason for the judge’s
decision, a judge needs to provide useful comments, a thorough
analysis of the round, and the reason for their decision.
Although you will give an oral critique of each debate,
writing comments on a ballot will help coaches understand
what happened in debates, and help students remember what
happened in debates.
Although there is no formal structure for ballots, there
are certain key elements that every good ballot should include.
The reason for decision, comments directed to specific debaters,
and comparisons of arguments made during the round are especially
useful to debaters. Make sure to point out things each team
could have done better and recognize things that they did
well. Encouraging debaters to improve and to continue competing
is just as important as providing critique. Below is a list
of things to do and not to do when preparing a ballot.
Ballot To Dos:
Provide a reason for decision
Tell debaters what they did well and what they could
do to improve
Discuss and compare arguments made during the round
Provide a thorough analysis of the debate
Use constructive criticism
Ballot Not To Dos:
Do not “flow” on
Do not leave the ballot blank
Do not leave out your reason for decision
Do not list arguments without commenting on them
Do not write illegibly or use too many abbreviations
In order to help you understand how to structure
your comments and what type of information to include, we
have provided examples of very good ballots, good ballots,
ballots that have a good start but need improvement, bad
ballots, and very bad ballots. Each category has a couple
of examples that show different ways for judges to effectively
provide feedback. All ballots are actual ballots given to
students at tournaments. Most have been recopied to protect
the identity of the judge.
Click the examples on the right to view
a larger version of each sample ballot.
Very Good Ballot: The first
thing on this ballot is a clear reason for why the judge
voted for the winning team. Also, this ballot tells each
team what they did to either lose or win the round. This
judge went on to give feedback to teams as a whole, as well
as suggestions to individual debaters about things they should
Very Good Ballot: This ballot comments
on each speech made during the round. Not only does this
judge provide a concrete reason for decision, but the judge
also tells each debater about something they did well. Additionally,
each debater received some advice about things to work on
in the future.
Good Ballot: This judge points
to specific arguments made by each team and goes on to explain
which points were won by each side. This ballot allows debaters
to understand which of their arguments prevailed in the debate.
The judge also explains the criteria used for deciding which
team won and explains the reason for decision. However, the
judge does not give individual feedback to each debater.
Comments directed toward debaters are very helpful.
Good Ballot: Although
this ballot gives a reason for decision, the judge never
refers to specific arguments that helped the proposition
win. Debaters need to understand which points in the round
were the deciding factors for the judge’s decision.
The judge does give suggestion to individual debaters about
things they could do to improve.
Good Start, Needs Improvement: Debaters
love it when you give them individual, specific feedback
on their speaking style; however, they do not enjoy it when
you give them no reason for decision. This ballot tells the
teams what they are doing well individually, but gives no
analysis on their arguments.
Good Start, Needs Improvement: This ballot
gives general suggestions and comments to each team, but
does not provide individual debaters with feedback. It would
be helpful for the judge to evaluate the specifics in the
round. Also, it is always good to tell both teams they did
a good job, however in order for them to get better, debaters
need specific comments about what they could do differently.
Bad Ballot: Although
it is clear that this judge was paying specific attention
to each team’s arguments,
the judge never gives a reason for decision. Additionally,
although writing down all the arguments made during a round
(flowing) is encouraged, it is not necessary and discouraged
for judges to flow on the ballot. The ballot is intended to
provide students with useful comments, not to recap all arguments
made during a round. The purpose of a ballot is to give
debaters a reason for decision by explaining which arguments
prevailed and why. Additionally, no comments were given to
Bad Ballot: This
ballot outlines the important arguments made by both teams,
but does not give a reason for decision. The debaters need
to know what they did well and what they need to improve
upon. General comments about the round, without addressing
them to a specific team or debater, are not very helpful.
Be sure to be specific and thoroughly explain yourself.
Debaters spend a lot of time preparing for tournaments
and they look forward to judge’s
Very Bad Ballot: It is always good to
tell both teams they did a good job. However, if you want
to help these teams get better, tell them what they have
done well specifically, and give the something to work on
for the next tournament. Without constructive criticism these
teams will never get better.
Very Bad Ballot: This ballot has no reason
for decision and does not give debaters any feedback. It
is very important for students to understand why the judge
voted for the winning team. Additionally, receiving constructive
criticism is important for students to improve in the future.