Stewards of the Word: Employing Oral Examinations in Required Theology Courses

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College graduates are falling short in oral communication skills, yet these skills are important for employment and for effective civic engagement. Catholic colleges and universities are well suited to revive sustained attention to the development and assessment of oral communication skills in today’s higher education context. We can do this by incorporating oral skills assessment into general education requirements. Oral examinations in required theology courses can provide ideal loci for this process. At Calumet College of St. Joseph, must-pass oral exams have been employed in selected core religious studies courses for five years, offering us the opportunity to establish the oral exam as a signature assignment across the religious studies core curriculum. We have adapted the AAC&U’s VALUE rubrics for oral communication and critical thinking to develop a consistent assessment tool for the exams, and integrated oral examinations and rating procedures fully into all sections of three required courses. We offer our experience as a model for other Catholic colleges and universities seeking methods of core skills development and assessment.

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