Musings on Improving Tests in Education: Less Writing, More Orating?

After having been in education settings for more than half of my life, I was thinking about ways to improve education. More specifically, I was thinking about ways to improve testing. Let’s take one of the classes that I’ve recently taught. In the class, there are two case assignments and two exams. The case assignments can be written at on one’s own time, so a great deal of time and effort can go into perfecting the structure, etc. The exams are taken during classtime, so there is a time limit. The students have until the end of class to finish the exam.

Presumably, the students could get through the entire semester and finish with an “A” in the class without having to say anything. I realize that a great deal of communication in today’s world is completed online and through writing, but isn’t our ability to communicating orally important, too? At least, shouldn’t there at least be some time spent on it?

I understand that some departments and professors are hampered by their ability to fidget too much with the deliverables of their courses (as certain standards and gates have to be met), but I was thinking about what it might be like to have an oral “meeting” at the end of the semester (instead of a final exam). I’d specifically call it a “meeting” to remove some of the stigma that some students place on “exam” or “test.” In this “meeting,” the student would have 3 (or maybe more, depending on the class size) minutes to convince the professor that they learned something during the semester (about the course material). The “meeting” could be recorded, in case the professor wanted to go back and watch the meeting, but presumably, they wouldn’t have to (they could just be grading as they went).

Some students would perform better as they would be used to public speaking, but the grade wouldn’t hinge on one’s ability to be a brilliant public speaker. Part of me thinks that having to convince the professor through speech, that one would have to know the material a bit better than they would for simply regurgitating answers on a test. To add another layer to this, there could be an option for students to record their “meeting” and send a link to the video. One of the stipulations would be that they couldn’t read a speech. Part of the purpose of this “meeting” would be for the students to know the material so well that they could speak about it conversationally. That is, speak about the material in a way that they could convince someone that they knew about it (or maybe teach someone something about what they know).

I’m sure that there are some professors out there who do this sort of test (especially at the graduate level), but I’d be interested to see it implemented at the undergraduate level. I think it’d be a great way to help develop the oratory skills of those who *think* they have less than stellar oratory skills. Plus, I think that the material would stay with the students a little longer than the length of the exam.

Published by Jeremiah Stanghini

Jeremiah's primary aim is to provide readers with a new perspective. In the same vein as the "Blind Men and the Elephant," it can be difficult to know when one is looking at the big picture or if one is simply looking at a 'tusk' or a 'leg.' He writes on a variety of topics: psychology, business, science, entertainment, politics, history, etc.

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