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The cultural role of assessment

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  1. Introduction
  2. The practice of assessment: cultural rol and legitimisation of knowledge
  3. Its function of legitimisation of the social order
  4. Conclusion

The obsession 'to assess', is an invention of the modern period, conceived from colleges around the 17th century. In modern days, this practice has become inseparable from education, and it is admitted as a part of the process of learning. 'To assess', can be defined as an approach, or a process leading to a judgement or decision-making. It can be a qualitative or quantitative judgement on the value of a person, an object, a process or a situation, based on the comparison between its characteristics and established norms or explicit criteria. This practise aims at providing information in order to make a decision about a goal. Then, we understand that 'to assess' is a sociological way to build and negotiate representations since this process stands on cultural standards, that is to say, on a specific system of orientation, ( way of perceiving, thinking, valuing, acting that the majority of people within a culture considers as 'normal') only shared by a cultural group. This practice is a permanent element of individual action as well as social interactions. Finally, we can stress the fact that established norms and the method of judgement are social stakes, usually leading to antagonistic situation. Thus, we are led to wonder on which kind of cultural standard does the French type of assessment stands on and what the cultural role of such a practice is. Moreover, how assessment express particular cultural norms, and has an impact on individual actions and social interactions.

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