Oral Communication Assessment: An Overview
Philip Backlund Central Washington University
Since the early 1980s, the Speech Communication Association and its Committee on Assessment and Testing have attempted to clarify the issues surrounding development of effective techniques for assessing oral communication. The chapter summarizes many of those efforts.
To that end, the chapter is organized into five parts: (a) background to oral communication assessment; (b) the need for clear objectives; (c) criteria commonly used to select an assessment instrument or procedure; (d) issues of reliability, validity, and bias; and (e) general procedures of assessing oral communication. The goal of this chapter is to supply a working knowledge of assessment methods and procedures in oral communication and identify resources for further information.
The point of any assessment program is student learning. To put this point into question form, how do we know whether students know (or can do) what we want them to know (or do)? When students are engaged in a program of instruction, whether it is television production or public speaking, teachers need to know a number of things about the effect of instruction. Teachers need to know: (a) whether the instruction has had any effect, (b) how the skills and knowledge levels of their students compare with predetermined optimum levels, (c) whether their students are learning some aspects of the curriculum faster than they are learning others, and (d) how their students compare in ability to other students in similar classes.