Teaching as an adjunct can be a lot of fun. It is also challenging. As I have encountered a number of situations, I realize such a blog can be helpful, both to me and to others.

Monday, August 3, 2009

The Sandwich Approach

As a member of Toastmaster, a Public Speaking organization, I have “stolen” some ideas from their model and implemented them into my classroom. One thing I use is the sandwich approach. What is the sandwich approach?

When I grade a speech, I give the student a critique of the speech. The sandwich approach says first you tell a speaker something positive about a speech. No matter how good, or how bad a speech, there is always something positive that can be said. Next, you offer a suggestion for improvement. No matter how good, or how bad a speech, there is always something that can be improved. To state otherwise implies it is possible for a speaker to give a “perfect” speech. While speech can be excellent, engaging, exciting and do exactly what it is supposed to, it is impossible (at least in my mind) for a speech to be perfect. By making a suggestion, you are helping to make the individual a better speaker. Then, you always finish with a positive comment.

By using this approach, first it helps the speaker know what s/he did well. That is important as it allows a speaker to strengthen the positives. It also makes a speaker feel good about having spoken and makes them more willing to hear a suggestion. The suggestion helps the speaker improve on a weakness and finishing with a positive should leave a speaker feeling good about having spoken, and speaking is not easy for anyone to do publically.

Since I grade the speeches, I am a little more limited in how I do this, but I manage. My evaluation forms have three parts. The first part is called, “Comments”. This is a three paragraph part that follows the sandwich approach formula. The second part is called “Organization”. This part focus on the introduction, body and conclusion. This includes the research that was done and the information that was covered and researched. The last part is called “Delivery” and it focuses on how the speech was presented including gestures, vocal variety and vocal pauses. The second and third parts of the critique do not necessarily use the sandwich approach, however, I always try to make the last comment in the delivery section a positive comment. This way, not only is the opening section in sandwich form, the entire critique is, in the sense that the first thing the individual reads is a positive comment under comments, then there are comments made both about things done well and things that can use improvement but the last thing the speaker reads is another positive.

I have seen individuals take a critique, look at the grade, show disappointment but not read the comments that explain why I gave them that grade. One speaker even told me, “I never read the comments”. So, why do this? I recently learned the answer.

Since the summer is slow, I took a part time job working on the phones conducting phone surveys (not selling anything). I’ve don’t this before but this is the first time in quite some time and it is a new company for me. We get feedback, e-mailed to us, on the surveys we complete, if there are changes, or problems that have to be corrected. I have gotten a few back and, some of the changes are minimal. For instance, I capitalize the letter “Q” before the question number if I am recording a comment. The “Q” is supposed to be lowercase.

First, this is something that someone could simply tell me and I would make the change. Second, nowhere on the critique does it say ANYTHING positive about the work that was done. Lastly, not only does it not say anything positive but under the overall “Quality Assurance” section, it says “Needs Improvement,” for simply needing to change something to lowercase. After getting a few of these back from the first day I worked there, I simply started tuning out. I made the change but these “Evaluations” mean nothing to me as it is a simple, stupid little thing and there was no praise what so ever.

This taught me that, while many may not read the comments, for the few who do, for the people who are like me, it makes all the difference in the world and is important. I will continue to evaluate using my method.