Michael Foucault, Power, and Assessment in South African Higher Education

Proceedings of ‏The 2nd International Academic Conference on Teaching, Learning and Education

Year: 2020

DOI: https://www.doi.org/10.33422/2nd.tleconf.2020.11.66

[Fulltext PDF]

Michael Foucault, Power, and Assessment in South African Higher Education

Dr. Cindy Ramhurry



Assessment policy reform has been a common trend on both international and local levels resulting in significant implications for practice. In line with these trends, South African higher education has adopted a “participatory” framework of assessment. Using a Foucauldian theoretical lens, this paper highlights some of the forms of disciplinary power and control that are carried within the new forms of participatory assessment. Empirical evidence is drawn from assessment practices observed in certain lectures in a South African University. Data is analysed through a Foucauldian lens wherein he forges a connection between disciplinary power, control and regulation (Foucault, 1980). The paper then describes the technologies of disciplinary power that play out within the participatory assessment practices and demonstrates what these technologies of power do to assessors and students when they become involved in it. The paper argues that participatory assessment in some respects epitomizes progressive educational themes yet, when studied with an eye toward power reveals several contradictions and paradoxes.

Keywords: Participatory assessment; disciplinary power; higher education; Michael Foucault; Panoptic power; policing.