Research Matters 17

  • Research Matters 17 - Foreword

    Oates, T. (2014). Foreword. Research Matters: A Cambridge Assessment publication, 17, 1.

    This edition of Research Matters has an unusual character, not obvious from the surface. Key elements of the work were commissioned urgently, as part of the now-superseded English Baccalaureate Certificate (EBC) initiative. Each strand of work is naturally interesting in its own right.

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  • Research Matters 17 - Editorial

    Green, S. (2014). Editorial. Research Matters: A Cambridge Assessment publication, 17, 1. 

    Most of the articles in this issue report on research related to the current qualifications reform agenda in the UK.  In addition, there are a number of articles that concentrate on current initiatives and medium term changes to qualifications.                                                                                                                            

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  • Educational provision for less able students of English and Maths

    Suto, I. and Rushton, N. (2014). Educational provision for less able students of English and Maths. Research Matters: A Cambridge Assessment publication, 17, 2-8.

    Current plans to reform General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSEs) in England and Wales include a return to linear assessment, the inclusion of more challenging course content, and an increase in demand at the level of what is widely considered to be a pass (Department for Education, 2013). Although these changes may help to stretch the most academically able 14 to 16 year olds, facilitating their progression to A levels and beyond, it is also important to ensure that secondary education caters for the full ability range. Students who struggle with core academic subjects also have a valuable contribution to make to society and the economy. Their educational achievements should be as significant a national concern as those of their more able peers. In this article, we compare provision for equivalent students in four of the highest performing jurisdictions around the world: Singapore, New Zealand, Alberta (Canada) and Hong Kong. We also explore existing educational provision for less able 14 to 16 year old students of English and Mathematics in England. Although cultural and societal differences provide good reasons to discourage direct policy-borrowing, international comparisons may nevertheless reveal some useful approaches for consideration.

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  • Common errors in Mathematics

    Rushton, N. (2014). Common errors in Mathematics. Research Matters: A Cambridge Assessment publication, 17, 8-17.

    When answering Mathematics questions, students often make errors leading to incorrect answers or the loss of accuracy marks. Many of these errors will be random, occurring through calculation errors or misreading of the question, and will not affect many candidates. However, some errors may be seen in a number of students’ scripts. These are sometimes referred to as common errors.

    The aim of this study was to identify common errors that have been made in Mathematics exams. Three Mathematics specifications were used in this study: IGCSE Mathematics (0580), GCSE Mathematics A (J512) and GCSE Mathematics B (J567). Copies of the examiners’ reports and exam papers were obtained for all three qualifications for June 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012. Within each examiner’s report, any common errors that candidates made were coded against a theme and sub-theme. The results were intended to inform the redevelopment of the mathematics qualifications, and to provide useful information for teachers and examiners. 

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  • Context in Mathematics questions

    Greatorex, J. (2014). Context in Mathematics questions. Research Matters: A Cambridge Assessment publication, 17, 18-23.

    For at least two decades educationalists have debated whether Mathematics examination questions should be set in context. The aim of this article is to revisit the debate to answer the following questions: 1. What are the advantages and disadvantages of examining Mathematics in context? 2. What are the features of a high quality context? Initially several taxonomies (categories or classification systems) of context are reviewed and the research methods for evaluating the effects of context are considered. Subsequently, the advantages and disadvantages of using context in Mathematics examination questions are explored, focusing on research about public examinations in secondary school Mathematics in England. The literature is used to make recommendations about context in Mathematics questions.

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  • Method in our madness? The advantages and limitations of mapping other jurisdictions' educational policy and practice

    Elliott, G. (2014). Method in our madness? The advantages and limitations of mapping other jurisdictions' educational policy and practice. Research Matters: A Cambridge Assessment publication, 17, 24-29.

    Making comparisons between different nations’ educational systems is challenging and, whilst it is beneficial to study the education systems of other jurisdictions in order to evaluate alternative approaches and to explore innovation, it is important to temper enthusiasm for alternative systems’ successes with a realistic appraisal of the similarities and differences of their systems; their cultures and the dynamics at play in their schools.

    Mapping exercises have been used to illuminate contrasts between different international approaches to education and assessment. This paper addresses the advantages and limitations of making comparisons with other jurisdictions, informed by our experiences whilst undertaking a large project during which a total of more than twenty jurisdictions were included in a number of different levels of comparison.

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  • Cultural and societal factors in high-performing jurisdictions

    Crisp, V. (2014). Cultural and societal factors in high-performing jurisdictions. Research Matters: A Cambridge Assessment publication, 17, 29-41.

    This article aims to provide insights into some of the cultural and societal contextual factors that influence education systems, using a number of high-performing jurisdictions (HPJs) as case studies. Consideration of the education and assessment systems of HPJs around the world has become a strategy of some interest during education reform and/or development. However, it has been noted that when doing so, societal and cultural features of the jurisdictions need to be considered (e.g. Elliott and Phuong-Mai, 2008; Alexander, 2010; Oates, 2010; Barber, Donnelly and Rizvi, 2012). The effects of a particular educational system may well be influenced by such factors, and as a result the system of one jurisdiction will not necessarily transfer the educational and achievement benefits if simply replicated in the jurisdiction undergoing change.

    This article has been written using various secondary sources such as relevant articles, books and reports, newspaper articles, blog posts and other online material. A number of researchers have previously summarised and analysed the features of HPJs, including some of the cultural factors, to identify the possible reasons for the high achievements of students (at least on some of the measures that have been influential, such as PISA, TIMSS and PIRLS). Such work, key examples being the work of the Center on International Education Benchmarking and the Organisation for Economic Development (OECD) produced book Lessons from PISA for the United States: Strong Performers and Successful Reformers in Education, was particularly useful to the current article.

    Six jurisdictions were chosen as the focus for this exploration of cultural and societal factors. The focus jurisdictions were: Alberta (Canada), Shanghai (China), Hong Kong, Singapore,Victoria (Australia), and New Zealand. A few additional jurisdictions for which cultural issues of interest were also noted during the literature review for this article are also mentioned briefly.

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  • Examining the impact of tiered examinations on the aspirations of young people

    Benton, T. (2014). Examining the impact of tiered examinations on the aspirations of young people. Research Matters: A Cambridge Assessment publication, 17, 42-46.

    Tiered examinations are commonly employed within GCSE examinations in the UK. They are intended to ensure that the difficulties of exam papers are correctly tailored to the ability of the candidates taking them; this should ensure more accurate measurements and also a better experience for candidates as they do not spend time addressing questions that are either too easy or too difficult given their level of skill. However, tiered examinations have also been criticised for potentially damaging the aspirations of young people entered for lower tier examinations by placing a limit on the grades they can achieve. This article explores the extent of the link between GCSE entry tier and aspirations and also investigates the extent to which this link can be explained by differences in achievement and background characteristics of pupils.

    The research makes use of data available from the Longitudinal Study of Young People in England (LSYPE) linked to information available from the National Pupil Database (NPD) regarding the qualifications achieved by pupils and also their entry tier at GCSE. Analysis was completed using a combination of multilevel modelling and propensity score matching and showed that differences in aspirations between pupils entering different tiers can almost entirely be explained by differences in background characteristics.

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  • Education and Neuroscience

    Dhawan, V. (2014). Education and Neuroscience. Research Matters: A Cambridge Assessment publication, 17, 46-55.

    This study aimed to explore how recent developments in neuroscience (the study of the structure and functioning of the brain) might affect the fields of education and test development in the future. The study investigated some of the potential areas of application as well as limitations of neuroscience in education. The article also contains a brief summary of the application of neuroscience in some other areas: marketing and advertising, health, psychology and politics.

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  • Book announcement: Validity in Educational and Psychological Assessment

    Newton, P. and Shaw, S. (2014). Book announcement: Validity in Educational and Psychological Assessment. Research Matters: A Cambridge Assessment publication, 17, 55-58.

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  • Research News

    Barden, K. (2014). Research News. Research Matters: A Cambridge Assessment publication, 17, 58-59.

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

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  • Statistical reports

    The Research Division (2014). Statistical reports. Research Matters: A Cambridge Assessment publication, 17, 60.

    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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