[Assessment 1496] Re: Getting staff used to using data

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gdemetrion at msn.com gdemetrion at msn.com
Wed Dec 10 10:01:55 EST 2008

Good morning all,One of the keys, I think, is that of distinguishing the different purposes of assessment, which is a term that is extemely broad in application. Clearly the ideal is assessment and instruction mutually informing each other. On the other hand, some assessment instruments are used (if not designed) first and foremost as a statistical measuring instrument. Other assessment tools are designed primarily as a source of information to ennance the immediate instructional context which may or may not be (easily) incorporated into systemic data collections which factort into reports or information that go to various external reporting venues.

I think keeping the distinction in mind is as important as is that of seeking to identifying viable convergences where the several dimensions and purposes of assessment can be brought together. Otherwise we run into various information overload scenarios or pass on informagtion that does not seem relevant at least to those who are looking at it.

Having excellent translators at programmatic, executive and policy levels helps a great deal, though I wouldn't discount the enduring reality of the various gaps and meanings that diverse stakeholders place on the term.

Ultimately, assessment is a type of literacy practice (referring to the literacy studies school) grounded ultimately (I believe) in the politics of literacy in which political culture, pedagogy, and evaluation are complexly intwined as played out in various discourse power-knoweledge relationships in a culturally-based synmbolic meaning system in which various constituencies of unequal power and status vie for influence.

On this broad topic, I heartly recommend Jurgen Habermas' important text, Between Facts and Norms: Contributions to a Discourse Theory of law and Democracy http://www.amazon.com/Between-Facts-Norms-Contributions-Contemporary/dp/0262581620. To be sure this book is not an easy read and not all will agree with Habermas' reflections. However, check out the Amazon reviews for some clues of his thinking.

George Demetrion
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