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Oral exams

Oral exams – making them valid and fair

Oral exams enable evaluating student competencies that are difficult or impossible to assess in other ways. Students have the opportunity to engage in an expert discussion and need to develop, explain and defend their thoughts and ideas in real-time. However, oral exams also pose unique challenges. How can we let unique and authentic expert discussions unfold while maintaining reasonable standards of objectivity in evaluating and comparing students’ performances? How can we assess students fairly while keeping our conscious or subconscious biases towards unusually dressed, nervous yet competent, or articulate yet incompetent candidates in check? In this Refresh Teaching, our presenters will share their practical experiences and solutions to such issues and we will discuss simple good practice recommendations for addressing them effectively.

Dr. Tobias Halbherr LET Examinations specialist E-Mail senden
Prof. Andreas Vaterlaus D-PHYS Professor E-Mail senden
Prof. Ulrike Lohmann D-USYS Professor E-Mail senden
Prof. Ralph Spolenak D-MATL Professor E-Mail senden

Dr. Tobias Halbherr

Since 2012, Tobias Halbherr is specialist for examinations and online examinations at Educational Development and Technology (LET) of ETH Zurich.  In his input he will reports on challenges, taxonomy and transfer and adressing biases in oral exams.

Prof. Andreas Vaterlaus

In his input, Prof. Andreas Vaterlaus will describe his experiences with oral exams. He describes two different settings: the first is assessment of an elective masters course in the physics curriculum, an oral session exam of 20 minutes. Here the students can chose out of a varia of topics and prepare a presentation. The focus lies rather on the understanding than on the details of the mathematical description. The second setting he describes is a mandatory course in the teaching deploma in the physics education programme. Here every student writes his portfolio. The oral exam in planned for 40 minutes, 20 minutes are reserved for the exam which includes discussions, 10 minutes are reserved for the teachers to discuss the portfolio and what they saw in the prepared lesseon an in the last 10 minutes the students get the feedback and the grades from the teachers.

Prof. Ulrike Lohmann

In her input Ulrike Lohmann describes why and how she implements oral examinations and what advantages she sees in this examination method.

Ralf Spolenak

In his Input Ralph Spolenak gives an insight how Oral exams are done in the Departement of materials. From his point of view oral exams challenges the students to make the connections between all the different subjects they’ve seen and have learned. The oral exams are a challenge not only for the students but also for the committee that’s going to examine them. In his opinion more oral exams would lead to greater understanding and they are more closer to reality. Ralph Spolenak points out that the student leaves the oral exam in best case with more knowledge than he already entered the exam and that’s typically what you one can’t say out of a standard written exam.