’Difficulties’ of integrative evaluation practices : instances of language and context as/in contested space(s)


Although language is a medium of learning, most educational institutions typically teach and therefore evaluate language separately from content. In second language contexts, recent attention has been given to language/content integration through content-based language instruction. Yet, questions of integrative evaluation (evaluating language and content as one) remain uncertain and difficult. This inquiry explores difficulties invoked when teachers engage in practices of integrative evaluation of English language learners' writing at an international college for Japanese nationals in Canada. Are these difficulties technical problems? Technical rationality has been critiqued by a number of thinkers. Those interested in action research practices, contrast technical rationality with what they call reflective rationality and argue for contextualizing, rather than simplifying, difficult situations. Some with hermeneutic interests argue for an attunement to, rather than concealment of, difficulties of life in the classroom. Others interested in writing instruction, are critical of conventional approaches to writing pedagogy as reductionistic and deterministic. There are a number of instances of difficulty in teachers' integrative evaluation practices. Prior to agreeing on a prompt, many teachers explore texts as interpretive, social literacy but, in their uncertainty of how to mark such a text, they return to a question for which there is a 'correct' and 'controlled' response. Once the prompt and evaluative criteria are established, discordant orientations to evaluation, literacy, and language/content integration complicate teachers' uncertainty. For example, teachers sometimes acknowledge functional views of language/content integration, yet they are vague and uncertain about how to mark in an integrated way. When teachers read texts prior to judgment, they comment that the texts are difficult to interpret and then impose their own 'straightforward' readings on the texts to reduce and simplify the difficulties. These instances raise serious concerns in practices of evaluation, literacy and language/content integration, especially when technical forms of evaluation are paradoxically aligned with social and integrated texts. A turn to hermeneutics troubles a technical hold and invites further inquiry into tensioned moments of integrative evaluation as difficult, living practices.Education, Faculty ofLanguage and Literacy Education (LLED), Department ofGraduat

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