Oral Assessment of Historical Knowledge-Understanding-Skill


One aspect of assessing History which has interested me increasingly of late has been the application of a summative History Oral. We use language, questioning, discussion, presentation extensively within the teaching of History but we seem to priorities written forms of communication as the standard for summative assessment.

To remedy this, and trial the impact of such an approach to summative assessments within History, I have designed a process which will see 180 students of History prepare and communicate knowledge, understanding and skills, developed across a year, in a scripted 3 minute oral presentation.

Below I outline the steps and give a brief justification for the purpose of each within the assessment process.

Step 1: Students will choose a historical topic-period. The topic can be anything they have studied over the year or any topic they are interested in/passionate about, as long as they can identify it as broadly historical rather than a current affair. This enables leaners to choose something of interest, enhancing authenticity and buy in, and creates variety (who want to listen to the same presentation topic 180 times?).

Step 2: Students will design a Driving Question, applying the skill of question construction developed across the year. This will be the question which drives the research and reaching a conclusion-answer directly addressing the question the quest of the oral presentation.
Leaners will design the question to include;

an appropriate question stem-the topic-a focus

e.g.: To what extent did the lives of ordinary women, living in Britain, change during the 20th century?

By not providing a question this again enables leaners to choose something of interest to them but also challenges them and enables assessment of there ability to construct an appropriate historical question. 

Step 3: Using the Driving Question as the new starting point, learners will then design 2-3 sub research questions; applying the same rules as above. research will seek to address each question, each a talking point within the oral assessment, which combined will provide an answer to the Driving Question.

This further enables an assessment of a leaners ability to design appropriate questions, and helps shape the next assessed element; Research and Record.

Step 4: Guided by the sub research questions leaners will complete research, applying the principles taught across the year and record it in the manner we expect within the Humanities department.

1: Source title 2: summary of value 3: accurate quotation 4: inferences addressing the sub research question.

Learners will present this research as part of their oral assessment. Opportunities could be made available for such research to be recorded online, shared and reviewed by peers, later being attached to the recording of the oral assessment itself.

This provides an opportunity to assess learners ability to conduct historical research and record such research in an academic fashion.

Step 5: Using the research generated leaners will script a 3 minute oral presentation which will seek to answer the Driving Question via the sub research questions. Through the sharing of assessment criteria in an I can… format learners will seek to ensure that the script builds an answer in a structured manner through explanation-analysis-evaluation. Students will also be encouraged to bring in skills from English, especially language devices for persuasion. The presence of facts to back up what is said will be made explicit.

This will enable an assessor to clearly see-hear the stepped levels of historical reasoning analysis; yet another skill applied and ready for assessment. A written element is present but the focus is much more on how this will sound on delivery. 

Step 6: Finally the learner will read their script and record this 3 minute oral presentation using means made available (in our case iPads). Prior to this step learners will be reminded of good oral communication skills; again referring back to what they have learnt within English across the year. Recordings will be saved, alongside research and scripts, to provided online folder, using G Drive. each recording will be shared with their peers and their teacher.

Here we are able to assess oral communication skills alongside historical skills such as analysis, evaluation, research, and question design. 

Through sharing the recording with peers and a named teacher learners will find their work assessed by more than one person. Knowing this from the outset again grants greater authenticity to the work they undertake. An assessment criteria for grading will be applied, and perhaps presented online, enabling all that listen to the presentation to assess it against the defined criteria. 

This process has gone into effect and the outcomes will be made evident in two weeks time. I will follow this up with a review of its application practice.

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