Talking assessment with confidence and clarity

by The Assessment Network, 10 August 2021
Mexico

Rosalia Valero is the Strategic Development Head for the Americas Region, Cambridge Assessment English. After beginning her career in teaching and training, she moved to the British Council where she became an Examination Services Manager. In 2004 she started with Cambridge and has had a variety of roles managing Professional Support and Assessment Services. We spoke to her about her career path and why developing a greater understanding of assessment theory through Cambridge Assessment Network’s online A10 courses and Practitioner Workshops has helped her to ‘fall in love again’ with what she sells.

Rosalia Valero

I usually say, 'once a teacher always a teacher'. I love teaching and training, so supporting continuous professional development is one of the things I enjoy doing the most. In my current role I work mainly with governments in this region to help them with projects like benchmarking of public education, professional support for teachers in the public sector or helping them revise their national curriculum.

When we have something to say about why you can rely on the exams we are offering – the validity and reliability of our exams. How do we translate that to everyday English - or everyday Spanish as is the case in Mexico?

I’m in a role where I support lots of different activities because I’ve had different professional incarnations in the world of English language teaching. I actively participate in business development and selling our exams. I also support marketing in the way of communication. For example, when we have something to say about why you can rely on the exams we are offering - the validity and reliability of them, how do we translate that to everyday English - or everyday Spanish as is the case in Mexico?

I also work to see how we can support educational institutions or ministries by way of providing assessment they can trust, and how that can make a significant difference. For example if it's a ministry, I can show them how they are spending their funding and why it is it is a good thing to do this instead of doing something else.

Assessment – talking the talk

I talk about assessment a lot but I have to be ready to do so for different kinds of audiences. Because you can be talking about the same exam and why it's a good exam and why it's important to take that exam - but it's not the same language when you talk to people from the Ministry, to Head teachers, to Teachers, or to Parents or to Candidates. It might be the same message but you have to put it in a different way according to the context and the audience.

I know why our exams are absolutely top quality, but now I really understand the how much more. What makes our exams fantastic, how we make sure that they are fantastic, how we monitor everything.

When I saw the Cambridge Assessment Network courses being offered, I said this is a great opportunity for me to develop more street credibility, because I work for an assessment organisation. So in many cases - especially when I have new contacts at a Ministry or with an educational network, the fact that I work at Cambridge Assessment English means they tend to think I am an expert when it comes to assessment. 

When I started at Cambridge I knew about assessment and testing in general because that's what I studied at University, but I had never really become a specialist. And I don't think that I will become a specialist. But after taking the courses things make much more sense to me now.

I know why our exams are absolutely top quality, but now I really understand the how much more. What makes our exams fantastic, how we make sure that they are fantastic, how we monitor everything. I can understand the process better and in that way I can talk about it feeling much more confident. 

So the self-confidence level has gone way up I think and I enjoy it because (and this may sound a bit corny) it was a little bit like falling in love again with what I sell. I knew this was a great organisation because it does great things, but now I really understand why.

New insights: Becoming a student again

The fact that we have so many wonderful opportunities for continuous professional development working at Cambridge Assessment is absolutely great. For me it's a big thing that I can make the most of the courses now that they are online. Sometimes the Assessment Practitioner Workshops are really very early in the morning in Mexico, I think they usually start at six am. But it doesn't matter, I have my coffee near me and I listen to and work with all these wonderful colleagues!

I interact not just with colleagues who are taking the same workshop but also with people from different countries in the world. So it's been an amazing opportunity and I’ve been enjoying it so much. I really don't mind getting up very early because I think it's a unique opportunity and I really want to make the most of it.

I feel so humble when I’m taking these courses and I’ve been having a great time because I’ve become a student again. 

I have also been absolutely amazed by how supportive the other people taking the course are. I have had the experience of being on courses online where people were sort of selfish or even rude with their comments. But I have found the atmosphere here is really very good because it really encourages you to interact with people. 

I feel so humble when I’m taking these courses and I’ve been having a great time because I’ve become a student again. 

On one of the Assessment Practitioner Workshops, the tutor was so good and so open, we asked about 150 questions in just an hour and a half! And that was after listening to everything that he was saying. It was absolutely fantastic.

I have to say when it comes to studying I tend to get on with it on my own and I have my own pace. But the other people are so patient and everybody is so willing to help and to contribute. So I’m actually grateful that I have a group with everyone sharing their experiences. You can see that they have a great amount of knowledge. I have been able to learn from the different perspectives, so I have really enjoyed that very much.

Reflection: When it comes to assessment - there’s a lot to learn!

One of the things I have really come to understand is that when it comes to assessment, there's a lot to learn.

In my work I deal specifically with the assessment of English as a foreign language, so what I understand now is about testing English – but that doesn’t mean I understand everything that there is to do about assessing other things. So it's really made me understand that the more you learn, the more you realise there's a lot more to things than you first expect. 

When I talk to people now I feel I can explain things in a clearer way, and in a way that’s easier for our potential clients to understand. 

I always say, ‘I’m not the one who will be creating this benchmarking resource for you, I’m not the one who will be revising your curriculum, we have experts in those subjects'. But I think that they feel that I understand what that involves and why I respect the work that my colleagues do.

Looking at assessment with more clarity and confidence

I don't think at this moment I have fully developed an ‘assessment persona’ as it were. I think I’m just hungry to learn more! I think I am in the process of developing one. In many ways I’ve just started. 

I started from a very general point of view and now I’m looking at things with more clarity. If anything I think I have become a better learner and somebody who can understand assessment more confidently.

I currently support the Mexico team in the role of assessment services, which could be described as an academic specialist. When they have questions on our Cambridge English Qualifications, I am the person they can come to in this sub-region in the Americas.

I started from a very general point of view and now I’m looking at things with more clarity. If anything I think I have become a better learner and somebody who can understand assessment more confidently.

I also present and deliver webinars where I talk about assessment to people who are Teachers or Language Coordinators or Heads of Language departments at Universities and Schools. I enjoy that role very much and I feel much more confident ever since I started taking the courses and the workshops.

So if I talk for example about the how we use artificial intelligence in marking, now that I understand more, I think people can see that it is a topic that I enjoy and I’m not just reading a script that somebody else wrote for me.

This is part of a new series of stories about our assessment practitioner community. Some of the themes here can be explored further in our assessment professional learning framework, a statement about what we think meaningful professional learning in assessment looks like and how it can be achieved. It provides a structure for thinking about how we can ensure positive impacts of professional learning and how they can be measured.

Something as important as assessment benefits from sharing perspectives, exchanging ideas and debating the latest thinking. As the Assessment Network, we want to bring assessment practitioners together to share greater understanding. Why not join us?

Before you go... Did you find this article on Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook? Remember to go back and share it with your friends and colleagues!

Related blogs

Key bloggers

Saul Nasse Blogger
Saul Nassé

Group Chief Executive, Cambridge Assessment 2018 - 21

Tim Oates Blogger
Tim Oates

Group Director of Assessment and Research