Turning the Tables on Outmoded Event Judging

March 30, 2016

Turning the Tables on Outmoded Event Judging

What a difference a floor plan design change makes.

Aiming to speed project evaluation, fuel peer review among students and raise overall engagement, the National Invention Convention and Entrepreneurship Expo (NICEE) will be employing a floor plan featuring tables that are configured in U-shaped formations to help enable what’s called Judging Circles.

The Judging Circle is a fast-emerging, peer-review style in student competitions for interviewing and discussing student projects. At its core, the Judging Circle brings a small group of students together to pitch and query each other, facilitated by the adult judges.

Pioneered by the Connecticut Invention Convention (CIC)*, it appears that the days of long lines of tables with displays, long waits for judges and little interaction between students are numbered.

Judging Circles 1

Figure 1: Tables configured in the shape of a “U” fill an event venue.

“The old approach of waiting forever for judges with clipboards to arrive – everyone hated that,” explained STEMIE CEO Danny Briere. “The Judging Circle makes more effective use of judges and enable collaboration among students by promoting peer review.”

The underpinning for the Judging Circle style is U-shaped table setups designed to promote priceless discussion among the 8-10 students at each one.

Students and judges are assigned to a numbered Judging Circle before the event, based on their registration data.  Up to 10 students and up to 3 judges are assigned to each judging circle. For the duration of the judging, the students and judges interact in almost a campfire-type fashion, with each student taking their turn to explain their project to other kids in the circle, and the judges prompting and leading the discussion as appropriate.

The interaction is one of breadth and depth that’s focused on getting student participants to think beyond answering long-used staple questions such as “How did you get interested in this area?”

The Judging Circle style appears to make judging a far more inclusive, or group, event. In practice, interest in the goings on seems far higher than possible with old school approaches. In past approaches, groups of judges moved from one student to the next table-top display down long lines. Kids not being judged stood by alone to fill the time before and after the visit.

Judging Circle 2

Figure 2: Judges and students examine a project.

To be clear, there are other elements – beyond tables configured in U-shaped formations – that contribute to the success of the Judging Circle style. Among them are changes in basic processes including registration, table assignments, judge recruitment and prep, and evaluation criteria.

The benefits of the Judging Circle are numerous and noteworthy. They include greater participation through peer review, greater comfort with the judging process, decreased boredom and decreased noise levels, among others.

For more information on the Judging Circle style, download our White Paper on Judging Circles.

NICEE 2016 was made possible by the generous contributions of United Technologies, Corp., Stanley Black & Decker, Brocade Communications Systems, and The Lemelson Foundation.


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