Presentation Details

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ The Eleventh International Literacy and Education Research Network Conference on Learning

Contested Aims of Assessment in the U.S. Context: Capitalist Accountability or Critical Pedagogy

Jeanne A. Cameron, Cornelia Rae.

We offer a critical examination of the assessment movement in the U.S., arguing that it reflects contradictory aims. Paralleling capitalist efficiency aims, accountability proponents seek to use assessment as a gate-keeping tool for identifying learners who are worthy of further educational investments, as demonstrated by performance on standardized, high stakes tests that embody expert knowledge. In contrast, assessment as critical pedagogy is not exclusive in its aims or the outcomes it produces. It focuses on meeting, contextualizing, and building upon the learner’s acquired knowledge. Instead of privileging expert knowledge, and thereby judging students on the basis of their convergence with a static standard, proponents of critical pedagogy embrace individual differences as a foundational basis for the further construction of knowledge.

Assessment as critical pedagogy also focuses on explicitly teaching about how knowledge is constructed within social contexts. The focus is not on learning what subject matter experts define as important but instead learning the processes and tools to critically examine received knowledge and facts. Using critical pedagogy, learners engage in self-assessments of their own use of these processes and tools while at the same time they are assessing how their peers and those who are socially defined as experts, use them. Thus, the artificial distinctions between learning and assessment and between learner and assessor are fundamentally challenged.

Participants will be asked to consider the implications of each assessment approach for democratic practice and social justice.


Jeanne A. Cameron  (United States)
Associate Professor of Sociology
Social Sciences
Tompkins Cortland Community College

Cornelia Rae  (United States)
Assistant Professor of Psychology

Tompkins Cortland Community College

  • Assessment
  • Accountability
  • Critical Pedagogy

(30min Conference Paper, English)