Research Matters 15

  • Research Matters 15 - Foreword

    Oates, T. (2013). Foreword. Research Matters: A Cambridge Assessment publication, 15, 1.

    As this copy of Research Matters goes to press, with three articles focusing on A level, there is emerging a conundrum in national policy in respect of the policy on increasing the involvement of Higher Education in the design, administration and evaluation of A levels. Design and method must remain a key area of conscious deliberation and continuous refinement if we are to convince practitioners and policy-makers of the veracity of the new knowledge we create.

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  • Research Matters 15 - Editorial

    Green, S. (2013). Editorial. Research Matters: A Cambridge Assessment publication, 15, 1. 

    This issue addess a number of themes that are both topical and challenging. The first article from Irenka Suto opens with a quotation from Andreas Schleicher which illustrates the extent of the challenges facing us as we attempt to define 21st Century skills and to support their development in young people. The final article in this issue focuses on the methodological challenges faced by Greatorex, Shaw, Hodson and Ireland as the attempted to use scales of cognitive demand in a validation study.

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  • 21st Century Skills: Ancient, ubiquitous, enigmatic?

    Suto, I. (2013). 21st Century Skills: Ancient, ubiquitous, enigmatic? Research Matters: A Cambridge Assessment publication, 15, 2-8.

    The understanding and skills needed to compete in today’s global economy are arguably quite different to those upon which 19th and 20th century education systems have traditionally focussed. Life has become much more international, multicultural and inter-connected. Seismic advances have occurred in ICT and in access to it. These have enabled the economies of developed countries, including the UK’s, to shift from a basis of material goods and services to one of information and knowledge. The aim of this article is to explore some of the benefits and risks of building pedagogies and curricula around 21st Century skills. I begin by outlining some conceptualisations of 21st Century skills. I then address the question of how their development in young people can best be supported; I describe recent examples of alternative approaches used in the UK and internationally, including extended projects for sixth-form students. I also start to consider the value placed by stakeholders on the summative assessment of 21st Century skills, and finally, the feasibility of such assessment for test developers.

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  • Independent research at A level: Students’ and teachers’ experiences

    Mehta, S., Suto, I., Elliott, G. and Rushton, N. (2013). Independent research at A level: Students’ and teachers’ experiences. Research Matters: A Cambridge Assessment publication, 15, 9-16. 

    Our aims were to explore teachers’ and students’ experiences and perspectives of independent research at A level. The study focused Economics, French and Mathematics. It investigated: (i) the extent to which teachers think research and investigative skills can be developed at A level; (ii) the resources and guidance that students use; and (iii) whether subject-specific differences arise. A questionnaire and follow-on interview methodology was used. 47 Mathematics teachers, 24 Economics teachers and 15 French teachers participated. Additionally, 299 Mathematics students, 228 Economics students and 136 French students took part.

    About half of the French and Economics teachers were found to assign investigative/research tasks to their students at least once a fortnight. On the other hand, about half of the Mathematics teachers set such tasks less often and a further 40% never set them at all. The frequency with which the teachers set investigation/research tasks as homework/private study showed the same subject-specific differences as the classroom context. The internet was the most frequently listed source that students across all three subjects consulted while engaging in independent research. The interview data shed further light on general and specific internet usage. Overall, the findings explain some of the variation in preparedness of new undergraduates for independent study and research-related tasks at university.

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  • Assessment for Learning in International Contexts (ALIC): understanding values and practices across diverse contexts

    Shaw, S., Johnson, M. and Warwick, P. (2013). Assessment for Learning in International Contexts (ALIC): understanding values and practices across diverse contexts Research Matters: A Cambridge Assessment publication, 15, 17-28.

    The Assessment for Learning in International Contexts (ALIC) project sought to extend knowledge around teachers’ understandings of Assessment for Learning (AfL). Using a modified version of a survey devised by James and Pedder for use with teachers in England, evidence was gathered about the assessment practices that were highly valued by teachers across international contexts (Argentina, India, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, and Nigeria). The extent of congruence between these values and teachers’ reported classroom practices was then explored.

    In very broad terms, the items most valued by the teachers in this study demonstrate the considerable value placed upon practices linked positively to formative assessment principles and strategies. Certainly it seems that teachers have a particular concern with learning more about student learning and with promoting the development of pupil agency in assessment and learning.

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  • Using scales of cognitive demand in a validation study of Cambridge International A and AS level Economics

    Greatorex, J., Shaw, S., Hodson, P. and Ireland, J. (2013). Using scales of cognitive demand in a validation study of Cambridge International A and AS level Economics. Research Matters: A Cambridge Assessment publication, 15, 29-37.

    The research aims to map the cognitive demand of examination questions in A and AS Level economics. To this end we used the CRAS (complexity, resources, abstractness, strategy) framework, an established way of analysing the cognitive demand of examination questions. Six subject experts applied the CRAS framework to selected question papers which included multiple choice, essay and data response items. That is each subject expert rated the level of cognitive demand of each question twice; without reference to the mark scheme and once with reference to the mark scheme. Ratings without the mark scheme indicate how demanding the questions appear.  Ratings with the mark scheme indicate the cognitive demands rewarded by the mark scheme. Analysis showed that the demands elicited by the question were similar to those rewarded by the mark scheme, which is evidence of validity. The findings are used to explore using CRAS with different types of items (multiple choice, essay and data response).

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  • Cambridge Assessment Qualitative Research Methods Reading Group

    Johnson, M. (2013). Cambridge Assessment Qualitative Research Methods Reading Group. Research Matters: A Cambridge Assessment publication, 15, 38.

    This article is an update on the status of a research-based reading group that was formed to with the intention of sharing methods-related expertise within the Cambridge Assessement group. Since 2011 a series of Research Division-based reading groups have been organised. The remit of the group was initially to bring together researchers from across the Cambridge Assessment group to look at a variety of different qualitative research methods. The initiative was considered to be a useful way of sharing expertise amongst colleagues as well as being an important opportunity to raise awareness of the ways of using qualitative research methods in Cambridge Assessment’s own research.

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  • Statistical Reports

    The Research Division (2013). Statistical reports. Research Matters: A Cambridge Assessment publication, 15, 38.

    The ongoing Statistics Reports Series provides statistical summaries of various aspects of the English examination system, such as trends in pupil uptake and attainment, qualifications choice, subject combinations and subject provision at school. This article contains a summary of the most recent additions to this series.

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  • Research News

    The Research Division (2013). Research News. Research Matters: A Cambridge Assessment publication, 15, 39.

    A summary of recent conferences and seminars, and research articles published since the last issue of Research Matters.

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