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Article
Social Epistemology and the Pragmatics of Assessment
Teachers College Record (2014)
  • Kenneth J Gergen, Swarthmore College
  • Ezekiel J Dixon-Román, University of Pennsylvania
Abstract

In the present offering we challenge the presumption that the educational testing of students provides objective information about such students. This presumption largely rests on an empiricist account of science. In light of mounting criticism, however, empiricist foundationalism has given way to a social epistemology. From this standpoint, empirical data are only objective for those who share assumptions and values that are themselves without foundations. Thus, the major questions to be raised about testing are not in terms of whether test results supply the truth about those who are evaluated, but concern the utility of the tests for the full range of stakeholders. Who gains and loses as a result of testing practices, and in what ways? In the present offering we focus in particular on a range of adverse consequences. We first note the neoliberalist and individualist ideologies carried by current testing practices. We then discuss the impact on societal well-being, including the fostering of social division and distrust, the creation of hierarchies of worth, and the diminution of pluralism. We turn then to the impact of testing on the educational system, including the sacrifice of curriculum and pedagogy for the production of higher test scores, and the diminution of teacher motivation and engagement. Finally, in terms of community, there is a disregard for local needs and values, a loss in student motivation, and an increase in family tensions. We complete the paper with a discussion of possible alternatives to current testing practices, and recommendations for future policies

Publication Date
2014
Citation Information
Kenneth J Gergen and Ezekiel J Dixon-Román. "Social Epistemology and the Pragmatics of Assessment" Teachers College Record Vol. 116 Iss. 11 (2014)
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/ezekiel_dixon-roman/14/