Testing and school reform in Danish education: an analysis informed by the use of ‘the dispositive’

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Kristine Kousholt, Bjørn Hamre

This chapter will focus on shared characteristics of the Danish national standardized testing in public school and the ideals of being a student according to the Danish School Reform of 2014. In the chapter we argue that both kinds of materials (documents regarding the newly implemented national standardized tests as well as documents regarding the school reform) reflect some societal changes in the comprehension of education, assessment, evaluation and learning. We find a match between the explicated goal of the school reform; ‘that the students should be as clever as they can’ and in the fact that the national testing program applies computer adaptive testing (CAT), i.e. the testing program adapts to how the student answer to the single test item and related to this, delivers more difficult or more easy test items to the individual student during test taking.
The theoretical framework is based on a Foucault inspired understanding of the subject and technologies and the dispositive. The study in the chapter is based on different methods that stem from research in general education. That is, primarily analysis of political documents concerning the Danish national standardized tests and the Danish School reform and secondly ethnographic inspired fieldwork in Danish public schools.
The analysis in the chapter consists of theoretical informed readings of the empirical material. The material is read through different dispositives, that is the dispositive of discipline; of security and optimization as a dispositive. We argue that these readings points to substantial new directions in education policy where new technologies and ideals of education and of students draws on all three dispositives in compound and complex ways. The analysis focus among others on the special test technology in the Danish context (CAT) and conclude that this technology is a test of its time, which is a test technology that succeeds in both disciplining the ideal students as is seen in more traditional test technologies and furthermore has aspects of security – everybody is testable as well as potentiality and that this intermingles with the explicated intentions of the Danish school reform as a more profound educational intervention.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe global testing culture : shaping education policy, perceptions, and practice
EditorsWilliam C. Smith
Number of pages17
Place of PublicationOxford
PublisherSymposium Books
Publication date2016
ISBN (Print)978-1-873927-72-4
Publication statusPublished - 2016
Externally publishedYes
SeriesOxford Studies in Comparative Education

ID: 180608113