In order to evaluate something, you need to compare it with the best example of that particular thing. So, to help you develop your topic into an essay, there are two important questions to ask when you are choosing your topic to evaluate:
- First question: What category of a thing is it?
- Second question: What is the ideal example of something in that category?
What category is it?For the best evaluation essay, you want to compare your topic with things that are very similar, so try to narrow the category as much as possible. To get there, you want to keep on asking the question, "What kind is it?" What category does McDonald's fit into?
Answer to first question: Restaurant. (What kind of restaurant?) Fast food restaurant. (Better, but what kind of fast food?) Hamburger-serving fast food restaurant. (This is what you want!)
So if you were evaluating McDonald's, you would want to compare it to other fast food restaurants that mostly serve hamburgers.
Now the second question: What is the ideal example of something in that category? What makes that example better than others? Thinking about what you consider to be the very best example of something in the category of what you are reviewing can help you decide what criteria you will use, and also what judgement you can make. For example, here is a list of criteria my students have come up with for an ideal burger fast food restaurant:
- looks clean
- serves food fast
- makes it easy to order
- has great fries
- has options on the menu
- offers large drinks with free refills
- serves juicy burgers with lots of grease
- doesn't cost a lot of money
No two people will come up with exactly the same list, but most restaurant reviews look at the following criteria:
Answer to second question: A great fast food burger joint offers great service, atmosphere, and food at a fair cost.
Now you know what your paper is going to be about how close McDonald's comes to this ideal.
Regardless of the situation, learning is ultimately the individual’s responsibility. Learning will not succeed unless the individual feels a strong sense of ownership and responsibility in the process itself. In all honesty, I have never put much thought into my particular learning style. However, since I decided to embark on a new challenge and opportunity by enrolling in graduate school, I have had to refocus my priorities amidst the everyday stresses of life and my hectic schedule. Before I began graduate school, I reassessed my particular abilities and really began to focus on what I do well and do not do well. Because of this assessment, I am now able to draw more intelligent conclusions about my particular learning style, strengths, opportunities for growth, and ways to improve upon my weaknesses.
During my undergraduate studies at Auburn University, I always studied in the morning. It was at that time of day I felt motivated, sharp, and mentally alert. When I woke up from a good night’s rest, I felt comfortable and refreshed, which enabled me to process more information. Each morning I would determine my priorities for the day and how I would effectively reduce and handle interruptions, in order to enhance my learning capacity and optimize my performance.
Finally, I tended to get more accomplished in the morning because there was a sense of peace and quiet. When I began employment and worked from 8am to 5pm, I always took any opportunity to learn new things in the morning. Now that I have begun graduate school I still try to focus most of my efforts, whether it is reading, writing, communicating, etc in the early morning hours before I begin my 8am to 5pm job. Of course, there are time constraints to consider which force me to perform some activities in the evening hours, but I still believe I process and retain more information in the morning.
Based on my undergraduate experience I basically was a hands-on learner. I tended to learn more effectively by taking notes in class and rewriting them later. This is often referred to as “tactile” or “kinesthetic” learning (Kowalski 25: 20). Even in graduate school, I highlight passages in my readings and write them down on paper. I read over the notes repetitiously in order to grasp the information. In addition to being a tactile learner, I am a bottom-up learner. I am a very detail-oriented individual who prefers to have a rock solid foundation built before I proceed to new challenges. I want to learn the basics before seeing the big picture. For example, when I learned to process health insurance claims at my place of business I had a desire to know the concrete specifics of the system and how everything flowed and fit together before I actually wanted to process a claim. I had an inherent desire to fully master all concepts of the system before moving on to claims processing.
Kathiann M. Kowalski defines learning style as “the way each person absorbs, understands, and uses new information.” She goes on to say that “learning style may be inherited…and some aspects develop over your lifetime” (25: 20). I have always learned in a manner which I believe I inherited. I am a very detail oriented individual who likes everything planned and structured. I learn best when I have an outline in front of me with everything detailed in a logical and flowing order. Also, policies and procedures play an important role in my everyday life. For example, at my company, we have developed concise policies and procedures on how to process a claim. These procedures assist me and my fellow associates as we learn the various aspects of the system and claims processing. I could not imagine learning the system without detailed procedures. I recall always learning in this fashion.
I possess pieces of each of the seven multiple intelligences. However, introspective intelligence has manifested itself more so than the others. Dr. Thomas Armstrong defines this as “the ability to understand thoughts and feelings in yourself” (Cathcart 51: 20). I have an introverted personality and have a tendency to be quite shy in group settings. Many times I do not publicly participate, but work diligently behind the scenes. I am a self-motivated individual who always contributes to the overall group effort despite my shyness. I have an innate desire for advancement and achievement, firmly believe that “knowledge is power”, and the more you know and learn the better off you will be for it.
I possess many strengths and weaknesses with regard to my particular learning style. I tend to focus on my strengths while managing my weaknesses. The key to my success is that I have identified my strengths and pursued them with vigor. I believe that I am an achiever and have the willpower, perseverance, and desire to do well. I concentrate my efforts by assessing what I do well, and I do a lot of it. Practice makes perfect. Another strength I possess is listening to myself and acting on a hunch. I believe in receiving advice and input from others; however, no one knows my learning style better than I do, so I always try to listen to myself. I am also a very motivated individual who learns very quickly. I have learned to capitalize on my rapid learning skills by realizing that when I am good at something I should mold it into my everyday learning activities. My organizational skills and special attention to detail assists me in studying and learning more effectively. Finally, I always strive for excellence. My grandfather always told me “if you can’t do something right just don’t do it at all.” A sign of a good learner is someone who desires excellence and does what is necessary to achieve optimal results.
There are also many areas in my learning style that I can improve upon. Sometimes, if I do not feel that I am grasping something, I get frustrated, and tend to skip over that particular area. It may be that I try to capitalize and focus too much on what I do well that I give up on issues that do not come to me as easily. I also feel that my close attention to detail can lead to an obsessive type of learning style that can “muddy” the water at times. I begin to get minimal results despite my intense focus. There is also the issue of overconfidence. At times, I often think I have mastered a skill, and I get a little sloppy and lose focus. When learning new things, I consciously think through the steps of the process. However, I continuously, almost obsessively, think about the steps instead of mastering the skill quickly. I dwell on the smaller things instead of focusing on the bigger picture. Sometimes, learning drains all of my energy, thus making it more difficult for me to actively engage in additional learning right away. Finally, I feel that I need to become a little more of a mixture between an introvert and an extrovert. By being shy, I do not get to know other individual’s personalities, styles, habits, etc. Interacting on a more personal level with individuals will help my learning style, especially in group settings.
Formulating a strategy for improvement can be difficult, but must be done in order to achieve optimal learning results. Firstly, I will do most of my learning at my peak time, which is in the morning. Secondly, I will review the other learning styles more closely, and identify the aspects I can incorporate into my own personal style. Thirdly, I will avoid putting myself into situations where I am forced to do something I do not do well, which tends to stress and frustrate me. Fourthly, I will partner with someone that compliments my strengths. This way, we can combine our joint strengths and create a unique learning capability that could not be done with one person alone. Fifthly, I will make a conscious effort to interact more with my group members to ease my shyness. Finally, I am going to take a step back from all of the little nitpicky details that can consume me at times, take a deep breath, and look at the big picture. Also, I can possibly begin to think in pictures and draw my ideas for others, instead of talking about them.
In conclusion, I have discovered my particular learning style. I believe this is important in order to improve on areas that may inhibit my opportunities for growth. I will take it upon myself to learn the styles of other individuals as well. This will help me more effectively interact, while also increasing my learning potential because I can learn from other individuals. Knowledge truly is power, and the more I acquire, and the more I can learn from myself and other individuals, the better off I will be.
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