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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 2. Educational Assessment and Power


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In this chapter, we examine the notion of Foucauldian power in relation to our own pedagogic encounters in relation to our assessment practices. We reflect on how we have been furtively assimilated into dominant discourses of exclusion at the expense of pedagogic encounters that emphasize intellectual equality. Our own examples are taken from our roles as teachers of teacher education students and supervisors of master’s and doctoral students. In accentuating the power dimensions of pedagogic relationships, we specifically show how assessment at times seems to inhibit students’ learning and at other times, advance their freedom. We consider Foucault’s resistance in power relationships as an appropriate pedagogical strategy in encouraging students to speak their minds independently and thus to announce their presence. Our argument for assessment as an endeavor toward student autonomy, and freedom is supported by teachers embarking on negotiated forms and explications of assessment. Such forms of assessment not only invite students to “equal intelligence,” but present opportunities for teachers to consider renewed ways of assessing, as practices of teaching and learning. ← 23 | 24 →

Foucault’s power and knowledge

In Ethics: Subjectivity and Truth (1997a, p. 291), Foucault states that he scarcely uses the word “power”; instead, he generally uses “relations of power.” He explains that the immediate associations with power are “a political structure, a government, a dominant social class, the master, and the slave” (Foucault, 1997a, p. 291)...

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