Comparing oral and traditional assessments in math content courses for pre-service elementary teachers

Comparing oral and traditional assessments in math content courses for pre-service elementary teachers

Academic Year:
2014 - 2015 (June 1, 2014 through May 31, 2015)
Funding Requested:
$4,000.00
Project Dates:
-
Applicant(s):
Chair Uniqname:
Overview of the Project:
A recent meta-analysis on oral assessments identifies several advantages of oral assessments, including that they: (1) develop communication skills, (2) are a more authentic assessment, (3) are more inclusive of different learning style and needs, and (4) are better at gauging understanding (Huxham, Campbell & Westood, 2012). In our math content course for pre-service elementary teachers, we think the first two advantages are self-evident. We find the third and fourth advantages compelling; however, we would like to know whether implantation of oral assessment in our class would realize these advantages. We further anticipate another advantage of oral exams over traditional exams: (5) they can be learning experiences themselves as students confront and reorganize their misconceptions in response to immediate instructor feedback. Our motivating question is: in a systematic application of both oral and traditional written assessments in our course, are the potential advantages (3), (4), and (5) empirically verified? Research questions: Q1: Does an oral assessment change our evaluation of students' achievement in the course? If so, can we qualitatively describe the differences between what oral and traditional assessments measure? Q2: How do students' perceived learning gains from an oral assessment compare to perceived learning gains from a written assessment?} We will investigate these questions using mixed methods: (A) systematically administering both oral and traditional written exams for quantitative score analysis, (B) using open coding to analyze video data of oral exams, and (C) surveying students about their perceived learning gains in each assessment format. We anticipate our results will have implications for assessment in a variety of STEM fields.
Proposal PDF:
Final Report Fields
Project Objectives:

The objective of this project was to compare the effects of using an alternative assessment (oral tests) with more traditional assessment (written tests), specifically in a mathematics content course for pre-service elementary teachers. We were guided by the following questions: Q1: Does an oral assessment change our evaluation of students' achievement in the course? If so, can we qualitatively describe the differences between what oral and traditional assessments measure? Q2: How do students' perceived learning gains from an oral assessment compare to perceived learning gains from a written assessment?

Project Achievements:

We implemented oral assessments as a part of the assessment menu in Math 385: Mathematics for Elementary School Teachers. These have been retained as part of the course. Ideas from our study have also influenced training materials for incoming graduate students and postdocs.

Continuation:
We are continuing work on this project with a view to submitting an article to a peer-reviewed journal. A part of our data collection involved measuring math anxiety, an instrument that we have refined and developed for general use. Additionally, this project provided material for a UROP student to work on during the 2015-16 academic year.
Dissemination:
Results from this study have been presented at MathFest in Washington DC, the Joint Mathematics Meetings in San Antonio, Teaching Mathematics Content Courses conference at the University of Michigan, and the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics conference in San Fransisco. A paper on these results is currently in preparation, with plans to submit to a peer-reviewed journal.
Advice to your Colleagues:
While oral assessments are logistically complicated to organize, and definitely time consuming, we learned that both students and instructors can benefit from using them. All students seem to benefit from the immediate feedback (formative feedback) and a greater diversity of students seem to excel than those who traditionally excel at written assessments alone. And the oral, one-on-one format allows instructors to gain a much deeper and more nuanced understanding of student learning than from a traditional written assessment.