Oral Exam in Large Courses

I would like to share an article that was just published and the CTL was fortunate to support. The 2019 article is entitled "Providing an Oral Examination as an Authentic Assessment in a Large Section, Undergraduate Diversity Class." Kang, the first author lead this innovative research with his doctoral students.

The research team administered a mid-term oral exam in a large 280 person lecture course at a large, public research university. The research questions included:

  • How has the implementation of an oral exam impacted the student and Teaching Assistant (TA) experience in a large undergraduate diversity course?

  • How do reported impacts align with the course learning outcomes (LO)?

One week before the oral examination, students received a list of ten short response questions and asked to respond to two. Students were provided 60 seconds to answer a question and another 30 seconds for the TAs to prompt them. The team had created and calibrated an analytical rubric which was used during the oral exam, so the grading was complete immediately after the exams. For the second deployment, the team provided 80% of the assessment on completeness and accuracy of the student response and 20% on their confidence.

A key reason for selecting this assessment approach was that it aligned with a major LO of "students will be able to explain key concepts around race and racism such as the social construction of race, systemic racism, and racial privilege." The "explaining" portion was critical and students perceived the oral exam as a direct measurement of this LO.

Findings reveal that oral exams provided a chance for students to develop skills through a different means of engaging material and to foster a concept-based learning approach. Also, 97% of students stated that the oral exam was successful in helping them explain concepts around race and racism to other people. One student commented that the "oral exam helped me retain the information much better. Instead of studying to memorize key terms, I had to fully understand the concept, which helped me remember and fully conceptualize the topics.” In a discussion of student and TA reactions, they found predominantly positive assessment by the students and the TAs.

Kang, D., Goico, S., Ghanbari, S., Bennallack, K., Pontes, T., O’Brien, D., & Hargis, J. (2019). Providing an oral examination as an authentic assessment in a large section, undergraduate diversity class. International Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 13(2), Article 10. Available at: https://digitalcommons.georgiasouthern.edu/ij-sotl/vol13/iss2/10

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