The impact of high stakes oral performance assessment on students’ approaches to learning: a case study

This paper presents findings from a case study on the impact of high stakes oral performance assessment on third year mathematics students’ approaches to learning (Entwistle & Ramsden, 1983). We choose oral performance assessment as this mode of assessment differs substantially from written exams for its dialogic nature and because variation of assessment methods is seen to be very important in an otherwise very uniform assessment diet. We found that students perceived the assessment to require conceptual understanding over memory and were more likely to employ revision strategies conducive to deep learning (akin to conceptual understanding) when preparing for the oral performance assessment than when preparing for a written exam. Moreover, they reported to have engaged and interacted in lectures more than they would have otherwise, another characteristic conducive to deep learning approaches. We conclude by suggesting some implications for the summative assessment of mathematics at university level.