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Storied-selves, assessment & social justice: Classroom practices for composing college identities in the age of accountability

Dana M Kinzy, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


This dissertation addresses teachers who resist literacy assessment—as well as those who lead resistant teachers—to argue that in rejecting assessment, educators miss opportunities to enact ideals and influence assessment culture. Theories of narrative identity inform classroom practices that I situate at the intersection of composition pedagogy, literacy assessment, and commitment to issues of educational access and social justice. I contend that: • assessments defined by teachers’ educational philosophies best support learning; • successfully dismantling the accountability agenda requires advocacy ranging from sponsorship of individual reflection to (inter)national activism; • teachers can best support students by implementing practices intended to filter, resist, process, or generate identity narratives focused on educational potential instead of deficit. I propose five understandings that should inform literacy assessment development or analysis intended to reduce harmful consequences for students, and I outline classroom practices informed by these understandings: effective educators recognize that they teach whole persons-in-process, not just subject matter; people use stories to construct selves and assessment and reflection are both practices that potentially “story” student identity; ideas about literacy are neither neutral nor acontextual, but ideological and socially-constructed; we live in a culture where students have unequal access to power and social goods; we internalize others’ stories. I introduce a type of self-reflection that asks students to engage with material alongside another “voice”—included to reveal when ideological beliefs and/or internalized assessments intrude—in the form of a person, text, or theory. I then explore three such practices: 1) identity kit mapping, developed to uncover complexities of literate identity and underlying tensions; 2) a heuristic for stance taking, listening, and response, offered to gauge and filter new ideas; and 3) assessment apprenticeships, where students practice self-assessing with support. My conclusion revisits the question of whether we should take on assessment identities. I assert that when we assume such identities and teach practices for interpreting assessments and educational narratives, we invite students to claim authorship of their identities and their potential. I suggest some ways that the three practices might be "scaled up" to assessment work beyond the individual/classroom levels for which they were designed.

Subject Area

Pedagogy|Higher education

Recommended Citation

Kinzy, Dana M, "Storied-selves, assessment & social justice: Classroom practices for composing college identities in the age of accountability" (2015). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3723421.