Revolution Lullabye

April 29, 2009

Williamson, The Worship of Efficiency

Williamson, Michael. “The Worship of Efficiency: Untangling Theoretical and Practical Considerations in Writing Assessment.” Assessing Writing 1(1994): 147-174. In Assessing Writing. Eds. Huot and O’Neill. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2009. 57-80.

Williamson argues that educators must adopt a different educational model – that of the craft workshop – in order to create an assessment theory and practice that breaks the hold of the god-terms of efficiency, fairness, and reliability. Williamson traces how the concept of efficiency led assessment and educational practices during much of the 20th century, resulting in invalid assessments only based on one data point, assessments grounded in standardized tests that allowed for the development and dominance of factory and bureaucratic educational models. He points to other assessment practices, like those in France, rely on interviews and non-standardized assessments given by the teacher, who knows the curriculum and students best. If teachers are to be treated as the professoinals that they are, Williamson argues, they should be given the right and the responsibility to develop and give assessments to their students.

Quotable Quotes

“we will need to begin to trust teachers” (78).

“the privilege of true professionalism” (79).

“For the most part, students are assessed, labeled, and placed in school curricula on the basis of their scores on succeeding standardized tests…these tests remain one of the single most important indicators of a child’s future” (67).

“efficiency has governed both the theoretical and practical developments in assessment” (69).

Notable Notes

development of psychometrics to allow for an objective, outside scorer – this is reversed in the craft workshop model with teacher in charge

child-centered assessment v. system-centered assessment

libertarian assessment

history of shift from oral exams to written exams to multiple-choice testing (Arthur Otis)

efficiency is a key American cultural and social force

craft workshop model (Shedd and Bacharach; Schon’s reflective practicioner)

assessment as a contextual, dynamic, continuous, reflective process

assessments with multiple data points converging = valid

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