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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 8. Educational Assessment and Dissonance: Invoking Rhythm, Profanations, and Denudation


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Now that we have given much thought to genres of educational assessment in the previous chapters, we offer three interrelated ways by which educational assessment through dissonance can most appropriately be realized. Put differently, we shall show how rhythm, profanations, and denudation can act as instances through which dissonance in educational assessment can be achieved. Hopefully we shall rupture some of the structural and conceptual constraints that currently dominate the notion of educational assessment in universities and schools.

Educational assessment and rhythm

Agamben (1994, p. 98) depicts “rhythm” as that notion which is unrelated to structure, calculability, and rationality. “Rhythm” emanates from the Greek word which means “to flow … in time” (Agamben, 1994, p. 99). And, it is “rhythm” that introduces into this eternal flow of something “a split and a stop” (Agamben, 1994, p. 99). It is this interruption in the incessant flow of something that reveals what that something presents. When we think of educational assessment as some kind of rhythmic action, it means that when one assesses something, one simultaneously holds something else back or suspends ← 109 | 110 → it, and also presents or offers something in return. In this regard, the one who assesses looks, pauses and waits for that which is recognizable or not, so that he or she might offer something in return, or not. In other words, one who...

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