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Alumni of the Masters in Educational Assessment, Lorena Garelli and Kevin Mason presenting their dissertation research.

Trinity’s School of Education and the Educational Research Centre, Drumcondra, hosted AEA-Europe’s Annual Conference on 9-12 November in Dublin, Ireland.

Over 350 attendees from 37 countries reflected on the conference’s theme – “New Visions for Assessment in Uncertain Times.” This diverse range of attendees included over 15 folks affiliated with OUCEA. Throughout the conference, attendees explored possible directions for assessment policy and practice in schools, higher education, and vocational/workplace settings over the coming years. Much of the reflection centered on the instability of the recent past – the pandemic, war in Ukraine, and economic challenges globally have created a sense of uncertainty in all spheres of life. As a result, attendees took stock and reimagined assessment in a world where the certainties of the past decades have given way to a more uncertain environment.

Keynote speeches addressed such diverse topics as “Assessing learning in schools – Reflections on lessons and challenges in the Irish context,” “Assessment research: listening to students, looking at consequences,” and “Assessment research: listening to students, looking at consequences.”

In addition to the keynotes, the conference hosted panel and poster presentation opportunities. Many members and associates of the OUCEA shared their research. For example:

Honorary Norham Fellow

  • Lena Gray – presented on assessment, policymakers, and communicative spaces – striving for impact at the research–policy interface

Honorary Research Associate

  • Yasmine El Masri – an OUCEA Research Associate – presented on Evaluating sources of differential item functioning in high-stakes assessments in England


  • Samantha-Kaye Johnston – an OUCEA Research Officer – presented on Assessing creativity among primary school children through the snapshot method – an innovative approach in times of uncertainty.

Current doctoral students

  • Louise Badham – a current D.Phil Student – presented on Exploring standards across assessments in different languages using comparative judgment.
  • Zhanxin Hao –  presented on The effects of using testing and restudy as test preparation strategies on educational tests
  • Jane Ho  – presented on Validation of large-scale high-stakes tests for college admissions decisions

MSc in Educational Assessment graduates and students

  • Kevin Mason – presented on Assessment of Art and Design Courses using Comparative Judgment in Mexico and England
  • Lorena Garelli – presented on Assessment of Art and Design Courses using Comparative Judgment in Mexico and England
  • Joanne Malone – presented on Irish primary school teachers’ mindset and approaches to classroom assessment
  • Merlin Walters – presented on The comparability of grading standards in technical qualifications in England: how can we facilitate it in a post-pandemic world?

As you can see from the wide-ranging topics covered, OUCEA is engaging in wide-ranging research. The team looks forward to presenting more of our work at AEA-Europe’s 2023 conference in Malta.

Louise is a part-time DPhil Education student whose research focuses on issues of fairness and comparability in international summative assessments. She has worked in international educational assessment for over 14 years, and currently works in Assessment Research & Design at the International Baccalaureate (IB). 

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.

This invited symposium, which took place at St Anne’s College, Oxford on 26th March 2015, was hosted by Professor Jo-Anne Baird, Director, OUCEA and Glenys Stacey, Chief Regulator, Ofqual.

The programme is available here. Ofqual has issued a press release about the symposium and Glenys Stacey has published a blog. You can follow some of the issues from the day and contribute to the discussion on twitter at #ethicssymp. The event has been mentioned in the media:
• Daily Mail article, How teachers help pupils to cheat in exams: Tactics used to bend rules revealed by more than 500 whistleblowers, 27 April 2015
• Sunday Times article, Teachers’ tricks for helping pupils cheat, 26 April 2015
Below you will find some relevant background resources as well as presentations from the day. Please contact OUCEA Admin if you have trouble accessing any resources.
Speakers’ presentations
Professor Jo-Anne Baird, Director, OUCEA: Introduction
Dr Ardeshir Geranpayeh, Head of Psychometrics & Data Services,Cambridge English Language Assessment: Teacher Malpractice in Assessment: the International Context
Dr Michelle Meadows, Director of Research and Evaluation, Ofqual: Teacher Ethics in Summative Assessment
Geraldine Davies, Principal, The UCL Academy: The Rational Teacher
Professor Paola Mattei, Associate Professor in Comparative Social Policy, University of Oxford: The Ethics of Accountability in Education Assessment
Reading materials
Please click on the links to the resources below.
• Association of School and College Leaders Leading the way: Blueprint for a self-improving system (Feb 2015)
• Department for Education National standards of excellence for head teachers: Departmental advice for headteachers, governing boards and aspiring headteachers (Jan 2015)
• Department for Education Teachers’ standards: Guidance for school leaders, school staff and governing bodies (Jul 2011)
• General Teaching Council for England Code of Conduct and Practice for Registered Teachers: Setting minimum standards for the regulation of the profession (Jun 2004)
• Mattei, P. (2012) Raising educational standards: national testing of pupils in the United Kingdom, 1988-2009, Policy Studies, 33(3), 231-247. The abstract is available here.
• Mattei, P. (2012) Market accountability in schools: policy reforms in England, Germany, France and Italy, Oxford Review of Education, 38(3), 247-266. The abstract is available here.
• National Council on Measurement in Education Newsletter Vol. 22 No. 1 (Mar 2014) [Pages 5-11 have articles on “Unintentional Cheating”.]
• Newton, P. (2013) List of resources relevant to cheating in GCSE coursework
• Perryman, J., Ball, S., Maguire, M. & Braun, A. (2011) Life in the Pressure Cooker – School League Tables and English and Mathematics Teachers’ Responses to Accountability in a Results-Driven Era, British Journal of Educational Studies, 59(2), 179-195. The abstract is available here.
• Taylor, R. (2013) Early entry to GCSE. Centre for Education Research and Policy, AQA.
• Taylor, R. (2015) A qualitative study of entry and teaching strategies for GCSE mathematics (Summary paper). Centre for Education Research and Practice, AQA.
• West, A., Mattei, P. & Roberts, J. (2011) Accountability and Sanctions in English Schools, British Journal of Educational Studies, 59(1), 41-62. The abstract is available here.
Audio/visual materials
Please click on the links to the resources below.
• Ardeshir Geranpayeh presentation on detecting cheating and plagiarism (podcast)
• BERA Annual Conference 2011: Presentation from Baroness Onora O’Neill
Intelligent Accountability in Education (podcast)
• Paul Newton presentation on the problem with performance indicators (Powerpoint)
• Paul Newton presentation on coursework, controlled assessment and allegations of cheating (Powerpoint)
• SSAT National Conference 2013: Presentation from Judy Halbert and Linda Kaser, Vancouver Island University. (The first three links below are podcasts; the fourth is a Powerpoint.)
Intelligent Accountability [1]
Intelligent Accountability [2]
Intelligent Accountability [3] – discussion
Judy Halbert and Linda Kaser presentation
• CNN news coverage on the Atlanta public schools cheating scandal

The Scottish Qualifications Authority have today released reports on stakeholders’ views of national assessments in Scotland, four of which were conducted in conjunction with the Oxford University Centre for Educational Assessment and Glasgow University.

Professor Jo-Anne Baird at the University of Oxford and one of the co-authors of the research, said: “Public confidence in national qualifications is incredibly important for learners.

“Our findings show that people want a qualification system that fits modern Scottish society – one that is learner-focused, with choice, flexibility, and the capacity to adapt to the needs of learners with different skills and in a range of contexts.”

The research has been published on SQA’s website to support discussion around the future of assessment in Scotland.

See the article on our findings in the TES magazine.