Teachers save time and students learn more with oral exams in math

thinking-emoticonWhat if oral exams could help students learn more and save time for teachers?

Recently in Math 5, our teacher team tested this very idea.  This was a revised approach from a pilot they did with the same group of students in one of their earlier math courses.

It worked like this:

Students were given 15 math questions, 5 at each grading level, img_9404in advance.  They were allowed to use all resources available to them to solve.

Then, during one lesson, students were tested in an oral exam.
When a student entered the testing room, they were asked at what grade level they wanted to be tested.  Then, the teacher chose a problem for the student to solve.  The student had approximately 5 minutes to prepare.  Then, the student presented his/her solution to the img_9405teacher carefully explaining concepts and reasoning as they went along.  The teacher quizzed the student further during the presentation to check for more in-depth knowledge.  When the student felt satisfied with their presentation, the teacher marked the student’s work using a grid illustrating the quality of knowledge shown for the grading criteria areas of concepts, communication and reasoning.


While the student presented his/her problem, the next student entered and began the preparation phase.  And, then the cycle continued.

When asked, one student replied that she liked this form of assessment for several reasons:

” … it was less stressful knowing exactly what would be on the exam … I was able to be more focused when I studied  … it was good to be able to explain “with words” my thinking …”

To the question of did this method save teachers time? … Yes and no.  Both teachers replied that most of the time was invested upfront finding the good questions, creating the evaluation expectations and grading grid.  But, these were tasks that they shared.  The actual grading happened in the class in “real” time.  As one teacher remarked,

“that was the real time saver … not having any grading left to do after we left the classroom.”

kimAt VRG, we are always looking for creative ways to help the students anna-klaralearn in the most effective and efficient ways.

Thanks Kim & Anna-Klara for testing, revising, improving the process and then sharing the idea with your colleagues.





About kristylundstrom

I currently work as the Managing Director of Viktor Rydberg Schools. I am a student of learning. I am interested to see where it happens, when it happens, and how it happens. I am also a math and computer science teacher. I have lived in Belgium and in the USA. I really appreciate my multi-cultural environment - I believe it adds dynamics to our school.
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