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Democratic assessment as scales of justice: the case of three Iranian high-stakes tests

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High-stakes tests are often used as instruments of agenda-setting and control in developing areas to enable policy-makers to establish and embed education policy agendas throughout the education system and society. As an alternative method, Critical Language Testing assumes that tests are value-laden instruments and products of political, social, cultural, and ideologically driven educational agendas. This article critically examines three Iranian high-stakes tests (the National University Entrance Exam, the MA/MS Exam, and PhD examinations) to evaluate whether covert policies and agendas are being deployed in the Iranian context. It applies qualitative methods and Strauss and Corbin’s [1998. Basics of Qualitative Research: Techniques and Procedures for Developing Grounded Theory. London: Sage] constant comparative method to demonstrate the existence of clear patterns of domination. Democratic testing is therefore suggested as a way forward by which policy-makers can operationalize a just and fair exam whereby testing parties’ ideas, and intuitions are equally taken into account and their rights are protected.
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Keywords: Critical Language Testing; High-stakes tests; Iranian educational system; agenda-setting; democratic assessment

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Foreign Languages and Linguistics, Shiraz University, Shiraz, Iran

Publication date: March 4, 2018

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