Democratic assessment as an alternative

Elana Shohamy*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The article describes the strong power of tests and the fact that tests lead to far-reaching and high-stakes decisions and consequences about individuals and groups. Further, there is evidence that tests are often introduced by those in authority as disciplinary tools, often in covert ways for the purpose of manipulating educational systems and for imposing the agendas of those in authority. Yet, such uses of tests as instruments of power violate fundamental values and principles of democratic practices. The article proposes a number of assessment strategies which are based on democratic principles so that society can guard and protect itself from such undemocratic practices. The principles include the need: • for citizens in democratic societies to play a participatory and active role and transfer and share power from elites to and with local bodies; • for those who develop powerful tools to be responsible for their consequences; • to consider voices of diverse and different groups in multicultural societies; and • to protect the rights of citizens from powerful institutions. These lead to assessment practices which are aimed at monitoring and limiting the uses of tests, especially those that have the potential to exclude and discriminate against groups and individuals. Specifically, assessment practices include the need: • to examine the uses of tests through critical language testing (CLT); • to develop assessment models that are based on shared and collaborative models; • to assume a growing responsibility for those who are engaged in test development and use; • to examine the consequences of tests; • to include different voices in assessment, especially in multicultural societies; and • for test-takers to protect and guard their rights from the authority and misuses of tests.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)373-391
Number of pages19
JournalLanguage Testing
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2001


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