The psychodynamics of oral assessment

Gordon Rowland JOUGHIN, Colleen WONG

Research output: Contribution to conferencePapers


Different assessment formats tend to induce different learning processes in students. As early as 1933, Terry (1933) reported such differences in students preparing for multiple choice tests and writing essays. A more recent study (Joughin, 2003) identified students’ experience of written assignments and identified three contrasting conceptions of oral assessment. Some students saw oral assessment as a one-way presentation, focused on reproducing the ideas of experts, had little sense of being in front of an audience, experienced no anxiety, and though that oral assessment was no more challenging than written assignments. On the other hand, come students found oral assessment to be extremely challenging, had a strong sense of their audience and of themselves, sought to develop a deep understanding of their topics, and found the oral format to be significantly richer and more engaging than the written format. Students’ varying experience of oral assessment can be understood in terms of how they perceive different aspects of the oral assessment format. But why do some students find oral assessment particularly engaging and fruitful? Perhaps some answers can be found in studies of orality and literacy, starting with Plato’s argument for what he terms ‘the inferiority of the written to the spoken word’ and considering somewhat more recent work from anthropological and linguistic perspectives. This leads to the notion of ‘the psychodynamics of oral assessment’ as an explanation of why oral assessment, when done well, can be a powerful form of assessment that encourages students to adopt deep approaches to learning. It also leads to a number of practical suggestions for making oral assessment work.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2005
EventThe First International Conference on Enhancing Teaching and Learning through Assessment - The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong
Duration: 13 Jun 200515 Jun 2005


ConferenceThe First International Conference on Enhancing Teaching and Learning through Assessment
Country/TerritoryHong Kong


Joughin, G., & Wong, C. (2005, June). The psychodynamics of oral assessment. Paper presented at the First International Conference on Enhancing Teaching and Learning through Assessment, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, China.


  • Theory and Practice of Teaching and Learning


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