07 SES 04 B, Forms of Segregation
For pupils, being assessed and receiving grades is an everyday experience. At the same time, it is one of the most relevant sources of perceived injustice at school (Fan, Chan 1999). Besides the pedagogical purposes of pupil assessment grades are used for selection purposes when it comes to the distribution of access to further educational opportunities. Pupils use and need grades, summarized in certificates, in order to compete for e.g. access to further educational opportunities or attractive employment. In this way, school certificates and grades are exchanged for life chances (Waldow 2010). The grades’ relevance for the further life chances becomes most obvious at certain transition points within the educational system. For example, in Sweden, pupils´ grades at the end of lower secondary schooling are important in terms of which further upper secondary schooling track pupils can attend – an academic track that qualifies for higher educational studies or a vocational track that qualifies for non-academic employment.
Therefore, school achievement, expressed in grades, as an indicator for supposed qualification is used to legitimize the selective distribution of life chances (Hadjar 2008). This is common to meritocratic societies that follow the normative ideal of distribution by merit, as it is considered illegitimate letting ascriptive criteria like e.g. gender and sociocultural background steer the distribution.
Though western societies strive for the distribution of life chances on the basis of merit, research shows that ascriptive criteria and non-performance criteria matter in teachers´ assessment practice (Lindahl 2007). This fact raises the question about justice and how assessment and grading are perceived by those who are directly concerned with the consequences - the pupils. Too little is known about how pupils perceive assessment and grading (Brown 2008), particularly when it comes to the dimension of justice. There is a need for more detailed knowledge about which justice conceptions pupils hold regarding assessment and in how far contextual aspects matter.
This paper will present the objectives and the approach of an ongoing study on “Just assessment in school – pupils´ conceptions in Sweden and Germany”. The project investigates which justice conceptions pupils from both contexts hold regarding assessment, what can be seen as the relevant aspects and conditions of perceived (in-)justice and why just assessment in general is perceived as important.
The paper will present the study along with some preliminary results based on six Focus Group Interviews with Swedish pupils attending grade nine, focusing on the role of interaction for pupils´ justice conceptions (Bies, Moag 1986).
Bies, R.; Moag, J. S. (1986): Interactional justice: Communication criteria of fairness. In Roy Lewicki, Blair et al (Ed.) Sheppard (Eds.): Research on negotiation in organizations, pp. 43–55. Brown, Gavin T. L. (2008): Conceptions of Assessment: Understanding What Assessment Means to Teachers and Students. New York: Nova Science Publishers. Fan, Ruth M.; Chan, Silver (1999): Students’ perceptions of just and unjust experiences in school. In Educational and Child Psychology 16 (4), pp. 32–50. Glaser, Barney G.; Strauss, Anselm L. (1967): The Discovery of Grounded Theory. Strategies for Qualitative Research. Chicago: Aldine Pub. Co. Greenberg, Jerald (2001): Studying Organizational Justice Cross-Culturally: Fundamental Challenges. In International Journal of Conflict Management 12 (4), pp. 365–375. Krueger, Richard A. (1994): Focus groups. A Practical Guide for Applied Research. 2nd ed. Thousand Oaks, Calif: Sage Publications. Lindahl, Erica (2007): Gender and ethnic interactions among teachers and students: Evidence from Sweden. IFAU - Institute for Labour Market Policy Evaluation (25). Available online at http://www.ifau.se/Upload/pdf/se/2007/wp07-25.pdf, checked on 23/11/2014. Morgan, David L. (1988): Focus Groups as Qualitative Research. Newbury Park, Calif: Sage Publications. Steiner-Khamsi, Gita (2010): The Politics and Economics of Comparison. In Comparative Education Review 54 (3), pp. 323–342. Strauss, Anselm L.; Corbin, Juliet M. (1990): Basics of Qualitative Research. Techniques and Procedures for Developing Grounded Theory. 3rd ed. Los Angeles, Calif: Sage Publications. Waldow, Florian (2010): Bedömningens roll i fördelningen av livschanser i Tyskland och Sverige. In Folke-Fichtelius, Lundahl (Eds.): Bedömning i och av skolan. Praktik, principer, politik. 1st ed. Lund: Studentlitteratur AB, pp. 111–128.
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