Critiques and Oral Assessments

Used in conjunction with either traditional or authentic assessment, the critique is an instructor-to-student assessment. These methods can also be used either individually, or in a classroom setting.

As discussed earlier, the word critique sometimes has a negative connotation, and the instructor needs to avoid using this method as an opportunity to be overly critical of student performance. An effective critique considers good as well as bad performance, the individual parts, relationships of the individual parts, and the overall performance. A critique can and usually should be as varied in content as the performance being evaluated.


A critique may be oral, written, or both. It should come immediately after a student’s performance, while the details of the performance are easy to recall. An instructor may critique any activity a student performs or practices to improve skill, proficiency, and learning. A critique may be conducted privately or before the entire class. A critique presented before the entire class can be beneficial to every student in the classroom, as well as to the student who performed the exercise or assignment. In this case, however, the instructor should avoid embarrassing the student in front of the class.

There are several useful ways to conduct a critique.

Instructor/Student Critique

The instructor leads a group discussion in an instructor/student critique in which members of the class are invited to offer criticism of a performance. This method should be controlled carefully and directed with a clear purpose. It should be organized, and not allowed to degenerate into a random free-for-all.

Student-Led Critique

The instructor asks a student to lead the assessment in a student-led critique. The instructor can specify the pattern of organization and the techniques or can leave it to the discretion of the student leader. Because of the inexperience of the participants in the lesson area, student-led assessments may not be efficient, but they can generate student interest and learning and, on the whole, be effective.

Small Group Critique

For the small group critique, the class is divided into small groups, each assigned a specific area to analyze. Each group must present its findings to the class. It is desirable for the instructor to furnish the criteria and guidelines. The combined reports from the groups can result in a comprehensive assessment.


Individual Student Critique by Another Student

The instructor may require another student to present the entire assessment. A variation is for the instructor to ask a number of students questions about the manner and quality of performance. Discussion of the performance and of the assessment can often allow the group to accept more ownership of the ideas expressed. As with all assessments incorporating student participation, it is important that the instructor maintain firm control over the process.


A student critiques personal performance in a self-critique. Like all other methods, a self-critique must be controlled and supervised by the instructor.

Written Critique

A written critique has three advantages. First, the instructor can devote more time and thought to it than to an oral assessment in the classroom. Second, students can keep written assessments and refer to them whenever they wish. Third, when the instructor requires all students to write an assessment of a performance, the student-performer has the permanent record of the suggestions, recommendations, and opinions of all the other students. The disadvantage of a written assessment is that other members of the class do not benefit.

Whatever the type of critique, the instructor must resolve controversial issues and correct erroneous impressions. The instructor must make allowances for the students’ relative inexperience. Normally, the instructor should reserve time at the end of the student assessment to cover those areas that might have been omitted, not emphasized sufficiently, or considered worth repeating.


Oral Assessment

The most common means of assessment is direct or indirect oral questioning of students by the instructor. Questions may be loosely classified as fact questions and HOTS questions. The answer to a fact question is based on memory or recall. This type of question usually concerns who, what, when, and where. HOTS questions involve why or how, and require the student to combine knowledge of facts with an ability to analyze situations, solve problems, and arrive at conclusions.

Proper quizzing by the instructor can have a number of desirable results:

  • Reveals the effectiveness of the instructor’s training methods
  • Checks student retention of what has been learned
  • Reviews material already presented to the student
  • Can be used to retain student interest and stimulate thinking
  • Emphasizes the important points of training
  • Identifies points that need more emphasis
  • Checks student comprehension of what has been learned
  • Promotes active student participation, which is important to effective learning

Characteristics of Effective Questions

The instructor should devise and write pertinent questions in advance. One method is to place them in the lesson plan. Prepared questions merely serve as a framework, and as the lesson progresses, should be supplemented by such impromptu questions as the instructor considers appropriate. Objective questions have only one correct answer, while the answer to an open-ended HOTS question can be expressed in a variety of possible solutions.

To be effective, questions must:

  • Apply to the subject of instruction.
  • Be brief and concise, but also clear and definite.
  • Be adapted to the ability, experience, and stage of training of the students.
  • Center on only one idea (limited to who, what, when, where, how, or why, not a combination).
  • Present a challenge to the students.

Types of Questions To Avoid

Effective quizzing does not ever include yes/no questions such as “Do you understand?” or “Do you have any questions?” Instructors should also avoid the following types of questions:

  • Puzzle—“What is the first action you should take if a conventional gear airplane with a weak right brake is swerving left in a right crosswind during a full flap, power-on wheel landing?”
  • Oversize—“What do you do before beginning an engine overhaul?”
  • Toss-up—“In an emergency, should you squawk 7700 or pick a landing spot?”
  • Bewilderment—“In reading the altimeter—you know you set a sensitive altimeter for the nearest station pressure—if you take temperature into account, as when flying from a cold air mass through a warm front, what precaution should you take when in a mountainous area?”
  • Trick questions—these questions cause the students to develop the feeling that they are engaged in a battle of wits with the instructor, and the whole significance of the subject of the instruction involved is lost. An example of a trick question would be one in which the response options are 1, 2, 3, and 4, but they are placed in the following form.
    • A. 4
    • B. 3
    • C. 2
    • D. 1
  • Irrelevant questions—diversions that introduce only unrelated facts and thoughts and slow the student’s progress. Questions unrelated to the test topics are not helpful in evaluating the student’s knowledge of the subject at hand. An example of an irrelevant question would be to ask a question about tire inflation during a test on the timing of magnetos.

Answering Student Questions

Tips for responding effectively to student questions, especially in a classroom setting:

  • Be sure that you clearly understand the question before attempting to answer.
  • Display interest in the student’s question and frame an answer that is as direct and accurate as possible.
  • After responding, determine whether or not the student is satisfied with the answer.

Sometimes it is unwise to introduce considerations more complicated or advanced than necessary to completely answer a student’s question at the current point in training. In this case, the instructor should carefully explain to the student that the question was good and pertinent, but that a detailed answer would, at this time, unnecessarily complicate the learning tasks. The instructor should invite the student to reintroduce the question later at the appropriate point in training.

Occasionally, a student asks a question that the instructor cannot answer. In such cases, the instructor should freely admit not knowing the answer, but should promise to get the answer or, if practicable, offer to help the student look it up in available references.