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Education, Assessment, and the Desire for Dissonance


Yusef Waghid and Nuraan Davids

Education, Assessment, and the Desire for Dissonance aims to address the contentious practice of assessment in schools and universities within a poststructuralist educational paradigm. Within the theoretical paradigm of Foucault’s (1994) notions of governmentality, subjectification and dissonance, the book examines why, through which and in which ways (how) educational assessment should unfold considering the challenges of globalized and cosmopolitan dimensions of educational change that have beset educational institutions. Waghid and Davids show how conceptual derivatives of Foucauldian governmentality, in particular the notions of power, panopticon and surveillance, dispositive, freedom and resistance—as relational concepts—affect assessment in universities and schools. The authors argue why universities and schools cannot be complacent or non-responsive to current understandings and practices of assessment. In the main, the authors contend that a Foucauldian notion of powerful, subjectified and dissonant assessment can, firstly, be extended to an Agambenian (2011) notion of a profane, denudified and rhythmic form of assessment; and secondly, be enhanced by a Derridian (1997) idea of friendship that bridges a Foucauldian view of governmental assessment with an Agambenian view of ethical assessment. Friendship allows people to act responsibly towards one another—that is, teachers and students acting responsibility towards one another—and resonates with an ongoing pursuit of rhythmic assessment practices. Such a form of assessment opens up an attentiveness to the incalculable and unexpected encounters that bear the responsibility of acting with one another. The authors conclude that an assessment with teaching and learning can transcend the limitations of an assessment of learning and an assessment for learning.

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Coda on the Ethical Dimensions of Assessment within Teaching and Learning



In taking account of the primary arguments propagated in this book, three points bear due consideration. Firstly, assessment is constitutive of teaching and learning; secondly, assessment is continuous and relational to pedagogy; and thirdly, assessment is a pedagogical practice whereby teachers and students do things together with one another, rather than for this or that purpose. When we reflected on this book after its completion, we asked the question: Where is ethics in assessment? Should assessment be informed by ethics? Is assessment, like teaching, an ethical endeavor? To this end, we will rethink and reconsider assessment again, this time, with a focus on whether it is at all possible to avoid ethics in assessment practices, or indeed, whether assessment is necessarily an ethical endeavor.

Ethics and pedagogy

Teaching and learning, as explored and described in this book, are always and invariably associated with ethics. Throughout the book, we have been concerned with putting assessment at the center of teaching and learning. In this regard, we justified, so we imagine, that engagements and pedagogical encounters between teachers and students should be constitutive of ← 143 | 144 → practices of deliberation, respect and mindfulness—practices that are implicit in notions and judgments of ethics. Stated differently, when teachers engage deliberatively with students, they perform actions of interest to both participants (that is, teachers and students), and the needs of students—should be about fortifying our pedagogical practices. Put differently, throughout our engagement with conceptions of...

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