What is Comparing Talk and why is it needed?

Voice 21 and Rethinking Assessment are bringing schools together to develop a new approach to oracy assessment

What is Comparing Talk and why is it needed?

“Oracy? How do I measure it?” Working with schools across the UK, this is a question we’re asked all the time at Voice 21. Unlike literacy or numeracy, schools don’t have easy access to their students’ ‘oracy data’, and without it, it can be hard to know how their oracy attainment and progress compares to the national picture. 

Through ‘Comparing Talk’, Voice 21 and Rethinking Assessment are bringing schools together from across the UK to develop a new approach to oracy assessment. We’re taking a ‘comparative judgement’ approach – made possible by recent technological advances, and teachers’ increasing familiarity with, and access to, video-recording in the classroom.

Phase one of Comparing Talk, running until July 2022, will explore the strengths and limitations of this approach to oracy assessment. We’ll apply what we learn to the development of an assessment tool that we can trial at scale in the second phase of the project (from September 2022). Our aim is for this tool to be robust enough to provide reliable information to monitor students’ attainment and progress; whilst being of practical use for teachers in the classroom.

The future of oracy assessment

Comparing Talk will allow us to develop a national picture of oracy attainment across the country. The ‘comparative judgement’ approach taken lends itself to the creation of a series of exemplar videos showing us what ‘good’ looks like for students across ages and phases. This greater understanding of the national picture will help schools to take an evidence-based approach to their provision of a high-quality oracy education for every student. Having access to an assessment tool they can rely on means that schools can monitor student progress; target support; and evaluate the success of their oracy initiatives. 

Comparing Talk and Rethinking Assessment 

At Rethinking Assessment, Oracy is one of the four key ‘dispositions’ that we think should be evidenced and measured in some way as students progress through their learning. Oracy develops learners who can think critically, reason together and have the vocabulary to express their knowledge and understanding. As well as improving academic outcomes, good oral communication skills are regularly cited as the number one thing employers look for when they recruit. 

What we assess is what we value. Broadening what we assess to include oracy shows that we recognise oracy as something we value in education as well as across all aspects of life. Furthermore, if we are able to develop a reliable way of measuring and assessing oracy, this opens the door to oracy being used as a mode of assessment for other domains for example in subject areas, and for summative assessment for example through vivas, commonly used in Higher Education. 

Find out more

You can read more about Comparing Talk here, or contact Voice 21 at [email protected]

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