Practical test

Lecture in the public domain, café exam

Key words: Portfolio, presentation, lecture

Per Grau Møller,
Associate professor, lic.phil
Kartografisk Dokumentationscenter (Cartography Documentation Centre)
Department of History

This is an example of an assessment method, which has been applied in the mandatory course ”Historical Methods and Theory” in the first semester of the master programme History at the University of Southern Denmark. During the course, the students develop their own portfolio containing five assignments, which are handed in for final assessment with oral defence. In order to pass the course, the student must pass at least four out of the five assignments. For one of the portfolio assignments the student has to give a lecture at a public café, why this assessment method is called café exam. This method has been used in classes of 10-15 students since 2010.

The student must give a lecture at a public café about a topic of his or her own choice within the scope of the course. The lecture should last for about 20-30 minutes. The students develop the lecture individually. They are allowed to use aids that can support the presentation of the content, i.e. PowerPoint presentation, sound and video. The student receives no feedback immediately after the lecture is presented. Instead, the lecture is assessed as part of the final assessment of the portfolio. Thus, the lecture is recorded in order for the teacher and censor to assess the student’s performance. Everyone in the audience, including teachers, students or café guests can ask questions at the lecture. At the day of the lecture presentations, the café is run as any other day. The idea behind this assessment method is to put the students in an authentic situation, in which they must present an academic topic in a comprehensible and interesting manner to a public audience.

This assessment method is useful for assessing the students’ qualifications in relation to presenting academic and scientific knowledge to the public. The lecture is based on content and literature from the master level. Based on this academic starting point, the student should demonstrate the ability to present academic content in an interesting and enlightening manner. Additionally, the student must be able to respond to questions from the audience.

The students have responded positively to café exam. They find it an exciting challenge to prepare, structure and present the lecture. The unfamiliar context and the presence of the audience enhance the motivation for doing a good performance in regards to demonstrating academic skills and giving the audience an educational experience. The students experience that the context is authentic, and that it is like “stepping out from the university and into reality”. The students do not feel more nervous or anxious compared to other assessments, and they do not experience more pressure than usually. The latter can be explained by the fact that the students are not forced to present the lecture in order to pass the course. Few students have asked not to do the lecture. Instead they participate in the audience.

The advantage of café exam is the authentic context, in which the students can try out their skills and competences outside the usual university surroundings. The freedom in choice of the form and content of the lecture brings diverse and creative lectures that embrace the students’ diversity. Additionally, it is also advantageous that the students are motivated by the audience to do a good performance. The students generally accept the assignment with commitment and goodwill.

Few disadvantages have occurred in relation to the accomplishment of the activity.Some students find themselves restricted in the use of technological tools for their lecture. The context puts up a natural barrier for what is possible, e.g. in relation to presentation projectors, lights etc. At the same time, the authentic context and the café services increase the risk of commotion and other inconveniences which are difficult to avoid.

Prospectively the café exam will continue to be part of the portfolio assignment. However, more research on how the activity will work on classes of more than 15 students is needed.

Suitable for classes of: 10-15 students (in 2014 classes with 35 students will try out this assessment method)
Suitable for level: Master level
Suitable for offline, online or both:  Offline
Is the activity part of the curriculum? Yes



For more information about VUE please contact:
SDU Centre for Teaching and Learning - Rie Troelsen -

For more information about this assessment method please contact:
Per Grau Møller