Oral Assessment From the Learner's Perspective: The Experience of Oral Assessment in Post-Compulsory Education
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This thesis examines the experience of oral assessment in post-compulsory education from the student's perspective. A considerable literature has developed over the past three decades describing and analysing how students experience various aspects of learning, including various forms of assessment. Until recently, none of this literature has addressed how students experience oral assessment, and recent studies that have done so are limited in their scope and methodology - it would be true to say that very little is known about oral assessment from the student's perspective. The starting point for the consideration of oral assessment is the existing literature on oral assessment, nearly all of which has been written from the teacher's perspective. A survey of this literature identified six dimensions of oral assessment - primary content types; interaction; authenticity; structure; examiners; and orality. It is suggested that these dimensions can lead to a clearer understanding of the nature of oral assessment, a clearer differentiation of the various forms within this type of assessment, a better capacity to describe and analyse these forms, and a better understanding of how the various dimensions of oral assessment may interact with other elements of teaching and learning. Students' experiences of oral assessment were then explored through interviews with fifteen students in a post-compulsory certificate in theology. The interviews and the analysis of the interview transcripts were strongly informed by the phenomenographic methods and conceptual framework developed by Marton and others for describing variations in how phenomena are experienced. Six aspects of students' experience of oral assessment were identified - the indirect object of learning; the direct object of learning; interaction; audience; affective responses; and comparisons with written assignments - and variations in how these aspects could be experienced are described. Relationships between these aspects suggested three contrasting conceptions of oral assessment. The conception of oral assessment as 'presentation' represents an approach to oral assessment that focuses on reproducing the ideas of others in a one-way presentation. This conception is associated with a limited sense of audience, a failure to perceive interaction as significant, and an absence of anxiety. In this case, oral assessment is seen as either similar to written assignments, or as being a more limited form of assessment than assignments. The conception of oral assessment as 'understanding' is associated with students actively seeking to develop their understanding of the subject, making the ideas they encounter their own, being challenged to understand these ideas because of the questioning involved in the assessment process, and seeing oral assessment as having some advantages over written assessment. The conception of oral assessment as 'a position to be argued' is associated with a seeing theology in terms of developing one's own point of view, having a strong sense of audience, seeing interaction with that audience as both challenging and demanding understanding, and experiencing a heightened self-awareness. In this case, oral assessment is seen as a significantly richer and more personally engaging form of assessment than written assignments. The study of oral assessment from the student's perspective extends the dimensions of oral assessment described earlier and challenges our understanding of these dimensions. The study has significant implications for teachers using oral assessment and for students who are being assessed orally, including the challenge of helping students develop more complex conceptions of oral assessment. The study also provides the basis for further research into specific aspect of oral assessment and its application in different contexts.
Thesis (PhD Doctorate)
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
School of Vocational, Technology and Arts Education
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