• Assessing by viva voce

      Callery, Dymphna; Hale, Kate (University of Wolverhampton, 2002)
      The idea of introducing vive voce assessments emerged during a review of the assessment profile of the Drama Department. Despite the practical orientation of the programme, assessments were dominated by 60% Practical Project , 40% Essay weightings. Good practical marks were frequently undermined by weaker grades for written work, despite students’ evident development of understanding through practice, and written evaluations were generally of poor quality. In addition, staff had reported an unhealthy split in the focus of practical modules where written course-work was a requirement. In the drama professions it is more necessary to be able to explain ideas and creative concepts orally and pursue them somatically: the process of making work is physically and vocally-based; critical reflection comes orally too in the form of direction, post-show discussions and de-briefings. Teaching strategies for practical work embrace this, applying theoretical concepts in concrete praxis. Students’ development on such courses requires them to invest in sensory and experiential learning and a progressively intensive approach to practice. Presenting work to tutors and peers for critical feedback is the major teaching and learning mode. Having to change tack and focus on conceptualising theory, rather than exploring through creativity, and essay writing rather than practical skills, constrained tutors and students. The introduction of an oral examination – a viva voce – to assess students’ ability to critically reflect on and evaluate their practice could provide a viable alternative. Viva voces would both acknowledge and play to the strengths of students’ oral communication skills and offer them the chance to develop more formal interview techniques, as well as acknowledging the vocal and oral nature of the discipline. The aim of the project was to introduce viva voce exams as a method of assessing critical reflection on practical work in order primarily to improve the range of asessments, but in addition to give students an opportunity to sustain their achievement on practical modules. The focus was on finding and implementing strategies that would promote good practice in assessment.