The purpose of this paper is to highlight the need for respectful open dialogue and trusting relationships among stakeholders in educational assessment. It is argued that this is a tenet of a democratic civil society.
A theoretical framework is presented for navigating assessment tensions frequently experienced by educational stakeholders operating in the interest of civil societies. The framework emerged from a two‐year mixed‐method study of assessment in Canada.
Five key assumptions, plus their ontological and epistemological orientations, that should guide assessment in the service of a civil society are described. The unidimensional and multidimensional perspectives related to student assessment are articulated along with associated tensions and opportunities. Implications are discussed for stakeholder groups including teachers, educational leaders, parents, unions, professional associations, department of education personnel, academics, informal community leaders, and politicians.
Educational stakeholders are invited to delve deeper into the meaning and purpose of assessment and to explore opportunities to reject alienating partisan perspectives.
Multidimensional perspectives at the micro‐through‐macro levels of society and educational organizations will promote enhanced student assessment policy and practice.
Adoption of multidimensional perspectives of student assessment can lead to constructive communication and relationships that strengthen the fabric of civil society through enhanced student success.
This article underscores the notion that democracy and the realization of a civil society are fragile and so too is the maintenance of a quality education system. Therefore, stakeholders must avoid the vilification of others and strive to preserve the precarious balance among competing interests.
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