Stop! Collaborate and listen

By Kate Kelly
Published 28 Apr 2017

'Standards only move in one direction. At the beginning of the world, standards were established and they've been slipping ever since.'– Edward Stevenson.

A previous blog explored the ways that assessment experts ensure that, say, a grade B at GCSE has the same meaning across subjects, in different years. But how does our thinking fit into the international context?

Standard setting remains a thorny question across the global assessment community. A recent symposium, held at Oxford University’s beautiful Brasenose College, provided a welcome opportunity for experts from over 20 countries to explore how different jurisdictions approach standards maintenance for their respective national exams.

The event which took place 28-30 March was part of a collaborative project between CERP’s Head of Research, Dr Lena Gray, Professor Jo-Anne Baird (Oxford University), Dr Tina Issacs (UCL) and Dennis Opposs (Ofqual).

In the era of PISA, TIMMSS and other side-effects of globalisation, it’s become common to look abroad for the solutions to our educational concerns. Results from international rankings are scrutinised with the fervour once reserved for national budgets. But despite our modern outward-looking focus, the March symposium was one of the first times that experts from around the world have put their heads together to tackle some of the fundamental issues of assessment.

After three days of presentations, workshops and discussions, we learned a few important lessons. Firstly, despite some (occasionally radical) surface differences between our systems, we are all facing similar pressures and challenges. Secondly, we were reminded of the importance of collaborative research. Bringing together different perspectives forces us to review our own assumptions and approaches. And cross-fertilisation of ideas is an excellent breeding ground for inspired solutions. Finally, and most importantly, we learned that, from Hong Kong to Cyprus, Australia to the United States, we all want the same thing: fairness for the students.

You can find out more about the case studies that were discussed during the symposium here.

Kate Kelly

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