Oral questioning is the most commonly-used of all forms of assessment, in class. Indeed, it is so much a feature of practically all teaching, as opposed to "presenting" or lecturing, that it is hardly recognised as a form of assessment by teachers—although students are well aware of it as such. It has its own page on this site.
In this case, however, the focus is on the use of such questioning as part of the de-briefing after practice has been observed. This is particularly recommended by validating bodies for National Vocational Qualifications in the UK
- Where there is a need to find out about learning which has not been directly observed on this occasion.
- It may be about what did not happen: "What would you have done if...?",
- seeking an explanation for particular practices: "I noticed you always suggested using the menus rather than the icons to execute commands—was there a particular reason for that?", and
- checking understanding of underlying principles: "You washed the bowl before you beat the egg-whites—did you not trust the person who used it before, or what?", as well as
- challenging practice: "Why did you refer to 'coloured' people?"
- A major "selling point" for oral questioning concerns inclusivity. If the principle is followed that it is only appropriate to assess what is directly relevant to the task, then any assessment method which calls for additional skills—such as writing—is potentially discriminatory. Oral questioning assumes that the learner can hear, of course, and shares a common language with the assessor, but nothing else. Since ability to communicate orally is relevant to very many tasks, this method is minimally discriminatory.
- On the other hand, the questions may vary, with some being tougher than others, and there is rarely a record of what was asked.
- The other major role for the "oral" in summative assessment is in language learning, where the capacity to carry on a conversation at an appropriate level of fluency is relatively distinct from the ability to read and write the language.
- There is also an up-market version of oral questioning in academic circles, in the form of the viva.
- None, as long as the questioning is carried out in a spirit of genuine enquiry, rather than accusation and put-down.
- Validity is high, but reliability is less so. Assuming that the practice is observed in relatively controlled conditions, questioning for summative assessment should probably draw on a standard list of questions.
- Like direct observation, oral questioning is extremely time-consuming. For this reason it may be carried out by associates of the main assessor, which reinforces the need for standard questions.
- There is no direct and permanent "product" of oral questioning. Consideration should be given to recording it as a process (audio- or video-tape, allowing for the increase in anxiety associated with the introduction of such equipment), or its outcomes in the form of a report, preferably signed by both parties as an accurate record.
- It is highly desirable to allow the "assessee" to volunteer her own analysis of the practice before raising your own questions — "First of all, how do you think it went?". The sophistication of her spontaneous account can reveal far more than simply her responses to your questions.