What would it look like to use a conversation with a student as an assessment tool? Laurie Abbott (2012) writes:
“An exceptional benefit of oral examination is their capacity to allow teachers to explore the depths of student understanding of a complex subject, and engage in scholarly conversation… A dry-erase board enables the student to diagram and explain processes, and the teacher has flexibility and discretion to opportunistically direct the questioning based on real-time feedback during the exam. By guiding students as they negotiate answering a series of complex, related questions, the teacher can assess higher-order learning, and help students make impromptu connections in the learning context—the elusive ‘Aha!’ moment.”
If you missed today’s workshop on Oral Exams, please consult the tips and references below! Ask Bridget for PDFs/links to the articles.
Tips for Oral Exams:
- Students are more successful when the interview is framed as a discussion or conversation, rather than an examination (Jenkins & Parra 2003).
- A group oral exam can take advantage of the benefits of collaborative learning: “increased learning, retention through graduation, improved critical thinking, and intrinsic motivation” (Zipp 2007). Even if you plan to do individual exams, do so in small groups so that students have the comfort (and pressure) of their peers present, and so they can hear other ways of answering the questions. Encourage groups to meet and prepare together ahead of time.
- Students may find the experience more stressful than a written exam, but they will likely spend more time studying–and develop valuable life skills (Guest & Murphy 2001).
- Use oral exams for upper-level courses (where students study more in-depth content that they need to be able to synthesize and apply) rather than lower-level courses (where students are gaining broad coverage of the subject matter).
- Let students choose what questions they want to answer, decide who they want in their group, bring a single page of notes, or add questions to the question bank as a way to encourage confidence and ownership.
- Ask students to verbally cite sources they use as evidence.
References for Alternative Assessments:
Association for the Assessment of Learning in Higher Education
Authentic Assessment Toolbox
Abbott, Laurie. “Tired of Teaching to the Test? Alternative Approaches to Assessing Student Learning.” Rangelands 34:3 (2012): 34-38.
Angelo, T. A. and K. P. Cross. Classroom Assessment Techniques: A Handbook for College Teachers. 2nd ed. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 1993.
Jacobs, Lucy Cheser and Clinton I. Chase. “Alternative Assessment Procedures” in Developing and Using Tests Effectively: A Guide for Faculty. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass Publishers, 1992.
Jenkins, Susan and Isabel Parra. “Multiple Layers of Meaning in an Oral Proficiency Test: The Complementary Roles of Nonverbal, Paralinguistic, and Verbal Behaviors in Assessment Decisions.” The Modern Language Journal 87(2003): 90-106.
Murray, John P. “Better Testing for Better Learning.” College Teaching 38:4 (1990): 148-52.
Stevens, D. D. and A. J. Levi. Introduction to Rubrics: An Assessment Tool to Save Grading Time, Convey Effective Feedback, and Promote Student Learning. Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing, 2005.
Zipp, John F. “Learning by Exams: The Impact of Two-Stage Cooperative Tests.” Teaching Sociology 35 (2007): 62-76).
Sample Rubrics: Oral Exam Rubric: Carnegie Mellon (History); Oral Exam Rubric: Carnegie Mellon (English); Oral Exam Rubric (Basic)
*Note to faculty: Ask Bridget for a copy of Sara Gorchoff’s sample instructions/rubric that we discussed at the workshop