, 39:49 | Cite as

Equitable Classroom Assessment: Promoting Self-Development and Self-Determination



Assessment of students’ learning in school is deeply implicated in teaching for social justice. Yet classroom assessment is neglected relative to other aspects of curriculum and pedagogy in the literature on teaching for social justice. Some books have a relatively clear theory of anti-oppression education at their core but do not provide details about the links between assessment and their anti-oppression theory, while others provide a more detailed view of assessment practices but do not specify precisely how particular assessment strategies either promote or hinder anti-oppression education. This article provides a theoretical framework that spotlights key links between teaching for social justice and classroom assessment. To illustrate these connections, we draw on guided group discussions with ten high school social studies and English teachers, interested in pursuing professional development in this area. We conceptualize assessment as a set of institutional processes with the potential either to inhibit or nurture the development of young people as well as their capacity for self-determination. We analyze: (a) how teachers, through various assessment practices, can attempt to enable equitable relations within and beyond the classroom; and (b) performance standards aimed at helping teachers assess their students’ progress toward becoming more socially responsible and, ultimately, more self-determining. We conclude that even as teachers struggle to enact more socially just assessment practices, they need to communicate clearly with students and parents about what constitutes equitable assessment and what institutional practices, by contrast, sow seeds of self-doubt and lead to destructive labeling, ranking, and gate keeping.


Assessment social justice educational equity teacher knowledge learning and teaching anti-oppression education critical pedagogy secondary schools schooling professional development 


  1. Adams M., Bell L.A., Griffin P. (eds) (1997). Teaching for diversity and social justice: A sourcebook. Routledge, New York. NYGoogle Scholar
  2. Apple M. (1993). Official knowledge: Democratic education in a conservative age. Routledge, New York, NYGoogle Scholar
  3. Au W.W. (2007). High stakes testing and curricular control: A qualitative metasynthesis. Educational Researcher 36(5): 258-267CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Ayers W., Hunt J.A., Quinn T. (eds) (1998). Teaching for social justice. The New Press and Teachers College Press, New York, NYGoogle Scholar
  5. Battiste M. (1998). Enabling the Autumn seed: Toward a decolonized approach to Aboriginal knowledge, language, and education. Canadian Journal of Native Education 22(1): 16-27Google Scholar
  6. Bigelow B. (1998). Getting off the track: Stories from an untracked classroom. In: Repo S. (eds) Making schools matter: Good teachers at work. James Lorimer & Company Ltd, Toronto, ON, pp 105-122Google Scholar
  7. Bigelow B., Peterson B. (1998). Rethinking Columbus: The next 500 years. Rethinking Schools, Milwaukee, WIGoogle Scholar
  8. Black, P., Harrison, C., Lee, C., Marshall, B., & Wiliam, D. (2004, September). Working inside the black box: Assessment for learning in the classroom. Phi Delta Kappan, 9-21.Google Scholar
  9. Boardman A.G., Woodruff A.L. (2004). Teacher change and “high-stakes” assessment: What happens to professional development? Teaching and Teacher Education 20: 545-557CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Brandes G.M., Kelly D.M. (2000). Placing social justice at the heart of teacher education: Reflections on a project in process. Exceptionality Education Canada 10(1-2): 75-94Google Scholar
  11. Brandes, G.M. & Kelly, D.M. (2004). Teaching for social justice: Teachers inquire into their practice. Educational Insights, 8(3). Retrieved April 12, 2006, from:
  12. British Columbia Human Rights Commission. (2001). Barriers to equal education for aboriginal learners: A review of the literature. British Columbia Human Rights Commission, Victoria, BCGoogle Scholar
  13. British Columbia Ministry of Education. (1998). Shared learnings: Integrating BC Aboriginal content K-10. British Columbia Ministry of Education, Victoria, BCGoogle Scholar
  14. British Columbia Ministry of Education. (2001). BC performance standards. Social responsibility: A framework. Victoria, BC: British Columbia Ministry of Education. Retrieved April 30, 2004, from:
  15. British Columbia Ministry of Education. (2004). Aboriginal report: How are we doing? 2003/04. Victoria, BC: Information Department, BC Ministry of Education. Retrieved March 11, 2005, from:
  16. Christensen L. (2000). Reading, writing, and rising up: Teaching about social justice and the power of the written word. Rethinking Schools, Milwaukee, WIGoogle Scholar
  17. Cochran-Smith, M. (1999). Learning to teach for social justice. In G.A. Griffin (Ed.), The education of teachers: Ninety-eighth yearbook of the National Society for the Study of Education (Vol. 1, pp. 114-144). Chicago IL: The National Society for the Study of Education.Google Scholar
  18. Cohen E.G. (1994). Designing groupwork: Strategies for the heterogeneous classroom (2nd ed). Teachers College Press, New York, NYGoogle Scholar
  19. Connell R.W. (1993). Schools and social justice. Our Schools/Our Selves Education Foundation, Toronto, ONGoogle Scholar
  20. Croll, S. (2004). Three-way conference: Students, parents, and teachers working together. Educational Insights, 3(3). Retrieved March 31, 2005 from:
  21. Curtis B., Livingstone D.W., Smaller H. (1992). Stacking the deck: The streaming of working-class kids in Ontario schools. Our Schools/Our Selves Education Foundation, Toronto, ONGoogle Scholar
  22. Darling-Hammond L. (2004). Standards, accountability, and school reform. Teachers College Record 106(6): 1047-1085CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Darling-Hammond L., French J., Garcia-Lopez S.P. (eds) (2002). Learning to teach for social justice. Teachers College Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  24. Duff P.A. (2001). Language, literacy, content, and (pop) culture: Challenges for ESL students in mainstream courses. The Canadian Modern Language Review 58(1): 103-132Google Scholar
  25. Earl L. (2004). Assessment as learning: Using classroom assessment to maximize student learning. Corwin Press, Thousand Oaks, CAGoogle Scholar
  26. Ellsworth E. (1994). Representation, self-representation, and the meanings of difference. In: Martusewicz R.A., Reynolds W.M. (eds) Inside/out: Contemporary critical perspectives in education. St. Martin’s Press, New York, NY, pp 99-108Google Scholar
  27. Gale T., Densmore K. (2000). Just schooling: Explorations in the cultural politics of teaching. Open University Press, Philadelphia, PAGoogle Scholar
  28. Government of Canada. Employment and Immigration Canada and Statistics Canada. (1990). Qualitative research on school leavers. Ottawa, ON: Queen’s Printer.Google Scholar
  29. Grant C.A., Sleeter C.E. (1998). Turning on learning: Five approaches to multicultural teaching plans for race, class, gender, and disability (2nd ed). Prentice Hall, Columbus, OHGoogle Scholar
  30. Hamilton, L. (2003). Assessment as a policy tool. In R.E. Floden (Ed.), Review of research in education (Vol. 27, pp. 25-68). Washington: American Educational Research Association.Google Scholar
  31. Hollway W., Jefferson T. (2000). Doing qualitative research differently: Free association, narrative and the interview method. Sage, Thousand Oaks, CAGoogle Scholar
  32. Horn C. (2003). High-stakes testing and students: Stopping or perpetuating a cycle of failure?. Theory into Practice 42(1): 30-41. Retrieved March 10, 2006 from: Academic Search Premier database.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Kelly D.M., Brandes G.M. (2001). Shifting out of “neutral:” Beginning teachers’ struggles with teaching for social justice. Canadian Journal of Education 26(4): 437-454Google Scholar
  34. Kelly D.M., Brandes G.M., Orlowski P. (2003-2004). Teaching for social justice: Veteran high school teachers’ perspectives. Scholar-Practitioner Quarterly 2(2): 39-57Google Scholar
  35. Kincheloe J.L., Steinberg S.R. (1997). Changing multiculturalism. Open University Press, Philadelphia, PAGoogle Scholar
  36. Kumashiro K.K. (2000). Toward a theory of anti-oppressive education. Review of Educational Research 70(1): 25-53Google Scholar
  37. Kumashiro K.K. (2004). Against common sense: Teaching and learning toward social justice. RoutledgeFalmer, New York, NYGoogle Scholar
  38. Kvale S. (1996). InterViews: An introduction to qualitative research interviewing. Sage Publications, Thousand Oaks, CAGoogle Scholar
  39. Lam T.C.M., Bordignon C. (2001). An examination of English teachers’ opinions about the Ontario grade 9 reading and writing test. Interchange 32(2): 131-145CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Loutzenheiser L.W. (2001). “If I teach about these issues they will burn down my house:” The possibilities and tensions of queered, antiracist pedagogy. In: Kumashiro K.K. (eds) Troubling intersections of race and sexuality: Queer students of color and anti-oppressive education. Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, Lanham, MD, pp 195-214Google Scholar
  41. Mathison S. (2001). Assessment in social studies: Moving toward authenticity. In: Ross E.W. (eds) The social studies curriculum: Purposes, problems, and possibilities. State University of New York Press, Albany, NY, pp 217-234Google Scholar
  42. McNeil L.M. (2000). Contradictions of school reform: Educational costs of standardized testing. Routledge, New York, NYGoogle Scholar
  43. Oakes J., Lipton M. (2003). Teaching to change the world (2nd ed). McGraw-Hill, BostonGoogle Scholar
  44. Orfield G., Wald J. (2000). Testing’s unequal impact: The high-stakes testing craze hurts poor students and students of color the most. In: Swope K., Miner B. (eds) Failing our kids: Why the testing craze won’t fix our schools. Rethinking Schools, Milwaukee, WI, pp 74-75Google Scholar
  45. Philpott, R. (2003, March). Whose standards? Whose values? Teacher: Newsmagazine of the B.C. Teachers’ Federation, 8.Google Scholar
  46. Shannon P. (1995). Text, lies, and videotape: Stories about life, literacy, and learning. Heinemann, Portsmouth, NHGoogle Scholar
  47. Shepard L.A. (2000). The role of assessment in a learning culture. Educational Researcher 29(7): 4-14Google Scholar
  48. Sleeter C.E. (1996). Multicultural education as social activism. State University of New York Press, Albany, NYGoogle Scholar
  49. Smith L.T. (1999). Decolonizing methodologies: Research and Indigenous peoples. Zed Books, New York, NYGoogle Scholar
  50. Soodak L.C. (2000). Performance assessments and students with learning problems: Promising practice or reform rhetoric? Reading & Writing Quarterly 16(3): 257-281CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Valencia R.R., Suzuki L.A. (2001). Intelligence testing and minority students: Foundations, performance factors, and assessment issues. Sage, Thousand Oaks, CAGoogle Scholar
  52. Vinson K.D. (2001). Oppression, anti-oppression, and citizenship education. In: Ross E.W. (eds) The social studies curriculum: Purposes, problems, and possibilities. State University of New York Press, Albany, NY, pp 57-86Google Scholar
  53. Young I.M. (1990). Justice and the politics of difference. Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJGoogle Scholar
  54. Young I.M. (2000). Inclusion and democracy. Oxford University Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Educational StudiesUniversity of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada

Personalised recommendations