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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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Foreword by Tukumbi Lumumba-Kasongo


Yusef Waghid and Nuraan Davids’s book entitled: “Education, Assessment, and the Desire for Dissonance” is a monumental contribution towards the understanding of what formal education is, how its outcome/performance can be assessed and how we can make things better in the learning process in South Africa.

The intent of this foreword is not an attempt to answer all the questions I have posed in this commentary, but rather to reflect on them in their totality or structurally, in order to understand the nature of the issues raised in this fabulous book, and how to change them for the benefit of the whole.

What does it mean to intellectually and philosophically go beyond structuralism in examining education and assessment in schools and universities? What are the new paradigmatic contributions that can explain an educational assessment process and its complexity effectively? What are the policy implications?

The foundation of the arguments and claims advanced about assessment, its theoretical and practical validity, its relevancy and irrelevancy, its consistency and inconsistency in all ten chapters are mostly philosophically shaped and rooted around Foucault’s works and a few of his supporters and colleagues. The analyses and claims clarify and interrogate historical experiences of South Africa. ← xi | xii →

The book addresses assessment practices in schools and universities within a poststrucralist educational paradigm, which is a major research agenda that deals broadly with the question of the role and the place of formal education. In this regard,...

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