Constructing (In)Competence: Disabling Evaluations in Clinical and Social Interaction

By Dana Kovarsky; Judith Felson Duchan et al. | Go to book overview
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Chapter 8
Good Reasons for Bad Testing
Performance: The Interactional
Substrate of Educational Testing

Douglas W. Maynard Indiana University

Courtney L. Marlaire Marquette University

Children who experience difficulties in school or at home may be referred to a diagnostic clinic and there take a battery of examinations, including some that test their educational level and learning abilities. In analyzing the administration of a variety of test instruments, we argued that the results of these examinations are collaborative productions ( Marlaire & Maynard, 1990).1 This is contrary to the stimulus-response model of the testing relationship, which presumes that examiners are neutral conduits of prespecified items to which examinees respond with correct or incorrect answers reflecting individual levels of ability. Videotapes and transcripts of actual exam episodes show that each part of a "testing sequence" is assembled in the socially organized interaction between examiner and examinee.

Whereas the previous analysis utilized excerpts from a variety of testing instruments,2 in this chapter we concentrate on a single subtest, called blending, of the Woodcock-Johnson Psychoeducational Battery, which is designed to measure both aptitude and ability in a variety of learning

Originally published in Qualitative Sociology, 15,177-202, 1992. Reprinted with permission.
See also Cicourel et al. ( 1974); Heap ( 1980); Holstein ( 1983); Mehan ( 1973); Mehan ( 1978); Mehan, Hertweck, and Meihls ( 1986).
Included here were the Woodcock-Johnson Psychoeducational Battery, the Brigance Diagnostic Inventory of Early Development, the Ongoing Developmental Assessment Tool, and the Psychoeducational Profile. For descriptions of these, see Marlaire and Maynard ( 1990, p. 85). Special Education assessments rely, by legal mandate, on the use of more than one testing instrument in order to minimize test bias in the reported results. In addition, clinicians choose specific tests on the basis of what they judge to be the target "problem" and/or characteristics (such as the age, emotional or physical disability) of the subject.


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Constructing (In)Competence: Disabling Evaluations in Clinical and Social Interaction


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