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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 7. Dissonance and Educational Assessment


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In this chapter, we accentuate the importance of advancing the notion that educational assessment ought to be a desire to do things differently, courageously and justly. It is our argument that dissonance, following Foucault (1983), is perhaps a way out of the quagmire of standardized “testing” measures that not only inhibit the pursuit of creativity, talent, and passions, but also makes pedagogic encounters a bit superficial and parochial. Instead, we contend that dissonance in educational assessment offers an alternative to assessment practices that currently constrain the autonomy of students and of teachers. Following on this, dissonance, as articulated in this chapter, is underscored by three interrelated arguments, namely, an ethics of discomfort, practical criticism and skepticism. We argue that if assessment practices are guided by dissonance—that is, discomfort, practical criticism, and skepticism—the possibility exists that such practices will remain subjected to ruptures, which fragment and resist contours of the practice of assessment.

On detaching from the power of truth

Thus far, we have shown that to govern means to govern both oneself and oneself in relation to others, and the way in which one governs is in relation ← 99 | 100 → to particular truths, which emanate from societal constructions of what education is, for example. Foucault (1991), of course, refers to these societal constructions of ways of being and acting as “regimes of truth.” These “regimes of truth,” states...

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