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PISA´s mission is policy oriented. Its aim is to evaluate student outcomes in different countries, in order to compare top and low performing education systems and identify policies among top performers which can help others improve. The survey has generated a vast amount of information which has been used to analyse in great detail education systems worldwide and to draw conclusions about which practices are associated with good student outcomes.  However, PISA´s own data show that, after two decades, no improvement has taken place in most participating countries. Although PISA blames governments for this stagnation because it feels that they don’t listen to its advice, I argue that the reasons are much more complex. First, it is naive to argue that solid evidence per se is enough to overcome political costs. Second, most policy recommendations are strongly context-dependent making it difficult for governments to decide what is appropriate in their specific context. Third, the advice on equity is based mostly on “policy borrowing” from Nordic countries, and in particular Finland. This type of advice was followed blindly in Spain leading to the most inequitable outcomes. I will use this example to argue that education systems need to evolve as they mature, implementing different policies to adapt to changes in their student population, and that to copy/paste practices that are currently in place among top performing countries is the wrong approach.

The rapid development of 3D-related technologies started to offer versatile platforms for 3D modelling in both electronic and physical formats.

As 3D modelling is becoming increasingly important in the industry including, for instance, medicine, construction, and technology design, its potentials within education are starting to be more extensively explored. In our talk, we will outline several studies carried out by the STEAM education research group at the Linz School of Education, Johannes Kepler University, Austria. We will outline studies to introduce Augmented/Virtual Reality and 3D printing applications to teacher education in several countries; explore teachers’ perceptions and perspectives of these technologies; understand the necessary educational ecosystem for 3D-based technologies; cultivate and evaluation of diverse pedagogical approaches for incorporating 3D modelling into classrooms; motivate students through integrating arts and culture into such educational environments; create 3D resources for students with disabilities as well as from disadvantaged communities and countries; and engage girls in STEM studies through 3D modelling. One of the central aims of our studies is to empower teachers and students to become innovators and creators utilising such powerful and novel technologies. We also aim to address that such studies require new theoretical and methodological approaches. Thus, we will highlight extending our work from mathematics to STEAM through arts and culture, introducing a STEAM+X approach as well as supplementing Design Based Research (DBR) approaches with User Experience (UX) research methodologies to better address rapid changes in technology development.  Subsequently, we spotlight exemplars of exemplary practices drawn from secondary and primary education in Europe, Asia, Africa and Latin America.

When humans score responses to open-ended test items, the process tends to be slow and expensive and potentially introduces measurement error due to the subjective nature of decision making.

Automated scoring is an application of computer technologies developed to address these challenges by predicting human scores based on item structure algorithms or response features. Unfortunately, there is no guarantee that a particular attempt to develop an automated scoring model will be successful because features of the assessment design may reduce the automated “scorability” of examinee responses to test items. Our presentation begins with an overview of automated scoring and scorability. We then describe two applications of automated scoring: Pearson’s Intelligent Essay Assessor (IEA) and Math Reasoning Engine (MRE). We continue by illustrating the concept of automated scorability, identifying features of prompts and scoring rubrics that we have found to either improve or reduce the chances of being able to model human scores on test items. Finally, we provide guidelines for item developers and rubric writers that facilitate the automated scorability of examinee responses.


Lisa Eggers-Robertson is responsible for product planning and execution of the automated math open-ended response scoring service. She has served as program manager, supporting the College Board’s Accuplacer and SAT programs and other state program as well as a product manager for an interim classroom assessment product. She has spent the last 9 years of her career within the automated scoring team. She is certified as a Project Management Professional (PMP) by the Program Management Institute (PMI) and holds a BBA in Management of Information Systems from the University of Iowa.

Gregory M. Jacobs serves as technical lead and senior member of Pearson’s automated scoring team that is responsible for product planning and execution of the Intelligent Essay Assessor™ scoring service. He works with scoring staff and assessment program teams to provide leadership and execution of the automated scoring process and has over 3 years of industry experience building machine learning models, with an emphasis on Natural Language Processing. He also holds a Juris Doctor from Catholic University and has over a decade of legal experience as a commercial litigator handling complex contractual language disputes.

Edward W. Wolfe is responsible for development and delivery of Pearson’s automated writing and math scoring services, including the Intelligent Essay Assessor™, Continuous Flow, and Math Reasoning Engine. He works with scoring staff and assessment program teams to provide leadership and oversight of the automated scoring process on all programs. Dr. Wolfe holds a PhD in educational psychology from the University of California, Berkeley, and has authored nearly 100 peer-reviewed journal articles and book chapters regarding human and automated scoring and applied psychometrics

Crises, failures and storms in teacups. What can be done?

The problematic awarding of GCSEs and A levels during the pandemic has caused government to reflect on the resilience of England’s qualification system. Indeed, crises and failures of one kind or another are a recurrent feature. This Ofqual-funded project spans the whole of the qualification market, including many thousands of vocational and technical qualifications. It looks to the resilience literature from other complex systems to devise a definition of qualification system resilience. It investigates resilience and threats to resilience through: desk-based analysis of published evidence (including how other qualification systems in other countries responded to the pandemic); an analysis of previous examination crises and failures spanning decades; and interviews with over twenty senior industry insiders and commentators. It makes a series of policy recommendations for Ofqual and wider government but also questions the usefulness of the concept of resilience.

Ethical dilemmas confront all educational researchers, and the literature is replete with example and with administrative ways of processing them.  This seminar focuses upon real-life and inclusive examples of dilemmas, looking at how they might be resolved.  It draws upon different perspectives, both methodologically and theoretical. Presentations are based upon a recent book, Ethical Dilemmas in Education: Considering Learning Contexts in Practice, with an emphasis upon

  • Researcher reflexivity, wellbeing and ethical safety
  • Starting with self
  • Jolts in the margins: probing the ethical dimensions of post-paradigms in educational research
  • The hidden lives of ethics

Following brief presentations on each of the above topics, there will be a discussion on ethical dilemmas encountered by the researchers present, both as presenters and in the audience.

W1, 10/10/22

Prof. Stephen Gorard, Dept. of Education, University of Durham

Making schools better for disadvantaged students.

Around the world, governments, charities and other bodies are concerned with improving education, especially for the lowest attaining and most disadvantaged students. This concern has been magnified recently as such organisations try to help their schooling systems recover from a global pandemic that has reportedly affected the education of disadvantaged students more than their peers, on average. This talk presents up-to-date evidence on how funding might be best deployed to improve schooling and narrow the disadvantage attainment gap.

A drinks reception will follow the seminar.

Note: This is an in-person seminar at IOEUCL’s Faculty of Education and Society. A recording will be made available afterwards on CGHE’s YouTube channel.

The Office for Students (OfS) is officially the independent regulator of higher education in England, which regulates higher education in the interests of all students. However, it has increasingly appeared to be regulating in the interests of the government by following the agenda set by government ministers. This is in stark contrast to the arms-length approach previously taken by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) which the OfS replaced. This new politicised approach to regulation raises questions about the independence of the OfS, the extent to which the OfS is regulating in the interests of students, its expertise to make judgements about educational quality and the impact of its approach on the health of the English higher education system. In this seminar, we will explore these questions from our different perspectives as a former Education Minister (Charles Clarke) and as a higher education researcher (Paul Ashwin).

The event will be followed by a drinks reception.


According to generalized internal/ external (GI/E) frame-of-reference model, motivational beliefs are explained through academic achievement. In Africa respective studies are rare. In the present study, we investigated the model’s applicability to expectancy, utility, and cost beliefs of Rwandan lower-secondary students (N = 771; 51.0% female) within Chemistry and Math (quantitative domain) as well as English and Kinyarwanda (language domain). Through multiple-group structural equation models (SEM) we compared the model’s applicability to basic-education and boarding schools. Admission to boarding schools depends amongst others on performance during national school examinations. Hence, both school types can be interpreted as different tracks within Rwanda’s system of school-level ability grouping of students. The model’s applicability differed across school types. Within basic-education schools, achievement predicted mainly cost beliefs. Within boarding schools, achievement predicted cost and especially expectancy beliefs. Across both types, respective beliefs were positively predicted by achievement within subjects. Within basic-education schools, beliefs within one language were also positively predicted by achievement in the other language (i.e., assimilation effects). Within boarding schools, beliefs within subjects of one of the domains (i.e., language or quantitative) were negatively predicted by prior achievement in subjects of the other domain (i.e., contrast effects). We therefore concluded that school-level contextual factors such as multilingualism may moderate motivational processes that Rwandan secondary students experience. This may have implications especially for the design of motivational interventions whose potential has not been fully explored within the African context.

Traditional invariance testing via multiple group CFA is of limited utility when the number of groups is not small. Alignment optimization was recently developed to address this practical issue when the number of groups is not small (see Muthen & Asparouhov, 2013, 2014). This talk introduces alignment optimization and its utility in educational measurement invariance testing. A comparison with the traditional approach and examples of applications from recently published research are provided. Finally, a new measurement invariance study of intersectional groupings (ethnicity, gender, SES) and two longitudinally cohorts of several self-efficacy scales is presented, including discussions of the substantive findings, technical issues, and future directions.

All welcome to join in person.

If you wish to join online, pre-registration is required (no need to register again if you have already done so in a previous week of Trinity Term): Register to join this event online via Zoom

Once your registration has been approved, you will receive a confirmation email with joining instructions.