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Researching assessment as social practice: Implications for research methodology

International Journal of Educational Research Volume 47, Number 3 ISSN 0883-0355 Publisher: Elsevier Ltd


Recent educational journals on both sides of the Atlantic have seen a resurgence of debate about the nature of educational research. As a contribution to these debates, this paper draws on theoretical and methodological ‘thinking tools’ of French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu. Specifically, the paper explores what Jenkins [Jenkins, R. (2002). Pierre Bourdieu. London: Routledge and Falmer] refers to as Bourdieu's “reflexive epistemological pluralism” and its implications for research into higher education, with a particular focus on assessment as social practice. This particular theoretical and methodological understanding is used to critically reflect on a study conducted in 2005 on the impact of a policy on anonymous examination marking which was implemented at the University of Cape Town in 2004. The study collected both quantitative data of student examination performance pre- and post-policy implementation, as well as interviews with course conveners. The paper argues that when viewed interdependently the data offers insight into some of the “principles of vision and division” [Bourdieu, P. (1996). The state nobility: Elite schools in the field of power. Cambridge: Polity Press] at work in assessors’ judgment-making process. The assessors’ deliberations expose ideological tensions between the dual challenges of equity and excellence in the context of a historically white liberal university under transformation.


Shay, S. Researching assessment as social practice: Implications for research methodology. International Journal of Educational Research, 47(3), 159-164. Elsevier Ltd. Retrieved November 27, 2023 from .

This record was imported from International Journal of Educational Research on January 31, 2019. International Journal of Educational Research is a publication of Elsevier.

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