Criticism Is Generally Known English Language Essay

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Our intellectual world contains various methods of encouragements, variously distinguishable. Methods may be discriminated by their precision, their productiveness, their complexity, their comprehensiveness, and so forth. The distinction among methods that is of concern here is based on the degree of their objectivity on the extent to which they require.

Criticism is generally known as the practice of judging the merits and faults of something or someone in an intelligible (or articulate) way (Cohen, 1998). To criticize does not necessarily imply "to find fault", but the word is often taken to mean as a simple expression of an objection or a disapproval. How exactly people go about criticizing, can vary a great deal. In specific areas of human endeavour, the form of criticism can be highly specialized and technical; it often requires professional knowledge to understand the criticism.

Constructive criticism, on the other hand, is criticism kindly meant that has a goal of improving some area of a person's life or work. Often times, constructive criticism refers specifically to the critique of someone else's written or artistic work. In teacher/student setting, it is expected to allow that person to further improve the work or to improve their approach to future endeavours.

The trouble with constructive criticism is that not all people are receptive to it. They may either feel their self-esteem shrinking under criticism, or they may feel that all criticism is negative. This can destroy the intent of constructive criticism. Further, not all people who think they are employing constructive criticism are actually being helpful. They may think all criticism is helpful and may not spare the person any details or couch the criticism in ways least likely to make a person defensive

A compliment, on the other hand is simply defined as an expression of praise, commendation, or admiration. There is a saying that says, "A sincere compliment boosts one's moral". However, although compliment is attractive to so many people, certain parties strongly feel that complimenting brings negative effects on the receiver in so many ways. There are many books out there discussing about the bad that comes with praising (will be discussed more vigorously in the literature view section).

Throughout the years, people have been going back and forth, continuously arguing about this matter. Many misunderstandings between students and lecturers happen due to different views on these methods of encouragement. This evokes a sense of hatred between both parties that leads to a very unhealthy relationship. There is a need to determine how each of these methods affects the students, and which method the students prefer to give them the kind of encouragement they need as it is an essential element in ensuring an effective communication and thus, improving the whole performance of the university all together in the long run.

1.2 Statement Of Problem

In the education sector, especially in Malaysia, misunderstandings between the students and their teachers are becoming more rampant off late. Often times, these misunderstandings are caused by failure of communication between these two parties. Students are constantly seen to be hurt by the lecturer's way of criticizing their work or assignments when really, it is just the teacher's way to make the students strive for the best.

Due to these constant misunderstandings, going to university has been very dreadful for both parties. Students loathe going to education institutions as this means that they would have to face the lecturers who they feel as trying to bring them down. This is turn will grow to be so many other serious problems such as an alarming growth of the habit of absenteeism, vandalism of institution and lecturers' properties, extreme portray of disrespect and hatred towards the lecturers and so forth.

Given the situation, it is essential that we take serious effort in sorting things out.

1.3 Purpose Of Study

These simple reasons of choosing the wrong approach in encouraging and also the misunderstandings between the parties who are involved, could lead to many other vast problems.

Upon realizing this worrying problem, a special research committee was set up recently to investigate the issue further. The purpose of the study was to assess the impact different methods on encouragement bring to the students/receiver and also, their opinions on each method used.

1.4 Objectives Of Study

The objectives of this study are:

To identify which method of encouragement works best for the students.

To find out what are the students' personal view on each approach.

1.5 Research Questions

Which method of encouragement does students prefers - constructive criticism or compliments?

What are the students' views on each method of encouragement?

1.6 Significance Of The Study

Although there is no absolute method that all the students are proven to like, the findings of this study are important to help the teachers, and also public to find out as to which method works best in general to help encourage students to have the strive to be the best. With the information in hand, steps can be taken to improve the approach use to advice the students.

1.7 Scope Of Study

This study, initiated by the Mathematics Club of UiTM Shah Alam, involved the participation of students of Faculty of Computer and Mathematical Sciences in the university. The respondents, who were between the ages of 18 - 30 years old, were randomly selected by the research team themselves. The data collected via questionnaires were distributed from 1st April - 15th May this year by hand to the students.


Early English meaning

The English word criticism is derived from the French critique, which dates back to at least the 14th century.

The words "critic" and "critical" existed in the English language from the mid-16th century, and the word "criticism" first made its appearance in English in the early 17th century.

In turn, the French expression critique has roots in Latin ("criticus" - a judger, decider, or critic), and, even earlier, classical Greek language ("kritos" means judge, and "kritikos" means able to make judgements, or the critic). Related Greek terms are krinein (separating out, deciding), krei- (to sieve, discriminate, or distinguish) and krisis (literally, the judgement, the result of a trial, or a selection resulting from a choice or decision). Crito is also the name of a pupil and friend of the Greek philosopher Socrates, as well as the name of an imaginary dialogue about justice written by the philosopher Plato in the context of the execution of Socrates.

To be critical meant, positively, to have good, informed judgement about matters of culture (to be cultivated, to be a man or woman of distinction), but negatively it could also refer to the (unreasonable) rejection or (unfair) treatment of some outside group ("to be critical of them"). Often criticism was governed by very strict cultural rules of politeness, propriety and decency, and there could be immediate penalties if the wrong words were said or written down (in 17th century England, more than half of men and about three-quarters of women could not read or write).

20th century

In the 20th century, all these meanings continued, but criticism acquired the more general connotation of voicing an objection, or of appraising the pro's and con's of something.

The shape and meanings of criticism were influenced very considerably by wars (including two world wars), which were occurring almost continuously somewhere in the world.

Philosophers such as Karl Popper and Imre Lakatos have popularized the idea, that criticism is a normal part of scientific activity. Relatedly, "scientific criticism" has become a standard expression, just as much as "literary criticism".

Gradually it was accepted more, that criticism is a normal process in a democratic society, rather than a sign of inadequacy, or something that should be strictly controlled or repressed.

From the 1970s onward, under the influence of neo-Marxism, critical theory and Michel Foucault, it became fashionable in the English-speaking academic social sciences and humanities to use the French word "critique", instead of the ordinary "criticism". The suggestion is, that there is a difference between the two terms, but what exactly it is, is often not altogether clear. Often the connotation is, that if a deliberation is a "critique" and not just a "criticism", then there is "a lot of extra thought and profound meaning" behind what is being said. From the 1970s, English-speaking academics and journalists also began to use the word "critique" not only as a noun, but as a verb (e.g. "I have critiqued the idea", instead of "I have criticized the idea").

21st century

From the 1990s, the popular meanings of the word criticism have started to evolve more strongly toward "having an objection", "expressing dissent", "stating a dislike", "wanting to dissociate from something", or "rejecting something" ("If you liked it, you would not be criticizing it"). In the contemporary sense, criticism is often more the expression of an attitude, where the object of criticism may only be vaguely defined. For example, somebody "unlikes" something on Facebook or "unfriends" somebody.

Professionally, "what it means to criticize" has become a much more specialized and technical matter, where "inside knowledge" is required to understand the criticism truly; this development is linked to the circumstance, that the right to criticize, or the propriety (appropriate use) of criticism, is regarded nowadays much more as depending on one's position, or on the context of the situation ("I would like to say something, but I am not in a position to criticize").

As many more people are able to travel to, or have contact with worlds completely different to their own, new problems are created of how to relativize criticisms and their limitations, how to put everything into meaningful proportion. This affects what a criticism is understood to be, or to mean, and what its overall significance is thought to be.

People become more circumspect about criticizing in public, because they realize that as soon as they get interactive and speak out, they can be manipulated with it, in very clever ways. They might be "trapped" with what they say. Or, their ideas might get stolen. For example, the symbolic protest of the Occupy movement of 2011-2012, which originated in the 2011 Israeli social justice protests, consisted of camping out in tents in public space ( in Hebrew, Mechaat HaOhalim), until they were removed, often violently, by the police. This is a criticism along the lines of: "if you truly care about me, then you would try to find out more about me, what I want, and why I am camping with my tent in public space." Eventually Occupy London succeeded in getting their article of criticism published in the Financial Times.

Digital information technology and telecommunications have begun to change drastically the ways people have for getting attention, or for being taken seriously. In turn, this has begun to change the ways people have for going about criticizing, and what criticism means for people.

With more possibilities for sophisticated expression, criticism has tended to become more "layered". Beneath the observable surface presentation of criticism, which is freely advertised, there are often more additional layers of deeper criticism. These are not directly accessible, because they require additional information, or insight into additional meanings. To gain access to the "whole story" about a criticism, and not just "part of the story", may be conditional on fulfilling certain entry requirements ("if you don't have the ticket, you don't get the knowledge").

Together with the ability to make finer distinctions of meaning with the aid of digital equipment, the possibilities for ambiguity in criticism have increased: is a criticism being implied, or is it not, and if so, what exactly is the criticism? It can take more effort to unravel the full story.


Kohn, A.(1993). Punished by rewards: The trouble with gold Stars, incentive plans, A's, praise, and other bribes. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

In this book, Kohn shows that using compliments to get something done from people is often ineffective and even harmful. One chapter of this book is dedicated completely to what Kohn calls: The praise problem. Drawing from hundreds of studies, Kohn demonstrates ways in which praising people can be detrimental to people's performance.  Teachers who fear there are viewed as prejudiced may respond by avoiding to give any critical feedback and only giving praise, even when the performance of the student is low. This response undermines student learning because they miss important critical feedback which they could have used to their advantage and the praise for low performance may send the message that little more is expected from that particular student.

Davidson's book provides a thorough examination of methods used by people to encourage the betterment of the underlings. Seasoned with humour and familiar examples, Punished by Rewards presents an argument that is clear, provocative, and satisfying in supporting theories and findings of this research.

Thomas, M. (2012). Six reasons why criticism is a good thing. Retrieved from blog/2012/feb/09/reasons-tips-criticism-arts

In this article, Thomas explains simply how criticism can be a good thing. The author starts the article by admitting that it is hard to take criticism and ended up saying it is not all bad news because sometimes you can use criticism to give you an edge.

Thomas' article provides a simple list on how criticism can be useful to people, ways we can learn to accept criticism by using simple situations as examples. This article presents an eye- opener that is both informative and satisfying.


3.1 Introduction

This section discusses the methodology of the research. The main purpose of the research is to investigate as to which method of encouragement; between constructive criticism and compliment that students prefer. To assess the students' preference, the Faculty of Computers and Mathematical Sciences of UiTM Shah Alam population was chosen. Data for the research were collected through questionnaire, interview and observation.

3.2 Research Instruments

This research utilized the quantitative research methodology. The instruments used to collect the data were questionnaire, and interview. A set of questionnaire containing a total of 12 questions, divided into 3 sections was developed based on the standard format of a questionnaire. Different question-types, such as ranking, yes-no, open ended and scales were used in the questionnaire. The different sections of the questionnaire were a) background information b) opinions and c) preferences. The questionnaires were piloted to a group of 5 students to assess its validity before it was distributed.

3.3 Respondents of the Study

The respondents of the study were the students of the Faculty of Computers and Mathematical Sciences of UiTM. In March 2012, a total of 30 questionnaires were distributed to students of different programs at the faculty. Every student chosen returned back the questionnaire. Of these numbers, 17 were male students while the rest (13) were female.

3.4 Research Procedure

Before the actual data collection period, a pilot study was conducted to assess the usability of the questionnaire. A total of 5 students were involved in the pilot study, chosen at random at the faculty.

During the actual study, the questionnaires were divided amongst our research team members, and were distributed at various locations in faculty such as the cafeteria, the foyer and classes. Respondents were first approached with an initial question of whether they understand what are constructive criticism and compliments. The respondents were then asked to return back the answered questionnaire, after they have finished with it. They were given a maximum of two days to do so.

3.5 Data Analysis

To analyze the data, a number of variables were taken into consideration namely age and sex, preferences, etc.

Data were entered into the computer using Microsoft Excel. Results were presented through frequency counts and other descriptive statistics. Open-ended questions would provide a way to validate the data from the questionnaires. The data were transcribed. The analysis of the open-ended questions went through the coding technique using the identification of categories of patterns and themes that emerged from the analysis. Data from the observation sheet were analysed and tabulated in graphs and charts.

FIGURE 1.0 Percentages of respondents from each gender

Figure 1.0 shows the percentage of respondents for each gender. For the research, we have chosen an equal percentage of respondents for each gender; 50% male and 50% female. The total number of respondents was 30, 15 of which are females, and the rest are males.

FIGURE 1.0 :Number of respondents for every age group

Figure 1.0 shows the proportion of male and female in every age group given in the questionnaire, which are divided into 3 groups; those who are from 18 to 21 years old, from 22 to 25 years old and from 26 to 30 years old .

There is an inverse relationship for the number of male and female students for the age groups. Out of 15 female students we surveyed, 10 of them are from 18 to 21 years old while the other 5 female students fall under the second group, which is from 22 to 25 years of age. On the contrary, 9 out of 15 male students who did this survey are from the age around 22 to 25 years old whereas only 6 of them are around the age of 18 to 21. However, none of the respondents who filled the questionnaires are from the last age group which is for those who are around 26 to 30 years old.

For this aspect, it can be seen that all of the students surveyed are under the age of 25. Thus, we can generalize that most students of this Faculty do not exceed beyond the age of 25.

FIGURE 2.0 - Students' feelings upon receiving a criticism

The pie chart above (Figure 2.0) shows the percentage for each answer in a multiple choice question. The question was on how the student feels upon receiving a criticism at any point of their life. Four different choices of answer were given and the respondents were asked to pick one that best describes their feeling about the criticism.

In response to this question, a whopping 73 percent of the respondents view the criticism they were given as "a challenge to work harder", followed by a 13 percent of respondents who thought the criticism as something that was meant well, only was expressed wrongly. It is obvious from this table only 7 percent of the students were either deeply hurt by the criticism, or, the criticism did not bring any kind of effect on them at all.

The chart clearly shows that most of the students who took part in this survey were challenged to work even harder than they ever did to meet the expectations upon getting a criticism. Only a small fraction was deeply hurt by the criticism. A fair amount of them knew the critic meant well. This suggests students feel like they are being put to test by getting criticized to see if they can reach their maximum capability and be the best.

Based on the students' opinion, it seems that in dealing with constructive criticism, students may feel a need to prove the critic wrong. These findings agree with Hadley et al. (2011) article which stated in dealing with criticism; "the first reaction for many of us is to defend ourselves or worse yet to lash back. And yet, while criticism can be taken as hurtful and demoralizing, it can also be viewed in a positive way: it can spur us to do better". Also, Thomas (2012) argued that people use criticism as a competitive edge.

FIGURE 2.1 - Percentages of students who think compliments are easier to give and accept

Figure 2.1 compares the percentage of students who think compliments are easier to give and accept. The question was a Likert-scale question with quantifiers as those shown on the graph.

The pie chart reveals moderated distribution of percentage of students who answered between neutral, agree and strongly agree. With 33 percent of the respondents answered strongly agree and 27 percent answered agree; a dramatic total of 60 percent of the respondents were either agree or strongly agree that compliments are, in fact easier to give and accept. However, a good 33 percent of the respondents feel neutral regarding this statement. As can be seen, only a gnomish 7 percent of the student respondents disagree with this statement.

These results are consistent with those of the other studies which found that a person's mind takes 48% longer to understand and accept a negative statement rather than a positive one, and that compliments are a dynamic force in motivating others. Another literature said that it is easy to give compliment, it is free and it does a great job whether it is the need to encourage someone, to "break the ice" or just to make someone happy ("Giving Compliments", n.d.).

Inferring from the previous researches mentioned above, these was expected due to the fact that complimenting is a positive and clear way in recognizing one's achievement rather than criticizing the work the students have put in, that often seems to a double meaning. Apart from that, it is also usually done in friendly gestures so much so that it makes it easy for the students to open up, accept it with a sense of happiness.

FIGURE 2.3 - Percentages of students who think compliments make people overly contented

and lazy

The pie chart in Figure 2.3 reveals the percentages of students who think compliments make people overly contented and lazy through yet another Likert-scale question of the same quantifiers.

What is interesting in the findings on this pie chart is that they are in contrast to earlier findings in Figure 2.2 in previous page that shows a high percentage of students agreeing with the fact that compliment is easy to give and accept. This chart shows that students actually think compliments make people become overly contented and lazy. A significant 47 percent of the students agreed with this fact, in addition to the 3 percent who strongly agreed. This group made up 50 percent of the respondents. On the other hand, just 10 percent of the respondents disagreed whilst another 13 percent strongly disagreed. The rest 27 percent feel neutral regarding the statement.

As mentioned in the literature review, Kohn (1993) proves that praising people can be harmful to people's performance. He then continued on saying the compliment for low performance might send the message that little more is expected from that student. These present findings are on the same page as this study. It may thus be the case of students feeling like they have done "enough" and becoming a smug after getting compliments by the teachers. Students feel as if there is no need to do any better as what they are doing now is more than good.

FIGURE 2.4 - Percentages of students who think constructive criticism builds mental strength

Figure 2.4 indicates the percentages of students who answer according to which degree to they agree that constructive criticism builds mental strength. The scales and quantifiers are similar to that of the previous two findings.

The results from the analysis shown in the pie chart shows a large percentage of students believe constructive criticism builds mental strength. A solid 23 percent of the respondents strongly agreed with this statement, supported by another 50 percent who agreed on the same statement. From the other 27 percent, only 3 percent of the respondent strongly disagreed, 10 percent disagreed whereas the last 14 percent shown to have neutral view on this question.

An explanation for these findings can be connected with the findings from Figure 2.0. Students who feel challenged to strive after getting a criticism will work hard to succeed despite all the criticism thrown to slow them down. This will in turn build a mental strength that refuses to surrender to the criticisms; supported by determination and perseverance.

Most of the respondents surveyed suggested that criticism will strengthen our mind in the sense that students will have a stronger strive to achieve a level where the criticism will stop. These findings support the idea raised in other research that claims constant compliments is like being a baby to a new mom and dad; everything is so cute and it seems you can do no wrong. Yet, with the first parental strictness comes the first tantrum, until the baby starts to understand the changes in tone. Similarly, the more criticism you hear, the more you'll be able to know when it is legitimate and when it is not, when to listen and when not to (Share, n.d)

FIGURE 3.0 : Preferences of each gender on the method of encouragement.

Figure 3.0 compares the preferences of each gender on the methods of encouragement. The red bar chart represents the number of students that prefer compliments while the blue coloured bar chart shows the number students that prefer criticism.

The bar chart shows that a large sum of female students prefers to be praised rather than criticized. Out of 15 female students, 11 of them prefer compliments while only 4 of them favour to constructive criticism. On the contrary, out of 15 male students, a minority of 6 persons prefer compliments whilst a majority of 9 persons chose constructive criticism and their preferred method of encouragement.

It can be said that male students see criticisms as the better method of the two, while female students clearly chose the softer method, that is to be praised rather than criticized. This difference on preferences is caused by the nature of both of the genders. Male might prefer criticism because of their nature that like competition; they see criticism as a challenge for themselves. In contrast, female is said to be more sensitive than male, therefore this might explain why they chose compliment method rather than criticism.

A research proves that since the region of a woman's brain that does the emotional processing is larger than the same region of a man's brain, women tend to be more emotional and sensitive. All women love to receive compliments that make them feel good about themselves. Criticisms, be it of any kind are often taken to heart ("Compliment Women",n.d.)

FIGURE 3.1 - Students opinion on which method Malaysia's educators should

use more in teachings

Figure 3.1 illustrates the finding related to the students' opinion on which method of encouragement does the Malaysia's educator should use more in their teachings. The red region indicates the portion of students who voted for the compliment method while the blue region shows the portion of students who chose the critic method.

It is obvious from this data that a majority of students would like to see teachers apply more of the criticism method in their teaching with a large percentage of 63 percent of the total respondents. Only 37 percent of the respondents want to see the compliment method being applied.

Interestingly, despite the obvious preference of the female students on the compliment method back in Figure 3.0, still constructive criticism wins the number of vote in this finding. This is due to effectiveness of both methods in general. The contradiction of findings proves that whatever the students prefer, does not necessarily mean it is the method to be applied in teachings. Based on the survey, many respondents thought that constructive criticism can be really affective so long as it is done the right way; and the way it is accepted also depends on the students themselves as in how they want to take the criticisms as.


This research investigated which method of encouragement does students prefer. As mentioned earlier in the introduction, the purpose of this study was to give an account of students' preference on the methods of encouragement between constructive criticism and also their general view on each of the method. The study was done due to the increasing number of misunderstanding between students and lecturers, that is, when lecturers criticize, students often take it as an attempt to bring their spirits low rather than taking it as a challenge to work harder. The findings of the study were gained by distributing questionnaires to a sample study of 30 students from the Faculty of Computers and Mathematical Sciences. The questionnaires contained both quantitative data and qualitative data. These findings were then derived in the charts and graphs to show the connection between each data collected.

The following conclusions can be drawn based on the findings of the study :

This study has shown that upon receiving criticisms, students in majority take it as a challenge to strive harder as a test to reach the maximum capability.

The majority of students agree that compliments are easier to give and accept due to its clear and positive message.

Despite the second findings, students think that compliments make people become overly contented and lazy due to the feeling that they have done enough.

More than half of the respondents agree that constructive criticism builds mental strength

A majority of female students prefer compliments rather that constructive criticisms while male students prove to be in contrast due to different nature of gender.

Despite the different preference between gender, students in majority thinks constructive criticisms should be applied more in teaching because of its effectiveness.

The results of this study indicate that constructive criticisms are in general the method of encouragement that students prefer. However, the limitation lies in the fact that the sample size was of only 30 persons. Also, these respondents were chosen from only the Faculty of Computers and Mathematical Sciences students. This can mean that the results taken do not really represent the student body as a only a generalization obtained from the small number of students we investigated.


6.1 Recommendations Based on the Findings.

The following are several recommendations based on the findings and conclusions of the study:

Malaysia's teacher ought to implement constructive criticisms more in their teachings using the right method.

Compliments should be given to give a little sense of achievement to the recipients but with moderation, suitable with the effort.

Constructive Criticism should be given to females for some effects but with moderation going alternatively with compliments.

6.2 Recommendations for Future Research

Since this study had only focused on students from Faculty of Computers and Mathematical Sciences, it is recommended that future studies be carried out on students from other faculties and universities to see whether there are any similarities in the findings. Furthermore, further research could also explore other methods of encouragements to see if there is a better way in encouraging the students. Lastly, it might be good idea to investigate the types of constructive criticisms weather it is the harsh blunt one or the softer clearer critics and the difference effects they bring.