If you want to evaluate received wisdom or scrutinise your personal assumptions about our current system of assessment, then Adrian Brown’s book Reassessing the Culture of Assessment: Weighing Pigs Does Not Make Them Heavier is for you. It won’t give you answers. It won’t present a pre-packaged, neatly ordered assessment protocol complete with Christian perspective to slot comfortably into your thinking. What it will do is present a lucid analysis of current practice, encouraging you to question whether such a paradigm is consistent with a Christian worldview and is in the best interests of the unique individuals whom we teach, each one made in the image of God.
The strength of the Grove titles is their limited length; each book totals no more than 10,000 words. As a result, ideas come thick and fast, with arguments posited but not developed. It’s left to the reader to think each idea through for themselves, so in that sense for a very small book it packs a very big punch.
The text is structured in 5 chapters with an additional brief conclusion. After setting out his stall in the Introduction (you may have thought that Torchwood is sci-fi, but think again!) the author takes you through the current culture of measurement which relies solely on standard linear notions of progress by which to define success.
This is followed by an analysis of the blame game which results from such a narrowed view, and the common fallacies on which our current system is built – ATs and ALIS among them. The final chapter, Strengthening the Things That Remain, explores ‘a number of things that might feature in education marked by perennial insights from the Christian worldview’.
This is a balanced book. It deftly avoids the risk of dystopia by encouraging us to find ways to redress the balance through a thoughtful analysis of what we do, and why and how we do it. As a reader you are left with a significant conflict to resolve. An obsession with making judgments of your teaching and your pupils’ learning using a narrowed definition of success has become a cultural imperative. For Christian teachers there is also a moral imperative — to support each student to maximise not just their earning potential but also their potential as a whole, rounded person.
If you wonder how, as a Christian teacher, you can have any impact in a secular context in which you may often feel marginalised, read this book and engage in the debate. We are called to be ‘salt and light’ in our world, (Matthew 5:13—16). Seeing beyond the ‘one-size-fits-all’ paradigm and helping to develop the God-given character of your pupils because God loves them is doing just that.