Performing standards: a critical perspective on the contemporary use of standards in assessment

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Teaching in Higher Education, 2019
Issue Date:
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© 2019, © 2019 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group. This paper offers a critical and theoretical exploration of the contemporary use of standards in assessment in higher education. It outlines three discourses of assessment standards. Each perspective foregrounds particular realities and backgrounds others, and so influences practice in particular taken-for-granted ways. The assumptions of these perspectives are identified, and the advantages and disadvantages of each of the existing discourses discussed. The dominant perspective prompts educators to make standards ‘transparent’ for students, inferring stability through a written explication. The sociocultural perspective highlights a tacit and more dynamic view of standards, suggesting that standards are built by expert consensus and students must learn to meet this community expectation. The sociomaterial perspective also infers a dynamic view, but one that is co-produced through social and material assemblages. Thinking about standards as performance, a dynamic and shifting human-material activity, encourages a focus on emergent activity in the design of standards, moderation and assessment.
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