Thursday, July 11, 2013

Is this a landmark paper about assessment?

Socrates I've written about the Socratic method here before. In my view, this is the benchmark for any form of education. The following paper is an excellent overview of the mess education has got itself into by falling into the trap of assessment. In many ways, the historical overview it provides is a landmark in the field. However, my prediction is that this paper will be ignored, for two reasons. First, it's not a message that most people want to hear at the moment. Second, the proposed "Socratic machine" is a bit of a letdown after the excellent first half of the paper. Banging a few MCQs on an LMS is not going to get us out of the assessment mess.

Still worth reading though. Then dream of what education could be.

Nelson, Robert, and Phillip Dawson. "A contribution to the history of assessment: how a conversation simulator redeems Socratic method." Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education (2013): 1-10.
Assessment in education is a recent phenomenon. Although there were counterparts in former epochs, the term assessment only began to be spoken about in education after the Second World War; and, since that time, views, strategies and concerns over assessment have proliferated according to an uncomfortable dynamic. We fear that, increasingly, education is assessment-led rather than learning-led and ‘counter to what is desired’ in an ugly judgemental spirit whose moral underpinnings deserve scrutiny. In this article, we seek to historicise assessment and the anxieties of credentialising students. Through this longer history, we present a philosophy of assessment which underlies the development of a new method in assessment-as-learning. We hope that our development of a conversation simulator helps restore the innocence of education as learning-led, while still delivering on the incumbencies of assessment.


  1. SIGH. U.S. purchase price: $37.
    I'll see if we have it via our library...

    1. Sadly no free version available yet.