November 8 Day 610: Oral Assessment Redux

Oral assessment was something I adopted during remote teaching mostly to reduce the adversarial relationship between me and my students. By giving the problems in advance and allowing all resources (including Chegg and other online services) for preparation, no one was violating academic conduct rules. However, each student must individually present solutions to a small subset of the problems based on their preparation, without the assistance of notes.

Today was the first of two set aside for interviews. Students signed up for 30 minute appointments using the Calendly app. With 28 students, that means 14 hours of interviews. I did ten hours of them today—8.5 of them in person. It is a huge commitment and my energy remained high for the first 7 hours. The interviews were really enjoyable and the day literally flew by.

Last night I sent a reminder message including the complete pdf for my mathematical affirmations. I asked students to pick one that spoke to them. In addition, I printed out a set of affirmations and had spread them at the “on-deck” position outside the interview room. As students waited for their interviews to begin, they browsed the cards and thought positive thoughts. After 20 interviews, no one has picked the same affirmation twice.

I reserved a private room in the Quantitative Center so students would know where this important help center was located. Also the room was more suitable than my office with two whiteboards and a central table.

The process, rubric, and questions paralleled previous oral assessments. For readers genuinely interested in the details, here is a link to the important file.

Lessons learned or reinforced thus far:

  • No one completed their interview in less than 15 minutes. Most people are willing to take as long as I will allow but rarely do they change my mind about the value of the assessment after 25 minutes. So 30 minutes is really the ideal amount of time. It allows for a reasonable transition and frequently includes time for connections beyond the test (or a short break.)
  • Despite the time commitment, I really enjoy the process and prefer it to in-class or online written assessments.
  • Students enjoyed rolling the two tetrahedral dice that I printed (1-2-3-4 and a-b-c-d) to determine which combination of attributes to discuss in problem 3. Creating examples to illustrate combined definitions was enlightening. A surprising number chose to skip this one for a 4 point penalty.

I hope to finish off strong tomorrow

Cover images were provided to students in addition to written instructions as directions to find the interview location.

Published by Jenny Quinn

Mathematician. Mother. Wife. Leader. I am a professor of mathematics at the University of Washington Tacoma. Mother of Anson and Zachary. Wife to Mark. President of the Mathematical Association of America.

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