Oral presentation based on synopsis

In this type of exam, prior to the oral exam, the student writes a synopsis of a limited number of pages – usually about 5 pages. This synopsis is then the starting point for the oral examination, which begins with the student’s in-depth analysis of the question addressed in the synopsis. The student is then examined based on the synopsis and the presentation.

The synopsis question(s) could be asked by the examiner, possibly as questions drawn from among many possible questions, but could otherwise be chosen independently by the student within the academic framework. The synopsis could describe a case, problem definition or theoretical framework, for example.

As the synopsis is a very unclear genre, it is important that students understand the purpose of the synopsis in the relevant exam situation – and thus understand the requirements attached to it, including how the overall marking of the student’s performance is allocated between the synopsis and the presentation/examination.

This combined exam places the emphasis on the students’ capacity for applying both written and oral formulations to express themselves academically. This gives students a fair chance to demonstrate what they can do without giving preference to either form of communication.

Depending on the requirements for the synopsis and presentation, this type of exam can be used to test knowledge, abilities and skill-sets at different classificatory levels.

This assessment method is also suited for group examination.

Learning objective that can be addressed using this assessment method
Knowledge of theory, method and practice  
Understanding and reflecting on theory, method and practice X
Applying methods and tools X
Assessing problem definitions and selecting solution models X
Communicate and discuss academic issues  
Dealing with complex situations – in the context of studying or work  
Ability to independently initiate collaboration  
Taking responsibility for personal learning and development  

X indicates that this assessment method is suitable for testing the learning outcome. (X) indicates that this assessment method is of only limited use for this.

Evaluating the method of assessment

Assessment Criteria
Validity As the synopsis and the student’s presentation usually only deal with a single question out of the academic content, content validity is low. It is possible to compensate for this to some extent in the oral exam, but only to a limited extent due to the relatively brief timeframe for the oral exam.

Depending on the requirements for the synopsis and the oral presentation, various learning targets can be evaluated in this way, and construct validity can thus be relatively high.
Reliability As a general rule, the more questions asked, the greater the reliability. As this type of exam focuses on one or more questions, it is difficult to achieve a high level of reliability.

In the effort to make the type of evaluation consistent in order to distinguish between good students and poor students, the students should basically be asked the same question. If the question/problem is formulated independently by the student or if students are set various questions, e.g. on the basis of different interests or at random, the actual question also needs to be included in the marking in order to ensure reliability.
Backwash effect from testing to teaching Allowing students to formulate their own question/problem for the assignment tends more readily to give students a sense of ownership of the assignment, which can stimulate and boost their learning.

Throughout the teaching process, it is important to discuss/go over the quality criteria on which students’ performance will be examined.

If students formulate their own problem, there is a risk that they will opt out of dealing with content that is not directly relevant to their problem definition. Thus, they can choose to avoid reading texts outside their chosen topic area or cease to turn up for teaching altogether.
Resources This type of evaluation is resource-intensive if it involves many students. Reading synopses takes time, and the oral exam also takes a long time.
Digitisation The synopsis can be delivered digitally. This provides a means of checking the students’ answers to questions for any plagiarism using fx the SafeAssign function in e-learn.sdu.dk.
Acceptance This type of evaluation is regarded in some quarters as a relatively authentic exam that closely resembles an actual work situation. Others find the synopsis a strange mixture: too short to be a proper assignment, but too long to be just a springboard for the oral exam.