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.