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Peter Dahler-Larsen

In a world where testing has become a purpose of education in itself, Beyond the Tyranny of Testing argues in favour of a Copernican revolution in education: Social relations should be seen as central, not as a by-product of measurement regimes. With a focus on collaborative inquiry, this important, well-written and much-needed book proposes concrete evaluative practices for everyone in the educational system to see themselves as parts of this transformation.

— Professor Peter Dahler-Larsen, Department of Political Science, University of Copenhagen, author of The Evaluation Society

Hanan A. Alexander

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)

John (Jack) Miller

<p value="<amp-fit-text layout="fixed-height" min-font-size="6" max-font-size="72" height="80"><em>Beyond the Tyranny of Testing demonstrates how evaluation of students, teachers, and schools can be done in an inclusive and relational manner that engages all members of the school community. It is filled with concrete examples of how this approach to evaluation can be carried out.  It is a most timely book as educators are seeking alternatives to mechanistic and standardized forms of evaluation.</em>Beyond the Tyranny of Testing demonstrates how evaluation of students, teachers, and schools can be done in an inclusive and relational manner that engages all members of the school community. It is filled with concrete examples of how this approach to evaluation can be carried out.  It is a most timely book as educators are seeking alternatives to mechanistic and standardized forms of evaluation.

— John (Jack) Miller, Professor of Curriculum, Teaching and Learning, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto; author of The Holistic Curriculum

Colleen McLaughlin

This is a most timely and important book. Timely because we now recognise the damage done to our educational vision and practice by the recent obsession with testing and accountability measures. This book is a justification for a different lens and one which does not polarise learning and relating but shows the deep connection between them and how they enhance each other. It also embeds the argument in strong illustrative evidence. Very important!

— Professor Colleen McLaughlin, Director of Educational Innovation, University of Cambridge, author of Implementing Educational Reform: Cases and Challenges (Cambridge University Press, forthcoming)

Stanton Wortham

The disruptions of the pandemic have given educators, policymakers, and the public space to reflect on what is really important about education. We have realized more urgently that the well-being of students as whole people is central to the educational enterprise. We have realized that the accumulation of decontextualized knowledge and skills is not a sufficient educational end. This timely book by Gergen and Gill provides an approach that can guide education forward, given these realizations. They bring together insights from a range of traditions, developing a new vision of education as relational. The book is broad in its scope and also concrete in its illustrations of educational practice. It uses educational evaluation as an entry point for re-imagining the whole educational enterprise. This bold reconceptualization of education will be of interest to scholars, practitioners, and policymakers alike.

— Stanton E. F. Wortham, Charles F. Donovan, S.J., Dean, Boston College,

Rolla E. Lewis

If you are concerned about education, read Beyond the Tyranny of Testing: Relational Evaluation in Education. Gergen and Gill’s masterful treatise calls for reflection and action. They advocate for a systematic transformation in education. Educators, students, and other stakeholders are invited to change the educational discourse by taking one step— replacing the long-recognized factory metaphor where schools operate as rationally designed assembly lines with an alternative vision that places the relational process at the heart of education. Moving the relational process to the heart of education enables a shift from taking testing as the purpose of education towards regarding evaluation as collaborative inquiry—a continuous formative and multi-voiced dialogue with students and all members of the school community. Evaluation becomes focused on creating learning spaces where individuals are understood as multi-beings with diverse potentials for becoming; where the past does not dictate the future. Education thus becomes a form of liberation. Importantly, the vision and ideas guiding this work are grounded in practices that can be implemented in elementary and secondary schools, as well as teachers’ professional development programs. Gergen and Gill point you toward a path that will help you become both the educator you want to be and the participatory leader every school and community needs in working with others to bring about the schools we desire.

— Rolla E. Lewis, Professor Emeritus, California State University, East Bay— Rolla E. Lewis, Professor Emeritus, California State University, East Bay— Rolla E. Lewis, Professor Emeritus, California State University, East Bay

Patrice Brodeur

This book is a most timely solution to a long standing debate about the role of testing in education, especially as the COVID-19 pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement have highlighted beyond any doubt the unequal and unsustainable nature of most public and private educational structures worldwide. In Beyond the Tyranny of Testing, distinguished scholar Kenneth J. Gergen joins forces with younger theoretician Scherto R. Gill to show an exemplary interdisciplinary collaboration that provides a creative way out of this age-old debate, which affects the vast majority of primary and secondary schools worldwide: they boldly suggest a new third way beyond, on the one hand, the authoritarian tyranny of testing and, on the other hand, the laissez-faire approach of libertarian education theories that eliminate testing all together.

Cogently arguing for a vision of education as relational process, they deduce that evaluation is, in fact, central to the learning process but only when it is conducted in a relation-centred manner. Through this new perspective, based on solid empirical evidence, emerges the foundational part that relational evaluation carries in bringing into the collaboration amongst the learners, teachers, parents, school administrators, and school evaluators, as well as education policy makers at different levels of political governance.

Fully inclusive and equitable learning communities can flourish only when attention and care is given to nurture the relational process at the heart of education in general, and especially in its evaluation dimensions. With this new focus in mind and at heart, Gergen and Gill convincingly envision the deeper and more sustainable long-term systemic educational transformation urgently needed today to humanise all those involved in learning communities worldwide. Their book brilliantly provides an innovative theoretical foundation essential for building more inclusive and equitable societies glocally.

— Patrice Brodeur (PhD), Associate Professor, Institute of Religious Studies, University of Montreal; Senior Adviser, International Dialogue Centre, Vienna, Austria, and co-author of Religion as a Conversation Starter (Bloomsbury, 2009)

James Mannion

The widespread practice of high-stakes testing, compulsory for all, demands that around one-third will fail on the basis that this somehow makes the passes of others more meaningful. On this specious reasoning, every year, many thousands of young people are branded failures in the most formative years of their life, with often devastating consequences. This deeply unethical practice should be stopped in its tracks. Clearly, however, education requires that we evaluate learning – and so we need practical, workable, scalable alternatives. In Beyond the Tyranny of Testing, Gergen and Gill take us beyond the stale, technical arguments about norm-referenced vs criterion-referenced assessment, by reconceptualising education as  relational, rather than individualistic, pursuit. If we accept that education should be more explicitly relational, collaborative and inclusive – and really, who could argue against this? – we find ourselves embracing more dialogic, collaborative approaches to teaching and learning that lead us to very different kinds of assessment practices – relational evaluation. This book pulls together a wealth of tried-and-tested alternatives to high-stakes testing that chart a clear course towards a fairer, more life-affirming education system that enables young people to locate themselves in a story of interbeing, rather than one of separation. I cannot recommend it highly enough!

— Dr James Mannion, Director, Rethinking Education; Bespoke Programmes Leader, UCL Institute of Education; co-author of Fear is the Mind Killer: Why Learning to Learn deserves lesson time – and how to make it work for your pupils

Loek Schoenmakers

This book is of great importance to education, as it makes a fundamental contribution to the dialogue on the role of evaluation in education. Calling into question the nature of testing, it offers an alternative orientation to the role of evaluation within educational processes. The challenge that Gergen & Gill confront with this invaluable publication is to re-enter into the dialogue about going beyond testing with possible alternatives. Students’ learning is paramount, and evaluation ought to be in its service. Isn’t this what education is about? The idea of evaluation in favour of learning – changes educational practices dramatically. From a relational standpoint it invites new possibilities, including transforming students and teachers into learning partners. A must read for both educators and educational leaders!

— Loek Schoenmakers (PhD), Educational Specialist, Teacher Trainer, School Advisor, and CEO of Appreciative Change Works, The Netherlands. 

Thalia Dragonas

When it comes to testing, we worldwide know that the “emperor has no clothes on”. It is Gergen and Gill who impersonate the child that has the courage to blurt out and express the widespread discontent with the measurement-based assessment tradition. They by no means claim that we have to dispense with educational evaluation. What they assert is replacing the outdated ‘factory’ view of ‘product’ assessment that reduces students to scores and grades, with a relational orientation that allows the curiosity, creativity and critical thinking of both students and teachers to bloom. In their fascinating book, Gergen and Gill share their relational vision of education and they provide a range of innovative relational practices of educational evaluation in primary and secondary classrooms, as part of teachers professional development, and of the entire school, unveiling the potential for the transformation of the learning process.

— Thalia Dragonas, Emerita professor, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens