Subproject A

Fabrizio Butera, University of Lausanne

Normative assessment as regulatory social influence

Why in most Western instructional systems—be it at school, in science, or in professional training—evaluation is mainly based on normative assessment, i.e., evaluations allowing comparison with others such as grades, when these methods have been widely criticised (e.g., Butler, 1987), and viable alternatives exist (e.g., Black & Wiliam, 1998)? The present research project tests the general hypothesis that normative assessment serves a function other forms of assessment cannot provide: to produce social order (at the ideological level) by maintaining hierarchical status quo (at the intergroup level). Indeed, normative assessment renders differences in status, competence and achievement highly visible, and thereby increases the possibility to maintain and accentuate these differences through selection. In this respect, the present research project aims at showing that normative evaluation is not merely an assessment instrument but a social influence tool used to reduce the struggle for competence between social groups by reproducing and accentuating social or ingroup status. Within the framework of the Sinergia project, this subproject contributes to the study of competence threat by mainly articulating the ideological and intergroup levels, to the extent that it studies how normative assessment reproduces social hierarchies and is preferred when norms promoting selection are salient.

The full project can be obtained by contacting Fabrizio Butera.


Frédérique Autin et Anatolia Batruch