Assessment and Learning – Call for Papers



2017 Special Issue on Assessment and Learning

Edited by Ann Harris

Deadline for Submissions: 2 May 2016

Despite the prevailing rhetoric around learning, assessment remains a crucial measure of success in schools and colleges. Students are judged, qualify and progress on the basis of assessment. Institutions and their teachers are commended or condemned on the grounds of results. Thus, while we might like to think education is about personal growth and the fulfilment of potential, all too often it is about a mark on a page or the copy of a transcript. These issues are not just national but international, especially in an increasingly globalised and competitive economy where the transferability and currency of qualifications is of vital importance to stakeholders. So, is assessment about certification and selection; or is it about meritocracy and social justice? How can we find our way through the uncertain and conflicting notions of the social function of educational assessment? Debates have raged about assessment for decades: whether standards are rising or being dumbed down; whether norm or criterion referencing is preferable (and whether the latter is even feasible); whether knowledge or understanding is being assessed; whether memory or competence is being tested.

In English and related arts subjects, the debate has been particularly keen both about the mode of assessment and the matter of judgement. In the UK, English was the first of the “traditional” subjects to introduce significant assessment by coursework and to celebrate the notion that the learning and teaching of language and literature gained from this. In the 1970s and 1980s, “experimental” courses in literature and language demonstrated the creativity and criticality of which secondary school students were capable if they had the opportunity to research, draft and develop a response. Academic judgement was required, however, to grade the work and to establish the validity and reliability of the assessment, and, as a result, standardisation and moderation needed to be meticulously conducted to ensure credibility and an appropriate professional discourse around assessment and grading.

Such courses were introduced in different times: before the World Wide Web and before league tables; and such initiatives have retreated in face of the increasing politicisation of learning and assessment. Yet, whether it involves evaluating coursework or marking an examination, assessment is always a socially constructed activity involving cognitive processes, social judgement and cultural quantification when applying standards, determining levels and deciding whether specific assessment objectives have been met. In England and Wales, what are the professional and social implications around assessment in English now it is moving back primarily to summative examinations? Nationally and internationally, how do we define success and failure, given the global influence of PISA? Is there still a concept of fitness for purpose and of authentic, fair and just assessment?

In this special edition, we welcome papers from the UK and internationally around all aspects of learning and assessment, whether from the perspective of researchers or of students, teachers or examiners; and from whatever sector – primary, secondary, post compulsory or higher education. We are keen to debate theoretical or practice based approaches to the challenges of relating assessment to learning within different contexts. Contributions which seek to interrogate prevailing dogma, introduce comparative or international dimensions or discuss alternative approaches to learning and assessment are also welcome.

Please prepare your submission in line with the guidance in the English in Education section of the NATE website.  Submissions should be made via our ScholarOne site.  Please select the correct ‘Special Issue’ as the Manuscript Type. Deadline for submissions is 2 May 2016.


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