Assessment in New Zealand Early Childhood Education: A Foucauldian Analysis
This thesis aims to problematise and denaturalise the current dominant, empowerment infused early childhood education (ece) assessment discourse in Aoteaora New Zealand through a Foucauldian discourse analysis. It addresses a two-part question: How is contemporary ece assessment constructed in New Zealand, and, what is effected by this construction? Texts about contemporary ece assessment in New Zealand written by local ece scholars and practitioners as well as narrative assessment examples drawn from the Ministry of Education (2004) Kei Tua o te Pae, Assessment for Learning: Early Childhood Exemplars resource provide data for the analysis. The analysis is conducted in procedurally specified as well as open, associative, and playful modes. Contemporary ece assessment in New Zealand is found to be constructed as a new, post-developmental, morally desirable and secular salvation practice that is underpinned by principles of social justice, plurality and diversity. However, a consideration of key discursive truth-objects and their mobilisation within narrative assessments suggests that ece assessment may be implementing a boundless and normalising regime for the government of selves and others, and producing significant regulatory effects for children, teachers and whānau/ family. It is argued that ece assessment, as a technology of government, works to construct self responsible, self optimising, and permanently performing child-subjects. Such norms for self government map closely onto those that are promoted within neoliberal governmentalities. Ece assessment can therefore, at least in part, be understood as both a technique and effect of neoliberal rationalities of government. The ongoing status and dominant construction of ece assessment as an empowering, socially just practice is seen to be problematic. It stifles debate about early childhood spaces, and it is implicated in the constraint of multiple possibilities for the government of selves and others.