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Untangling Optical Illusions: The Moral Dilemmas and Ethics in Assessment Practices

Ethics, Equity, and Inclusive Education

ISBN: 978-1-78714-153-7, eISBN: 978-1-78714-152-0

Publication date: 9 May 2017


This chapter explores underlying ethical tensions and dilemmas that arise through assessment practices used by teachers, specialist teachers, and other educators in determining a child’s learning. An ethical dilemma arises when teachers are aware that an assessment is not the narrative that best represents the child, and in doing so, further perpetuates the deficit orientation toward learning. While the policy context may reflect a strong commitment to inclusive classrooms and communities, assessment policies and well-intentioned school practices can marginalize students with high needs, simply because the assessment tools are not suitable. Ethical issues in the day-to-day formal and informal assessment practices used by teachers are explored; practices that serve to reinforce for learners who struggle what they “cannot do” or “do not want to do.” Ethical assessment practices that allow the dignity of the learner to be upheld through a celebration of learning, however incremental, are needed. As outlined in this chapter, some decisions made by teachers are not their own, as pressures from outside their control influence the decisions they make. Policy directions can influence the focus of assessments, and unwittingly create the ethical dilemmas teachers face. When teachers question and challenge assessment policies and practices, they can initiate change for all learners. This might include challenging the status quo and finding other ways to include students, more visibly, in their own assessment. In these ways, ethical dilemmas can be addressed and new understandings of assessment emerge.



Bourke, R. (2017), "Untangling Optical Illusions: The Moral Dilemmas and Ethics in Assessment Practices", Ethics, Equity, and Inclusive Education (International Perspectives on Inclusive Education, Vol. 9), Emerald Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 215-237.



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