Postgraduate Advanced Certificate in Educational Assessment

Postgraduate Advanced Certificate in Educational Assessment

Speakers: Cambridge Assessment and the University of Cambridge Faculty of Education
Date: 30 Sep 2020 - 31 Dec 2021 Venue: Faculty of Education,
University of Cambridge
184 Hills Road Cambridge CB2 8PQ
Type: One year part-time course Fee: TBC

The 'Postgraduate Advanced Certificate in Educational Assessment' is a 15 month, part-time course worth 90 credits at Master's level (Level 7). It is taught through a mix of online learning and four Saturday Day Schools in Cambridge. The course is led collaboratively by experts from Cambridge Assessment and the University of Cambridge Faculty of Education. 

I’ve learnt a huge amount on assessment and now have an appreciation of complexities that I didn’t have before. It has impacted on my own use of assessment in the classroom."

The PGCA is valuable for all professionals wishing to develop their understanding of educational assessment and its evaluation. It may be of particular interest to those working for awarding organisations, professional institutions, teachers, examiners and assessors, HE professionals and regulatory authorities. 

The Postgraduate Certificate is a practice-based qualification and is designed to directly impact your work as you learn to apply various research methodologies to your professional context. At the end of the course you'll be awarded a University of Cambridge Postgraduate Certificate in Educational Studies (PACES) worth 90 credits at Master's Level (Level 7). Upon successful completion of the course, students will be eligible to apply to undertake the part-time Master of Education (MEd) in just one year if they wish to do so. The PPD and MEd parts must be completed within 5 years of starting the PPD course.

As a course participant, you'll develop an in-depth understanding of assessment in a supportive academic environment, and benefit from working on small scale enquiries that are relevant to your own professional practice. You'll also learn from other students, and build networks from beyond your specialist areas of expertise.

Course overview

Each student takes three units in total. Units 1 and 3 are taken by all students. Unit 2 offers a choice for students, depending on their particular professional interest. Students select one of these units to study before the course commences. A summary of the units is provided in the table below:

Unit title Unit period Number of teaching weeks
Unit 1 - Principles of Assessment October 2020 - January 2021 10
Unit 2 - Option A - Assessment design and evaluation January 2021 - May 2021 12
Unit 2 - Option B - Assessment for learning January 2021 - May 2021 12
Unit 3 - Issues and debates in assessment September 2020 - November 2020 10

How you'll learn

This is a part-time course with a mix of online learning and four Saturday Day Schools, held at the Faculty of Education in Cambridge. Included in the course are six tutor-led online Research Methods sessions.

You'll explore the assessment literature, adopting an analytic and critical approach, conferring with colleagues and experts at interactive and structured input sessions at the Saturday Day Schools. You will also have opportunities to share, reflect and try out your new understanding at work through course assignments.

The Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) provides the course materials and you'll work with your colleagues there throughout the course. The rich environment of the online forums is a key part of this programme.

Get a taste of online learning and try a free course sample.

Learning outcomes

As a course participant you'll develop:

  • An in-depth understanding of key concepts and issues within the field of educational assessment.
  • A critical and reflective approach to academic enquiry on issues of educational assessment.
  • The ability to link collected data and theoretical perspectives in assessment in order to make new insights
  • Understanding and skills related to research methods, including critical awareness of methodological issues, ethical principles and data collection methods
  • The ability to evaluate the impact of research enquiry on their own professional context 
  • Skills in planning, organisation and academic writing.

As an employer you will:

  • Support your staff through accredited CPD, engaging with experts
  • Gain staff who have a deep, wide-ranging and evidence-based understanding of educational assessment

Supervision offered

There are three methods of teaching for each of the course Units.

Online learning – each Unit for the course has weekly materials and activities to support students in their learning. Each unit has a dedicated Unit Tutor, who provides guidance for students in how to get the most out of the course materials and activities. The Unit Tutor facilitates forum discussions through the virtual learning environment (VLE). For some weeks of the course, students will also be supported by a Research Methods Tutor.

Day schools – the course has four day schools that are hosted at the Faculty of Education. Each unit will have one day school which will take place early on in the Unit, with the exception of Unit 1, which will have two consecutive day school days. 

The provisional dates for the day schools for the 20/21 academic year are given below:

  • Friday 2 October 2020
  • Saturday 3 October 2020
  • Saturday 6 February 2021
  • Saturday 4 September 2021

The day schools are an enriching learning experience, where students are able to hear from, and debate with, eminent academics in the educational assessment field. Students also engage in small group activities to build on their learning from the online part of the course, and receive support and guidance related to their assignments. 

Supervision – each student is given a supervisor for each unit assignment. Supervisors provide support for each stage of the assignment writing process. They give guidance on developing an effective assignment title, offer feedback on draft versions of assignments, and provide written feedback on submitted work.

Course teaching is led by a teaching team of staff from the Faculty of Education and Cambridge Assessment. The team is chaired by Dr Ayesha Ahmed.

Assessment methods

Assessment comprises three 4000 word assignments – one for each unit.

  • Unit 1 – a critical review of the literature regarding a validity issue that is relevant to the professional context of the student (3500 words), plus a critical reflection of their learning from Unit 1 (notional 500 words).
  • Unit 2 - a ‘practical’ assignment related to the student’s professional context.
  • Unit 3 – a report of a small-scale research enquiry. The enquiry undertaken will focus on an issue of professional or personal interest related to the course content and is informed by the student’s study of research methods.

For each unit, feedback on assignment drafts and final submissions is provided by the supervisor.

Entry requirements

As part of their application, prospective students should evidence that they:

  • Have relevant experience of working in an education or related professional setting.
  • Demonstrate a reflective and enquiring approach to their work which supports improvement in professional practice and/or policy.
  • Demonstrate the ability to work independently and collaboratively with the support of Faculty supervision.
  • Demonstrate a willingness and ability to engage with academic and professional literature that will support empirical and/or literature-based enquiry into policy and/or practice.

It should be noted that Accredited Prior Learning (APL) (i.e. credits gained from other institutions) are not accepted to gain accelerated entry to the PPD programme, although these credits can be considered as part of an applicant’s entry qualifications to support the application, if considered relevant.

How to enrol

This course is part of the University of Cambridge Faculty of Education's, Practitioner Professional Development Programme (PPD) and is worth 90 credits.

Visit the Faculty of Education website to read more about the course and to make your application.

The application deadline for 2020/2021 is Monday 1 June 2020. If you have a question about the course please get in touch with thenetwork@cambridgeassessment.org.uk.

184 Hills Road Cambridge CB2 8PQ
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PGCA Course Directors Ayesha and Simon, together with alumna Caroline talk about the PGCA and answer commonly asked questions in this new video

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“I've had a really enjoyable experience on this course - in so many ways. I've gained knowledge for professional benefit but also so much personal confidence.”


Through reflection and practice, my understanding of assessment has moved from theoretical to implicit, working knowledge.”

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