Bryan Maddox: Desert Deviants: Ethnography, Camels, Fast Food, ANT, and Item Response Theory in the Mongolian Gobi

Date: 29 May 2012 Time: 1 - 2 pm

Venue: C89, County South

Bryan Maddox, School of International Development, University of East Anglia, UK will be speaking on:

What happens when standardised literacy assessments travel globally? There is considerable debate about globalised projects of assessment and how they frame and produce statistically derived knowledge about literacy and about the efficacy of cross-cultural comparison.Hamilton (2001) called for ethnographic research on the politics and practices of literacy measurement regimes. This paper responds to that call, and is the result of an innovative collaboration between ethnographers and psychometric researchers in the UNESCO Literacy Assessment and Monitoring Programme (LAMP). This paper presents ethnographic transcripts of literacy assessment events in rural Mongolia.The theory of literacy assessment events described in this paper is informed by Goodwin's 'participation framework' on language as embodied and situated interactive phenomena (Goodwin 2000, 2007) and Actor Network Theory (Callon 1986, Latour 2005). These draw our attention to the way in which literacy assessment events are shaped by an 'assemblage' of human and non-human actors (including assessment texts). The transcripts demonstrate how ethnography can inform the design and analysis of standardised test items, and help to identify sources of test item bias.

Event website:


Who can attend: Anyone


Further information

Associated staff: Mary Hamilton

Organising departments and research centres: Educational Research, Lancaster Literacy Research Centre, Linguistics and English Language

Keywords: Actor-network theory, Assessment, Ethnography of literacy, Literacy