This two-year, part-time MSc programme has been introduced at a time when high quality educational assessment is recognised as a core element of a strong education system.
The course combines teaching sessions within the Department and online support through the University’s Virtual Learning Environment (Canvas). In the second year of the course, students will receive supervision of dissertation projects from a University supervisor with expertise in a particular subject.
On completion of the course, graduates will have a sound understanding of the design of assessment systems, the options available and their implications. They will be able to analyse the quality of assessments and engage in research, policy and practice questions in an informed and critical manner.
This Masters qualification will have an impact upon the quality of educational assessments in a wide range of settings by enhancing assessment skills and increasing opportunities for progression to senior positions in educational assessment organisations both nationally and internationally.
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The aim of the course is to provide researchers and professionals with the skills to develop and improve educational assessments in their own settings. Students will gain technical and statistical knowledge in assessment and engage with the design and evaluation of educational assessments, as well as come away with a sound understanding of the field, including high stakes assessment systems.
The Masters course will take place over two academic years part-time with contact teaching and online support generally for the first three terms and supervision of dissertation projects in the final three terms of the course. In terms one to three students study three core modules and one optional module.
Module 1: Assessment Issues and Practices
This first, compulsory paper will introduce students to the fundamentals of educational assessment. To be able to analyse our own practices, assessment professionals and researchers need to be able to locate their practices within the range of approaches that are available and to connect them with their theoretical and philosophical underpinnings. In this paper, students will be introduced to the history of psychological and educational testing and to assessment paradigms and their relationships with learning theories. How assessment is connected with policy will be raised and there will be an introduction to various methods of standard-setting. Fundamentals of validity and reliability, which will be raised in all of the subsequent papers, will also be considered.
Module 2: Assessment Design and Evaluation
This second, compulsory paper builds on Core Module 1 and focuses on the development and design of educational assessments. Key underlying concepts such as construct, validity, reliability and fairness will be examined, and different scoring frameworks will be discussed. Students will be introduced to different approaches for the evaluation of the design of educational assessments in terms of demand, difficulty, validity, reliability and fairness. They will gain hands-on experience of different statistical analyses using the SPSS software.
Module 3: Psychometrics and Assessment Analysis
This paper builds on concepts introduced in the first two core papers and constitutes the foundation of technical measurement and data analysis in educational assessment. It is specifically focussed on psychometric methods for the evaluation of assessment data and integrates these technical aspects with the historical and philosophical underpinnings of psychometrics. Students will be introduced to various psychometric frameworks, including Classical Test Theory, Item Response theory and Rasch Measurement Theory, their approaches to assessment reliability and validity, as well as relevant criticisms of the frameworks. Students will also gain hands-on experience of different psychometric analyses using the R statistical software.
Students choose one option from the following option papers. The following list provides an indication of option papers usually available. (Please note, this is not a guarantee of availability for any particular elective in a given year).
Module A: Classroom Based Assessment
Students will be introduced to key concepts in classroom based assessment, such as summative and formative assessment, also known as assessment of and for learning. The paper will look at validity and reliability in classroom based assessment and will focus upon teachers’ beliefs about assessment and learning and its implications for classroom practice, teacher pedagogy and students’ learning.
Module B: Advanced Statistical Methods
The appropriate design and analysis of educational research is vital to making valid inferences about educational instruction and policy. This course will focus on the research methods and statistical techniques needed to make evidence-based decisions as an educator, policy maker, or researcher. The course will provide an introduction to research design, as well as several advanced statistical techniques used in educational research from both a conceptual and practical perspective.
Assessment will take the form of both formative assessment and summative assessment. Formative Assessment will take place at the beginning of each unit. Summative assessment will be through an examined assignment for each unit, plus a dissertation in the final term of the second year.
The MSc is directed by Dr Michelle Meadows, Associate Professor in Educational Assessment. A wide range of lecturers from across the department teach on the course providing students with core generic and subject-specific teaching and supervision. As well as the course director, lecturers include Professor Jo-Anne Baird, Dr Kit Double, Dr Yasmine El Masri and more. Guest lectures may also be given by visiting academics and practitioners.
The Department is delighted to offer a scholarship for practising educators who are enrolled on the MSc in Educational Assessment course at the University of Oxford for Michaelmas Term 2023.
Find out more about the scholarship and how to apply here.
Who is the course for?
This professional development course is aimed at researchers and professionals in the field of educational assessment.
How much time will I be expected to spend on study?
Each paper will comprise 8 teaching sessions that include lectures, seminars and practicals, and a small-group tutorial. For each paper, students are expected to spend approximately 64 hours during non-residential times for the preparation of the papers and the formative pre-paper assignments.
How will my work on the course be supported?
Each student will be appointed a general supervisor for the duration of their studies. This person may go on to be the dissertation supervisor depending on the chosen research topic. In cases where a different dissertation supervisor is appointed they would also take on the general supervision. Modes of supervision include individual online communication via telephone, e-mail and Teams meetings. For their dissertation project students will be allocated to a dissertation supervisor by the beginning of Michaelmas Term of the second academic year. Together with the course director, the main teaching staff on specific papers will contribute to the tutoring for their respective papers. Modes of tutoring include participation in the virtual learning community and through telephone, e-mail and/or online meetings with tutors. During residential periods, face-to-face meetings between tutors and students will be arranged. Pastoral support is also provided by a tutor in the College.
How often will I need to come to the Department for meetings?
The four modules are delivered in residential weeks, when you must attend in Oxford. After that, meetings with your supervisor may be face to face or conducted electronically.
Do I have to apply to a college?
College affiliation is an important part of being a student at Oxford. Please note that there is no guarantee that you will be placed at any given College, and a place will be found for you where possible. Find out more about the colleges and making an open application here.
What should I include in the statement of purpose on the application form?
The statement of purpose really just tells us why you are interested in doing this course. You should include:
- your reasons for applying
- evidence of understanding of the proposed area of study
- professional experience of educational assessment
- your ability to present a coherent case in proficient English
- your commitment to the subject, beyond the requirements of the degree course
- your preliminary knowledge of the subject area and research techniques
- your capacity for sustained and intense work
- reasoning ability
- ability to absorb new ideas, often presented abstractly, at a rapid pace
- evidence of your ability to undertake part-time study
If your ideas are less focused, it is fine simply to explain in more general terms what you are hoping to get out of the course and why you would have the support of your employer in undertaking it now.
Your statement should be no longer than two A4 pages in length.
Who should I choose as my referees?
We would expect to see at least one academic reference and two professional references. You should choose those referees who you think will provide us with enough information to make a judgement in your ability to follow the course.
We reserve the right to request a further reference if necessary.
Will I be able to pay fees in instalments?
Course fees are collected by colleges. Colleges operate their own fees schedule and this arrangement is dependent on the college.
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