Leading research

Leading research

Goldilocks eating porridge

Each and every learner benefits from our research, which is at the heart of all our qualifications and education programmes. Once again this year our research made headlines both here in the UK and abroad. Virtually every UK national newspaper covered research by Tom Benton from our Research Division into how many students might get a ‘clean sweep’ of GCSEs graded 9. His prediction that between 200 and 900 might get eight or more grade 9s proved to be accurate, with the England exams regulator confirming that 732 got seven or more grade 9s across all reformed subjects.

There was widespread coverage too for research by Dr Benton into how much students should write in GCSE and A Level exams to gain the best marks. He found a kind of ‘Goldilocks effect’ in that students should neither write too much nor too little. One teacher, Alex Quigley, Director of Learning and Research at Huntington School in York, paid tribute to the research, saying that it was an “excellent and useful” guide for teachers and students which was “full of fascinating insights”.

Our researchers presented at a number of major conferences held throughout the year. These included the European Conference on Educational Research (held in Copenhagen, Denmark, in August 2017); the British Educational Research Association conference (held in Brighton, UK, in September 2017); the International Association for Educational Assessment conference (held in Batumi, Georgia, in October 2017); and the Association for Educational Assessment – Europe conference (held in Prague, Czech Republic, in November 2017).

Our people also presented at a number of major edtech events throughout the year. These included OEB Global (Online Educa Berlin) in December 2017 and SXSW (South by Southwest) held in March 2018 in Texas, USA.

In addition, the Cambridge Assessment Network, our training and professional development division, staged three major seminars featuring leading figures in the field of education. The first was in October 2017 and featured education explorer Lucy Crehan. Lucy, whose book Cleverlands chronicles her experiences observing the best educational practice around the world, talked about how there are three key features of the world’s top-performing education systems: teacher collaboration; additional support; and mastery curricula and approach.

Our second seminar, in March 2018, saw computer scientist Simon Peyton Jones and teacher trainer Miles Berry talk about Project Quantum, an initiative which gives teachers and students access to a vast bank of multiple-choice questions to use in teaching computing, a subject that in England is now taught to every child, at every level from primary onwards. The project is the result of collaboration between Microsoft, Google, leading UK technology firm ARM Holdings, as well as Cambridge Assessment and Durham University’s Centre for Evaluation and Monitoring.

Bill Schmidt 150 px

The third seminar was held in May and saw one of the leading thinkers on international comparisons in education call on countries to avoid the “silly notion” that there is a “holy grail” when it comes to system improvement. In his talk – in fact the first lecture to be held at our new global headquarters, Triangle – Professor William H Schmidt (pictured left) pointed to Finland as an example of where policy borrowing should have been avoided. He said if policy makers wanted to learn lessons from the best, they should look at the deeper common characteristics of those countries that are continuously at or near the top of international rankings, such as Japan, Singapore and Korea.


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