Academic journal article Argumentation and Advocacy

You Have Great Gestures: An Analysis of Ballot Commentary to Pedagogical, Outcomes

Academic journal article Argumentation and Advocacy

You Have Great Gestures: An Analysis of Ballot Commentary to Pedagogical, Outcomes

Article excerpt

   The most important thing for a judge is-curiously
   --Lord Patrick Devlin, Judge of the High Court
   (Simpson, 1988)

Competitive contests require a judge to declare a winner. This verdict is obtained through the process of judgment; that is, comparing substance to standards, the process used in Individual Events tournaments (Verlinden, 2002). Individual Events (IE) are, by convention and experiential learning theory, considered educational activities. The Association for Experiential Education (AEE; 2002) defines experiential learning as "a process through which a learner constructs knowledge, skill, and value from direct experiences" ([paragraph] 37-38). As an educator, a judge should write a verdict (or ballot) that encourages "reflection, critical analysis, and synthesis," as well as "initiative, decision making, and accountability" (AEE, [paragraph] 37-38). Dickmeyer (1994) explains the experiential progression in forensics and resulting educator responsibility in judging:

   Participants in forensics generally agree that education
   is the foremost concern of the forensics community ....
   Students learn to research, narrow topics,
   assess quality of evidence, improve their writing
   styles, etc., through the activity of preparing presentations.
   Additionally students learn presentational
   and interpersonal skills through interactions with the
   coaching staff. Finally, students may be educated
   through the ballots they receive from judges in regional
   and national competitions. (p. 2)

Thus, oral interpretation judges are both adjudicators and educators. Yet writing insightful educational ballots could be a challenge. As Verlinden (2002) points out, "the judge does not know what the student has been told about oral interpretation" or "if he/she is following the principles ... taught" (p. 14).

Judgment is further compounded by the fact that there is no definitive standard for event descriptions or judging requirements. The American Forensic Association's (AFA) master ballot lacks any preprinted judging criteria. The information printed on the AFA's ballot is as follows: contestant's name, round, rating, and ranking. The judge circles or fills in the appropriate blank and includes observations under the section titled "comments." Other ballots, such as the 1999/2001 National Catholic League (1997, [paragraph] 3) revised ballot or Whitman Speech and Debate (1998, [paragraph] 6) college ballot, provide specific, yet different, criteria, rules, and directions for judges to use when composing their judgments. Interestingly, rating and ranking are common to all ballots, suggesting the most important verdict is contestant placement, not educational enlightenment.


   I have but one lamp by which my feet are guided,
   and that is the lamp of experience.
   I know no way of judging of the future but by the
   --Patrick Henry (Columbia, 1996).

The ballot is the communication medium used by the judge to advise competitors of the competitive decision. As a rhetorical text, the ballot can be examined to determine if IE judges are communicating educationally with competitors. The literature reviewed for this study suggests that a common research mechanism is content analysis. Content analysis is a scientific examination of the "syntactic and semantic dimensions of language" using an "objective, systematic, and quantitative" process (Berelson, 1952, pgs.15 & 18). Content analysis is a communication research methodology that includes describing trends, auditing content against objectives, constructing and applying communication standards, identifying the intentions of the communicators, and discovering categories for identification (pgs. 29, 43, 46, & 72). The ballot research discussed in this section reflects all of these processes.

Trimble's (1994) construction of nine guidelines for writing a ballot served as the framework for Dickmeyer's (1994) audit analysis of 79 randomly selected IE ballots from 211 ballots received during the 1994 forensic season. …

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