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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 9. Bridging Foucault and Agamben: Towards a Derridian Approach of Assessment


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In this chapter, we pose the question of “what happens to teaching and learning during assessment?” Here we are especially concerned with the roles assumed by both lecturers/teachers and students/learners as the dominance of “performative” assessment usurps the school and university classroom terrain.

Thus far, we have located assessment within a Foucauldian notion of power relationships, which invoked the ideas of being attentive to the subject, governmentality, and dissonance. We have extended dissonance in relation to Agamben’s ideas of profanation, denudification and rhythm. In this way, assessment has been couched as being rhythmic. What we now need to do is to find a pathway to bridge Foucault’s notion of a governmental being with that of Agamben’s idea of an ethical or, more specifically, a rhythmic, denudificated and profanatory being. For this to happen, we have to find resonance in the notion of a Derridian conception of friendship, which can be responsive to both the cultivation of a governmental and ethical being. It is to such a discussion to which we now turn.

At first, the question is whether friendship will interfere with the pedagogical relationship. Friendship in assessment, as will be argued for, should be distinguished from romantic love and mere companionship (eros). In other ← 121 | 122 → words, friendship within assessment is not some kind of erotic relationship (Shuffelton, 2012, p. 220). The kind...

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