The Washington Post recently featured an interesting article on the limitations of computers’ ability to evaluate good writing: “Grading Writing: The Art & Science – And Why Computers Can’t Do It”
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:
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).
*Note to faculty: Ask Bridget for a copy of Sara Gorchoff’s sample instructions/rubric that we discussed at the workshop
This week’s workshop on “How NOT to Get a Job” featured advice on mistakes to avoid in cover letters, resumes, and interviews. The event was sponsored by CAC, the Wackerle Career & Leadership Center, and the faculty of the Center for Science and Business, and featured presentations by Tom Prince, Stephanie Kinkaid, and Katie Will.
David Gooblar challenges the assumption that writing is the only–or best–way to ask students to communicate what they know. He writes, “No matter your discipline, I bet your goals for your students include critical thinking, disciplinary literacy, the ability to persuasively argue ideas, and the ability to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of important concepts. None of those goals requires writing. Indeed, some of them may be better achieved through the use of speech, visual or auditory communication, or digital tools” (emphasis mine). See more at “What Teachers in Other Fields Can Teach You.”
HASTAC (an online community of digital humanists) has recently launched “The Pedagogy Project”–a collection of teaching resources for collaborative, digital projects. The site includes ideas for assignments, assessment, in-class activities, and writing.
Mark Greif argues that academics who write for public audiences need to return to an “aspirational” estimation of the public. Learn more in his article, “What’s Wrong with Public Intellectuals?”
For faculty who weren’t able to join us for the CAC workshop on designing and proposing a new course for Integrated Studies, you might be interested in the following handouts:
Citizenship: Citizenship Learning Outcomes
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact Bridget Draxler (CAC coordinator), Stacy Lotz (INTG coordinator), Sean Schumm (chair of curriculum committee), or the INTG coordinator for the course you’re interested in teaching.
Wikipedia is one of the great controversies of the modern research paper. Is is an acceptable source? off-limits? a good place to start? Learn more from undergraduate blogger Mikal Cardine in this article: “Wikipedia: What Professors Tell Students and What Students Do.”
For Adeline Koh’s advice to teachers, see “Integrating Wikipedia in Your Course: Tips & Tricks.”
Writing is hard… but it’s also a luxury. Read Rachel Toor’s advice on writing in “Mamas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Writers.”