Humanistic educators have very often been satisfied to articulate educational aims and pedagogies without addressing how to evaluate the impact of their creative ideas. Equally often, this becomes the downfall of these innovations, when their outcomes are compared to those of other orientations according to standardised tests of student achievement. In the spirit of Elliot Eisner’s educational connoisseurship and educational criticism, Psychologist Kenneth Gergen’s and Philosopher Scherto Gill’s timely new book masterfully addresses this challenge with what they call a “relational” conception of educational evaluation. Following Gergen’s cutting-edge research on the “relational self” and Gill’s highly-regarded writings on the ethics of caring in schools, they offer a devastating critique of measurement and assessment in education and the neoliberal assumptions in which it is grounded, pointing especially to the deleterious effects of these practices and presuppositions on the wellbeing of students and teachers. Gergen and Gill recognise that centring evaluation on the affirmation of value in learning and teaching, rather than on the measurement of “objective” standards, offers a window into the entire educational process. They take the reader on an engaging journey through what life inside and outside of schools could be like, were classrooms to focus on relationships, among teachers and students, teachers and their colleagues, students and their peers, students and the curriculum, and more. From the evaluation of pupil learning in primary and secondary schools, to the review of teaching personnel and school programmes, the authors provide a detailed map of practical strategies illustrated by way of concrete cases from across the globe to illuminate how relational evaluation can transform education by “enhancing the process of learning,” “inspiring sustained engagement,” and “enriching human relationships.” Beautifully written in non-technical language accessible to a wide audience, this ground-breaking volume offers a compelling alternative at a time when the very “factory metaphor” of schooling served by testing is under extraordinary pressure. The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on education around the world has created an opportunity to reimage schools as communities of leaners and teachers dedicated to the co-construction of meaning assisted by advances in communications technologies. This volume is a must read for anyone interested in addressing this crisis through a relational vision that places human flourishing at the heart of evaluating learning and teaching.
— Hanan A. Alexander (PhD), Professor of Philosophy of Education, University of Haifa; President, Religious Education Association; author of Reimagining Liberal Education: Affiliation and Inquiry in Democratic Schooling (Bloomsbury, 2015)