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Use of oral examinations for student assessment in geography

Authors: Helen Hazen*, University of Denver
Topics: Geography Education, Careers and professional development
Keywords: teaching, learning, oral exams, assessment
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Oral examinations have traditionally been used as an important tool for assessing student understanding, but recently they have largely fallen out of favor except for the assessment of foreign language skills. Nonetheless, the literature reports a variety of potential advantages of using orals as a form of assessment, including allowing students to engage with materials in a more nuanced way, encouraging deeper levels of understanding and analysis, and practicing presentation skills that are valuable in the workplace. On the other hand, oral exams are criticized for being subjective and open to the bias of the examiner, stressful for many students, and time consuming to administer. Using a questionnaire administered to students, this study explored the reality of assessing student learning by oral exam in a small geography lecture course of approximately twenty students over a three-year period. Results suggest that students were generally supportive of the oral format, appreciating in particular the opportunity to explore topics in a more in-depth way. However, practical challenges of administering an oral exam proved significant, even in a class of only twenty students.

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