Working Paper 72
Can and should assessment nurture an orientation to society and social justice?
Published September 2021

This paper explores the connections that can, or should, be made between how we assess students in STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) disciplines and nurturing an orientation to wider society, by which we mean a sense of interconnectedness between oneself and others. From a critical theory perspective, it is argued that education should facilitate movement from a conception of the individual as autonomous towards the individual as a member of a larger society. Herein we describe a longitudinal and comparative study among chemistry and chemical engineering undergraduate students at universities in England, South Africa and the USA. The study finds that only a very small number of students display any orientation to society through their responses to assessment tasks. This result is surprising because there are a number of socially-related assessment tasks within the curricula of most programmes researched. Thus it becomes evident that more may be required to achieve higher education oriented to social justice than simply the deliberate inclusion of socially-related activities in the curriculum or as assessment tasks.

Read the full Working Paper here