Beyond Testing

Discontent with the factory model of education is both widespread and intensifying. As we have outlined, such discontent is not only represented in the many trenchant critiques of assessment, but in the flowering of relationally sensitive practices of evaluation. At the same time, increasing numbers of innovators – teachers, school leaders, scholars – have bravely moved on to generate alternatives to old-style practices of teaching, organizing curricula, designing classrooms, relating schools to communities, and crafting school communities. With practices, values, concepts, and enthusiasm now at the ready, educators everywhere are poised for a unified transformation. In sight are the reforms essential to the future of planetary life. In the present chapter we first explore significant commonalities among the innovations in pedagogy, curriculum design, and evaluation. The pivotal place of relational process is a unifying feature.

At the same time, the most significant barrier to educational transformation is the sustained commitment to assessment. If a relational approach to evaluation is a key ingredient in educational transformation, we must also respond to the major objections. For example, where in a teacher’s already crowded days is there time for dialogic practices of evaluation? How well can administrators and policymakers function without comparative measures and statistical safeguards? And how can universities or employers make selections among teaming numbers of candidates without cost-effective and time-efficient use of grades and test scores? These are among the challenges that must be addressed. Major transformations in educational systems seldom occur in a cultural vacuum. There are myriad stakeholders in these systems, and broad support is essential for any fundamental change. We complete the chapter with an exploration of two significant trends in cultural life, one obstructing the path to relationally enriched transformation and the other rendering it necessary. The former is represented in the increasing demand for institutional control, and the reliance on evidence-based assessment. Policymakers, administrators, and even parents increasingly seek numerical data to help them govern the educational process. At the same time, however, there is a countermanding cultural force at work, one that increasingly disrupts these desired orders. It is a force emerging from the burgeoning developments in communication technology – computers, smart phones, social media, and the like. As these technologies transform the patterns of cultural life, so do they rupture the traditions of education. These changes add significant weight to the need for relational transformation in education. Ultimately, they will ensure its embrace.

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