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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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Chapter 1. Governmentality and Assessment Practices in Neoliberal South African Educational Institutions


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In this chapter, we endeavor to offer an account of the governmentality of educational assessment in South African institutions of learning and how the effect of pedagogic relational experiences seems to have held students and teachers captive and extensively focused on consolidating the commodified knowledge economy. Invariably, such governmental strategies have inhibited pedagogic autonomy and increased the discontent with learning for instrumentalist purposes. We argue that our own discourses of academic performance are governed and controlled by a managerialist neoliberal discourse that speaks directly to our measurable performance agreements and contracts. Although, one can argue that this form of performative regulation is itself a governmental technology of the self that measures our individualized and autonomous performances, it is nevertheless incongruent with a defensible form of governmentality that allows our autonomous actions to be linked to our scholarly inputs. That is, we would rather exchange such a form of neoliberal governmentality for one that moves away from consumerism and standardized forms of appraisal. ← 1 | 2 →

Foucault’s governmentality

Our attraction to Michel Foucault’s (1994) notion of governmentality is stimulated by our personal pedagogical engagements with students and teachers in a neoliberal, democratic South Africa. The neoliberal agenda of primary, secondary, and tertiary or higher education in South Africa is informed by the distinct understanding that teachers and students have to act relationally in their various educational...

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