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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 3. Panopticism and Assessment


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Traditionally, panopticism has been conceived in languages of surveillance and scrutiny. In this chapter, we show why assessment should not become a policed enactment of learning and teaching. Instead, we argue that assessment, like panopticism, is embedded in power relationships whereby assessors and assessees are interdependent and “eyes” of one another in an atmosphere of surveillance or panopticism. In this regard, we argue how the Foucauldian notion of panopticism or surveillance, as a dyadic power relationship, potentially encourages students and teachers to be coassessors of their pedagogic encounters.

The panopticon and panopticism

Simon (2005, p. 2) explains that, for Foucault, the panopticon is not only a sociomaterial template for institutional orders of all kinds ranging from prisons to schools to factories to hospitals, but as an architectural design, it signals a convergence of a historically situated political and social ideology, a sociomaterial epistemology, and a pragmatics of social control and resistance. Drawing on Bentham’s architecture of the panopticon, Foucault (1977) introduces the notion of panopticism as a form of surveillance in prisons through ← 39 | 40 → which the behavior of inmates is observed by authorities. According to Foucault (1977, p. 200), the panopticon is an architectural figure based on the following principle:

at the periphery, an annular building; at the centre, a tower; this tower is pierced with wide windows that open onto the inner side of the right … [In...

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