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Assessing Knowledge in Dialogue - Undergraduate Synopsis-based Oral Examinations at a Scandinavian Business School

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We report a local or regional undergraduate examination form – the synopsis-based oralexamination (S-BOE), as it is deployed in both large and small international managementeducation programs at a Scandinavian business school. The S-BOE format is designed to assessstudent cognitive achievement in light of specified learning objectives through a focusedpresentation and dialogue involving an examiner and qualified censor, the latter being formallypresent to ensure process fairness for both examiner and student. It affords the examiner andcensor the opportunity to explore student cognitive skills over the known range: unistructural >multistructural > relational > extended abstract (Biggs, J. 1999). Individuals as well as studentproject groups may be assessed using this approach. Administrative costs do not significantlyexceed that of other course assessment formats: written reports or in-class group examinations.There are also interesting learning efficiencies; practitioner experience, reflection, and dialoguewith students suggest that all students experience this examination format as a learningexperience in itself, over a range of course-related knowledge issues and interpersonal skilling.Exemplary students manifest “dramatic knowledge” in those instances when they creativelydisplay a comprehensive, reflective, and reflexive understanding of course material inpresentation and subsequent intersubjective dialogue. The authors discuss important features ofthis undergraduate examination format that remain largely overlooked and under-appreciated interms that regionally and locally contextualize international accreditation standards and process.At a time when economic, efficiency, and standardization concerns increasingly pressureeducational institutions to adopt testing methods that are psychologically “distant” in respect tothe instructor-student relationship, the synopsis-based oral examination is an interestingalternative suitable for small as well as large academic programs.

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Charles T. Tackney, Ole Strömgren, Toyoko Sato

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