Harvard Educational Review
  1. Fall 2004 Issue »

    The Assessment of Complex Performance

    A Socially Situated Interpretive Act

    Suellen Butler Shay
    Based on her study of the assessment and validation of final year projects in two academic departments — one located in a humanities faculty and the other in an engineering faculty of a South African university — Suellen Shay argues that the assessment of complex tasks is a socially situated interpretive act. Her argument centers on three questions. The first question explores the basis of assessors’ "common ground" and is rooted in Bourdieu’s concepts of field and habitus and his analysis of how academics develop a "feel for the game." The second question "drills down" into these differences, using dissensus (lack of consensus) as another window on the interpretive process. Shay’s data suggest that assessors’ interpretations are powerfully shaped in predictable and unpredictable ways by their disciplinary orientations, years of experience, and levels of involvement with students. While these differences of interpretation are often resolved collegially, a careful analysis of these occasions illuminates the social-situatedness of assessment practices. Shay also argues that assessors’ interpretations are constituted not only to sustain (or challenge) systems of belief, but also to maintain (or challenge) identities and interpersonal relations. The article concludes with a discussion exploring the implications of assessment as a socially situated interpretive act for academic communities of practice. (pp. 307–329)

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    Fall 2004 Issue

    Abstracts

    Drawing on Education
    Using Drawings to Document Schooling and Support Change
    Walt Haney, Michael Russell, and Damian Bebell
    Relating Classroom Teaching to Student Learning
    A Critical Analysis of Why Research Has Failed to Bridge the Theory-Practice Gap
    Graham Nuthall
    The Assessment of Complex Performance
    A Socially Situated Interpretive Act
    Suellen Butler Shay
    Voices Inside Schools - Newjack: Teaching in a Failing Middle School
    Peter Sipe
    Editor's Review of The Human Rights Handbook: A Global Perspective for Education by Liam Gearon
    Jennifer DeForest

    Book Notes

    Rethinking Globalization
    Edited by Bill Bigelow and Bob Peterson

    The Sign of the Burger
    By Joe L. Kincheloe

    Pinstripes and Pearls
    By Judith Richards Hope

    Letters to a Young Activist
    by Todd Gitlin

    Where Girls Come First
    By Ilana DeBare

    Teacher Research for Better Schools
    By Marian M. Mohr, Courtney Rogers, Betsy Sanford, Mary Ann Nocerino, Marion MacLean, and Sheila Clawson