Beyond social constructivist perspectives on assessment: the centring of knowledge

Journal Article


Permanent link to this Item
Journal Title

Teaching in Higher Education

Journal ISSN
Volume Title

Taylor & Francis


University of Cape Town

Over the past few decades assessment has been heralded for its key role in the improvement of teaching and learning. However, more recently there have been expressions of uncertainty about whether assessment is in fact delivering on its promised potential. Against this backdrop of uncertainty and circumspection this paper offers a critical reflection on higher education assessment discourses with a particular focus on the discourse of criterion referenced assessment. The central argument is that while the social constructivist perspective has significantly illuminated our understanding of assessment, inadvertently the very object of assessment-knowledge has been eclipsed. I propose that a fruitful way forward for our assessment practices is the centring of disciplinary forms of knowledge as an explicit component of the object of our assessment. Drawing on sociologists of education - Basil Bernstein and Karl Maton - I stake out some of the theoretical ground for reconceptualising the relationship between knowledge and assessment.

This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Teaching in Higher Education on 29 August 2008, available online: