Year 12 Victorian teachers’ dilemmas of assessment in a hyper digitalised space: A glance into the policy mobility of professional ethics during a pandemic

Year: 2021

Author: Finefter-Rosenbluh, Ilana, Perrotta, Carlo, Grové, Christine

Type of paper: Individual Paper

The lockdowns and mass school closures of 2020-2021 gave further momentum to a trend of digital governance in education that was well underway before the pandemic. Digital platforms like Google Classroom and Zoom have become pervasive and thoroughly entangled with multiple aspects of educational provision and administration. In April 2020, Google reported 120 million education users of across 250 countries and 54 languages. In February 2021, it was already 150 million. Considering such levels of adoption, any current discussion about the movement and the transformation of education policy must consider the mediating role of these complex techno-economic systems.Acknowledging that educators, as policy actors, simultaneously respond to different policies, which therefore can become diluted or peter out (Maguire, 2007), we sought to critically unpack the ethical challenges that Victorian Year 12 teachers have experienced with digital assessment of students’ work during 2020. The study intended to capture the ethical sensemaking of teachers, as social policy actors, who play a key role in the contextual enactment of assessment policies - a process which is increasingly shaped through and by digital technologies.Using snowball sampling, data were gathered through semi-structured interviews with ten Victorian Certificate of Education (VCE) teachers, that prior to the pandemic have taught their subject to Year 12 students in a face-to-face mode. Participants came from different schools, teaching various subjects, including history, arts, maths and English. Analysis of the VCE teachers’ ethical experiences with assessment highlighted their difficulty to bridge between their ethical responsibility to provide assessment outcomes that accurately reflect their students’ skills and their duty of care, obligation to adhere to schools’ procedural policies, and the need to protect students’ privacy in an online environment. In other words, the teachers struggled to deliver the digitalised assessment policies while meeting professional-ethical standards. This state of affairs led to contingent and localised sociotechnical policy enactments. Capturing issues of ethical assessment as datafied policy problems, we highlight the entangled fundamentals of student mental health and wellbeing, proceduralism and privacy in platformized education. We argue that such sociotechnical entanglements add layers of intractable complexity to policy dynamics and call for regulations that create supportive conditions where educators can critically negotiate the adaptation of ethical assessment policies in platformized spaces.