Problems of Assessment in Education for Intellectual Virtue

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Problems of Assessment in Education for Intellectual Virtue
Kotzee, Ben
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Ben Kotzee Lecturer, School of Education University of Birmingham Edgbaston, Birmingham B15 2TT, United Kingdom Phone: +44 121 414 3602 Email: Home Page:

While attention to the teaching of intellectual virtue is gathering steam, little attention
has been paid to the matter of its assessment. Even though it belongs to the slightly
drearier regions of educational thought and practice, assessment is important to
education. Without being able to assess to what extent students already possess
certain forms of knowledge or skill, it will be hard to know where to start in our
teaching; and without being able to assess for learning, we are not in a position to
know whether our teaching has been effective. However, standard forms of testing –
especially as we encounter them in the high stakes graded exams common in
schools and universities – seem to be inimical to the teaching of intellectual virtue. If
we are to teach students to be truly intellectually virtuous we must teach them to
value knowledge for its own sake and not for the reward of a grade; virtuous practice
must not only be exhibited on test day, but become an ingrained facet of intellectual
The paper proceeds as follows. In section 2, I begin by raising doubts about the
possibility of assessing intellectual virtue. I ask whether assessing intellectual virtue
is, firstly, possible and, secondly, advisable. I conclude in the affirmative. Next, I turn
to the question of how to assess for intellectual virtue. In section 3, I consider one
approach – the approach taken by researchers into epistemic development (or
‘personal epistemology’). In section 4, I consider another possible set of approaches
– that of the critical thinking movement. In section 5, I ask what we may learn from
approaches to measuring virtue in the moral sphere. In section 6 I summarise what
we may conclude regarding the assessment of intellectual virtue from these

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