Oral assessment, known as the viva, goes ‘against the grain’ of mass examination. It holds the potential for new narrative moves that are non-standardised. Yet, it is not a new form of assessment and its roots can be traced to the Middle Ages and even to the time of the Greeks.
Professor Dobson in his inaugural lecture explored the history of the viva, how it is ‘talked into existence’ and if it is a valid form of assessment. He has participated in countless vivas, filming some of them along with the accompanying examiner meetings. How can the viva, in the words of James Joyce, offer and deliver on the promise, ‘to be on anew and basking again in the panorama of all the flores of speech…in the states of suspensive exanimation’?