A critical analysis of discourses constructing portfolio assessment practices in three Eastern Cape schools

Jones, Barbara Ellen (2009) A critical analysis of discourses constructing portfolio assessment practices in three Eastern Cape schools. PhD thesis, Rhodes University.

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Abstract

In 1998, South Africa introduced outcomes-based education to affect the shifts in pedagogy considered necessary following the move to democracy in 1994. Across the globe, the use of the portfolio to assess learners is increasingly being promoted as a form of progressive pedagogy. Hence, its adoption by the country as a new form of assessment practice was warranted. However, how the portfolio is constructed and perceived by educators within the classroom can become problematic in practice. This was apparent in the South African context and justifies research into how the portfolio is constructed as an assessment method in educational policy and by educators in the classrooms. The Curriculum Guide Directive text and the transcripts of twenty-one interviews carried out in three Eastern Cape schools served as the source of data for this study. Discourses make up a powerful framework of spoken, written and symbolic texts of institutional bureaucracies. Within these institutions human subjects are defined and constructed. Therefore, discourse construction acts as institutional forms of knowledge which can exude power over the individual if not made transparent. I used critical discourse analysis to uncover the discourses that were embedded within the Curriculum Guide Directive and to identify the discourses entrenched within the educators’ perceptions of the portfolio. The discourses in the Curriculum Guide Directive suggest the construction of the portfolio as a method of surveillance to track whether the educators are preparing learners for the school leaving examination and instructing the educators to provide evidence in the form of a portfolio. Analysis of the transcripts of the twenty one interviews with educators from three schools in the Eastern Cape indicated that the portfolio was not seen as a form of assessment by the educators, but as a form of discipline put in place by the Department of Education to ensure that they are preparing the learners for the school leaving examination and are able to produce proof of this preparation in the form of a portfolio. The discourses from the research highlighted that the school leaving examination is hegemonised into South African educational pedagogy as a form of traditional assessment and is not challenged even when it is no longer bringing about the dominant ideological goals. The portfolio was not seen as an assessment method by the educators nor represented as such in the Curriculum Guide Directive. Therefore, the job of the portfolio became that of a policing tool. Thus, a school curriculum which has been introduced with the intent of furthering social justice can become exclusive in practice, even with the best intentions.

Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Uncontrolled Keywords:Discourse analysis, South Africa, Eastern Cape, Competency-based education, Educational tests and measurements, Curriculum evaluation
Subjects:L Education > LB Theory and practice of education > LB1603 Secondary Education. High schools
L Education > LG Individual institutions (Asia. Africa)
Divisions:Faculty > Faculty of Education > Education
ID Code:2705
Deposited By: Ms Chantel Clack
Deposited On:25 Apr 2012 10:33
Last Modified:25 Apr 2012 10:33
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