June 22, 2007

Oral exams

I spent the day at a meeting and orientation for a group of Italian and American Fulbright scholars where I held a workshop on Cross-cultural communications.

It was HOT and the combination of post-pranzo dozzies and no AC was potentially fatal, but they politely sweated it through with me and I think enjoyed the intellectual challenge that delving into into the depths of our cultural selves entails.

Over lunch, I asked the American professors at my table if they had ever had any experience teaching Italian university students. One had and here is what he said. 1. They asked the best questions he had ever had from students. 2. If they couldn't follow a lesson, or were just tired, they would either walk out or start chatting to a neighbor. 3. He so enjoyed the oral exam tradition that he has decided to try it on his American graduate students.

This led to an interesting discussion about the pros and cons of oral exams versus American style "quizzza" (multiple choice). With the recent reforms of the maturità exam, the terza prova of the three day written exams will be in this imported American format. Italians say that it is arbitrary and doesn't allow a student to show what he/she knows. At the same time, says another of the American professors at the table, a lot of B....S.... goes on in oral exams.

To each educational system, its assessment tools.

a domani,


Caroline in Rome said...

I think oral exams teach students to speak their thoughts logically and with confidence. It shouldn't be the only method of evaluation but it's a great supplement.

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

I agree with Caroline.

Elizabeth said...

me too! Thanks Caroline.

Send positive thoughts to my son who will be in front of a mixed commission (both internal and external teachers) on Thursday morning for the culminating oral part of his maturità exam -- the thought of having to do something like that is terrifying for those of us coming from a US based education!

Anonymous said...

To tell you the truth it's a terrifying experience for us too!
I was talking about esami di maturità with a co-worker who's in his 50's and he told me he can still remeber his experience like it was yesterday, while I can't remember anything about my maturità, I just erased the hole thing from my mind!