n South African Journal of Higher Education - Judging essays : the challenge of interpretation

Volume 23, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 1011-3487



In the past decade there has been increasing interest in assessment as a social practice. There is a growing recognition that assessment, particularly of complex tasks, is a judgment which is socially-situated and thus contingent on a variety of factors which constitute the assessment event. Drawing on the hermeneutical tradition, this article explores the interpretive processes of essay markers in two Health Science courses at the University of Cape Town, with a particular focus on markers' judgements about language. The analysis exposes multiple 'circles' of influence on markers' professional judgements, including the texts (both the written product and the student writer), the marker's interpretive framework, the interpretive community and the wider institutional discourses. The article contributes to a better understanding of the crucial role of the interpretive community in the validation of assessment interpretations.

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