Making a Grade: Victorian Examinations and the Rise of Standardized Testing

By James Elwick

© 2021

Starting in the 1850s achievement tests became standardized in the British Isles, and were administered on an industrial scale. By the end of the century, over two million people had written mass exams, particularly in science, technology and mathematics. Some candidates responded to this standardization by cramming or cheating; others embraced the hope that such tests rewarded not only knowledge, but also merit.

Written with humour, Making a Grade looks at how standardized testing practises quietly appeared, and then spread worldwide. This book situates mass exams, marks, and credentials in an emerging paper-based meritocracy, arguing that such exams often appeared first as "cameras" to neutrally record achievement, then became "engines" to change education as people tailored their behaviour to fit these tests. Taking the perspective of both examiners and examinees, Making a Grade claims that our own culture’s desire for accountability through objective testing is not a new one.

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Product Details

  • World Rights
  • Page Count: 272 pages
  • Dimensions: 6.0in x 1.0in x 9.0in
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SKU# SP006577

  • AVAILABLE APR 2021

    From: $52.50

    Regular Price: $70.00

    ISBN 9781487508937
  • AVAILABLE MAR 2021

    From: $52.50

    Regular Price: $70.00

Quick Overview

Making a Grade takes historiographic and sociological perspectives developed to understand large-scale scientific and technical systems and uses them to highlight the standardization that went into "standardized testing."

Making a Grade: Victorian Examinations and the Rise of Standardized Testing

By James Elwick

© 2021

Starting in the 1850s achievement tests became standardized in the British Isles, and were administered on an industrial scale. By the end of the century, over two million people had written mass exams, particularly in science, technology and mathematics. Some candidates responded to this standardization by cramming or cheating; others embraced the hope that such tests rewarded not only knowledge, but also merit.

Written with humour, Making a Grade looks at how standardized testing practises quietly appeared, and then spread worldwide. This book situates mass exams, marks, and credentials in an emerging paper-based meritocracy, arguing that such exams often appeared first as "cameras" to neutrally record achievement, then became "engines" to change education as people tailored their behaviour to fit these tests. Taking the perspective of both examiners and examinees, Making a Grade claims that our own culture’s desire for accountability through objective testing is not a new one.

Continue Reading Read Less

Product Details

  • World Rights
  • Page Count: 272 pages
  • Dimensions: 6.0in x 1.0in x 9.0in
  • Author Information

    James Elwick is an associate professor in the Department of Science and Technology Studies at York University.
  • Table of contents

    List of Figures
    Preface and Acknowledgments

    Introduction

    Part One: Examinations
    1 “The Age of Examinations”: A Historical Sketch
    2 Monetizing Marks: The Political Economy of Examinations
    3 An Epistemology of the Mundane: Dissecting One Examination

    Part Two: Examiners
    4 Daguerreotypes of the Mind: Paper, Partition, and Specialization
    5 Machining Minds: Commensuration, Tabulation, and Standardization
    6 Thin Descriptions: Credentials and Other Signals

    Part Three: Examinees
    7 Learning and Earning: Coaching or Cramming?
    8 Immoral Economies: How to Cheat on a Victorian Exam
    9 Economies, Remoralized: Examinations as Technologies of Inclusion

    Conclusion

    Appendix A: Important Dates
    Appendix B: Biographical List
    Notes
    Bibliography
    Index

    List of Figures
    Preface and Acknowledgments

    Introduction

    Part One: Examinations
    1. “The Age of Examinations”: A Historical Sketch
    2. Monetizing Marks: The Political Economy of Examinations
    3. An Epistemology of the Mundane: Dissecting One Examination

    Part Two: Examiners
    4. Daguerreotypes of the Mind: Paper, Partition, and Specialization
    5. Machining Minds: Commensuration, Tabulation, and Standardization
    6. Thin Descriptions: Credentials and Other Signals

    Part Three: Examinees
    7. Learning and Earning: Coaching or Cramming?
    8. Immoral Economies: How to Cheat on a Victorian Exam
    9. Economies, Remoralized: Examinations as Technologies of Inclusion

    Conclusion

    Appendix A: Important Dates
    Appendix B: Biographical List
    Notes
    Bibliography

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