Critique: Assessment and the Production of Learning
by Elisabeth Soep - 2006
Education researchers and classroom teachers have argued that the constant pressure to measure and rank students makes it difficult to shape assessment as an episode of learning. Yet we know little about how learning moves in and through assessment of any kind. Building on two national multisited studies, the research reported here uses ethnographic techniques to examine learning within critique. Critique is a form of assessment through which young people jointly judge their own work and that of their peers. The article focuses on episodes of critique within two nonschool sites for collaborative production involving ethnically and economically diverse groups of youth—a community-based video project and an organization in which young people create radio stories for local and national broadcast. Learning environments such as these draw voluntary youth participation and are organized around sustained projects released to outside audiences. Findings indicate that critique manifests itself as an episode of learning by engaging young people in joint assessment events that are improvisational, reciprocal, and oriented toward the future of the work under review. Intra- and cross-site comparisons suggest that critique is likely to arise within specific conditions: when stakes are intense, metastandards are subjected to review, accountability is mutual and interactively sustained, and interdisciplinary practice is mandatory. The article reviews various ways to conceptualize learning and argues in the end for a theory of learning as production, a way of making. Implications include new ideas for research methodologies and new understandings of youth-adult collaborations in learning and production.
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