Tim Oates launches the Cambridge Approach to Textbooks

06 April 2016

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On 28 April 2016Tim Oates CBE, Group Director for Assessment Research and Development at Cambridge Assessment, will launch the ‘Cambridge Approach to Textbooks’. This set of criteria is in direct response to his identification of "England’s need to restore the primacy of ‘real’ textbooks worldwide". This follows on from the 'Cambridge Assessment Approach to Assessment' published in 2009.

The publication follows the need identified in the paper Mr Oates delivered at the November 2014 Publishers Association Conference. ‘Why Textbooks Count’, with a foreword by Minister of State for Schools Nick Gibb MP, looked at the best systems around the world. In his speech Oates warned that England had been overtaken by the highest-performing education systems, partly because they value textbooks so highly. The paper claimed that classroom teachers are not to blame for the problem; instead it highlighted an opposition to textbooks among many theory-based educationalists, as well as a failure of the market in England. Tim explained that textbooks have been largely abandoned in favour of the use of ‘worksheets’ and “myopic" exam-based books, in stark contrast to places such as Singapore, Finland and Shanghai, where high-quality textbooks are a key part of the classroom, supporting learners and teachers alike.

Since then Cambridge Assessment researchers, in collaboration with education specialists around the world, have carried out an extensive transnational study of high-quality materials to develop our Approach to textbooks (including allied learning resources). The analysis showed that high-quality learning materials have played a key role in the improvement of education arrangements and in sustaining quality. Even when apparently simple in form, learning materials carry complex functions – from ensuring transmission of best practice, to encouraging effective acquisition and development of key ideas by learners. The Cambridge Approach is laid out as a series of criteria and questions. They aim to support publishers in reflecting on those things which should be considered when materials are being conceived, commissioned, and developed.

Live launch

Tim will present ‘The Cambridge Approach to Textbooks’ live from Westminster, London on the morning of Thursday 28 April 2016. He will be joined by leading experts in the field to help depict how the role of textbooks and allied learning resources has developed here in the UK and internationally. This will be accompanied by discussion and debate with the attending senior education experts and online, via a live-streamed video. 

Watch the Cambridge Approach to Textbooks

Read the Cambridge Approach to Textbooks

The Cambridge Approach to Assessment

In 2009 Cambridge Assessment published the ‘Cambridge Approach to Assessment’ which set out the principles forming the key reference points for the design, administration and evaluation of our assessments. It both reflected the best practice in assessment that we seek to follow as an organisation and acted as a practical guide for those involved in the development of new assessments. This Approach was highly endorsed externally by Gordon Stobart, Emeritus Professor of Education at the University of London Institute of Education and by Robert Mislevy, Professor Emeritus of Measurement and Statistics at the University of Maryland for its focus on validity and reliability.  Professor Mislevy commented that it put us ‘at the front of the curve’ in thinking on these important issues.

Related materials

The Cambridge Approach to Textbooks

The Cambridge Approach to Textbooks cover

Principles for designing high-quality textbooks and resource materials

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