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Spoken Exams vs. Written Exams

 
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Saxonstorm




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PostPosted: Fri Jun 29, 2007 12:27 am    Post subject: Spoken Exams vs. Written Exams Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

It seems to me that a lot of students these days lack communication and rhetoric skills. They would be very afraid and act unnatural during a presentation they had to do, or would have a hard time trying to take things easy at a/n (job) interview. The main reason is that they aren't usually taught listening and speaking skills enough in school. Usually a teacher would talk and they just take down notes. Discussion and seminar-like courses seem rarer in school than in university. And as they're exposed to reading and writing most of their time in school, they can't manage to get used to speaking and writing extensively.

On this topic I've found two quite interesting youtube videos:
Spoken Exams advocate: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lc3sInnUDLw
Against Spoken Exams: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Lly44usQF4

I think a mixture of written and spoken exams would be healthy. At the PhD level most people have to do a viva voce defending their written works anyways so why not get exposed earlier to this kind of combined assessment of spoken and written exams? It's not that everyone will study for a PhD but even a bachelor-holder should have some skills in communication and rhetoric, I think.

What are your opinions?
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Amyral

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PostPosted: Fri Jun 29, 2007 12:47 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

In high schools and below, it's generally not as feasible to have it due to the sheer number of students and lack of things like office hours, whereas if I have a written exam, students have to schedule for office hours and there is generally a canceled class period, which makes it better.

That said, it definitely depends on the subject. There definitely should be a spoken element to every test of all language courses. You can't learn a language properly if you don't speak it, so it's necessary to have spoken portions in tests, not just listening, but listening and responding.

For other classes, though, it really depends. I wouldn't want a spoken exam for a math class or a science class (barring the viva voces, of course). Those just wouldn't go as well. For English courses, they can definitely work if the subject matter is right. You can easily have a spoken exam for analyzing a piece of literature just as easily as you can have a term paper. For history courses, it's a little shaky. Facts and memorization elements shouldn't be given in a spoken exam. If it's part of an analysis question, it can work.

I guess what's remaining are more specialty classes, which solely depend on the subject matter to determine if they are even viable. Some courses like, say, philosophy courses, could definitely benefit from spoken exams. It really depends on whether the courses are closer to science courses or to English style courses.

Now, all that said, should every college student have spoken exams in some way? Sure, I agree wholeheartedly. And I do agree that students seem to lack proper speaking skills. At my university, a public speaking course is required for every student regardless of major. It helps, but it's certainly not enough to overcome it.

For the two videos, I think the problem with the idea is that it's completely leaning to either one way or another. Not every class or every subject can work in the same way, regardless of what that way is. What works in a mathematics course may not work in a philosophy course.
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Saxonstorm




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PostPosted: Fri Jun 29, 2007 2:41 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Oral assessment could possibly work with mathematics and sciences, I think, if you adapt the assessment to the subjects. For example, since most of these subjects are taught through tutorial, i.e. the professors speaking and writing up there and you take down notes and try to make sense of what they're saying, it is possible to have oral assessment or "spoken exam" exactly like how you're taught the subjects. A student could come up, the examiner will assign him a topic, and he has to teach that topic in 50 minutes or so. This surely assesses his understanding of the topic and also his skills at expressing it.

For English style courses, I agree with you that analysis questions should be more important than memorisation. Although care should be taken so that oral assessment in English style courses should have some basis in facts and concepts, e.g. in order to answer an analysis question it is presumed that students know facts and concepts that form the basis of that question. For example, a student could be asked to comment on a randomly chosen passage from one of the literary works studied in an English course. This assumes that the student has read the passage before, knows the context from which it's come, and has studied it through carefully.

The problem as I see it with the healthy mixture of oral and written exams is that how much weight should be given to oral assessment and how much to written assessment? Written assessment as I see it seems to allow more room for objectivity and clear, easy grading, whereas marking oral assessment may be a bit more difficult. That's at least for the sciences and mathematics where, for the most part, the examiner is given a markscheme which includes the correct answers, and he/she just have to look for correct answers on students' papers to give marks. It's possible to make a markscheme for oral assessments as well, but somehow I still think that marking oral assessmens will still be much more difficult, so maybe care should be taken concerning how much weight should be given to written exams and oral exams. Pass/fail marking for oral exams may be an option, though pass/fail doesn't really measure the extent of a student's cleverness.
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Amyral

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PostPosted: Sun Jul 01, 2007 1:09 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Saxonstorm wrote:
Oral assessment could possibly work with mathematics and sciences, I think, if you adapt the assessment to the subjects. For example, since most of these subjects are taught through tutorial, i.e. the professors speaking and writing up there and you take down notes and try to make sense of what they're saying, it is possible to have oral assessment or "spoken exam" exactly like how you're taught the subjects. A student could come up, the examiner will assign him a topic, and he has to teach that topic in 50 minutes or so. This surely assesses his understanding of the topic and also his skills at expressing it.


That's not really my definition of an examination, more an assignment (or an assessment, as you put it). I also find that to be rather disingenuous to the other students, because I don't think the majority of high school students in a class would know enough about the subject and about teaching to teach it well, which would be a disservice to the other students. I don't think the assessments should get in the way of the other students learning, and that, by it's very nature, has the potential of doing so.

In a college setting it would be near impossible to achieve. Many of the classes would just have too many students to feasibly have each one teach a subject and the proportion of those who would be unable to teach the subject well would increase.

While it might achieve the goal, I don't think it would benefit the other students.
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