In June we celebrated a year since our joint acquisition with Cambridge University Press of Durham University’s renowned Centre for Evaluation and Monitoring (CEM). Used by education professionals for over 30 years in over 70 countries, CEM is one of the largest and longest established providers of formative assessments for children of all ages, from early years to post 16.
Despite the challenge of COVID-19 restrictions, CEM successfully completed a move from their old Durham offices to a new home in Gateshead. The new Baltic Place offices, located on the banks of the historic River Tyne, encompass a similar open-plan, agile and collaborative work environment to our global headquarters Triangle, and will enable colleagues at CEM to better support customers.
And indeed, CEM has been well placed to support educators during COVID-19, holding a series of webinars as well as individual consultations to help teachers. Most importantly, they actively collaborated with colleagues across Cambridge Assessment and Cambridge University Press on helping teachers and learners with back-to-school plans. For teachers who faced disruption to teaching and learning routines, knowing precisely where all students were starting from as they returned to the classroom was invaluable, and that is where CEM’s baseline assessments have come into play.
While schools around the world closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we recognised that it was difficult for students to practise new language skills.
When schools worldwide began closing, Cambridge International was quick to develop resources to support remote teaching and learning, including webinars, podcasts, and online training. The Chinese version of a webinar on remote teaching had over 39,000 live attendees in February, highlighting the demand for knowledge. An online forum was also set up to enable teachers to learn from each other’s experiences as the pandemic spread.
Meanwhile Cambridge Assessment English offered a range of materials and resources for teachers and students to support them during the global pandemic. This included the free and award-winning Teaching English Online course with FutureLearn that is designed to help teachers transfer their existing teaching skills to the online environment.
Cambridge English also brought together a range of resources to help teachers quickly access the materials they need to continue supporting their students and adapt to new ways of teaching. These are available at all levels, starting with young learners and include exam preparation materials, webinars, support packs for teachers and free teaching resources.
While schools around the world closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we recognised that it was difficult for students to practise new language skills. Cambridge English therefore teamed up with the game-based learning platform Kahoot! to launch a series of online games to support and engage young learners in developing basic English language skills. We know that language fluency is more challenging to acquire as children grow older, so these games helped parents and teachers avoid delays in children’s learning.
We know that language fluency is more challenging to acquire as children grow older, so we launched a series of online games to help parents and teachers avoid delays in children’s learning.
And the concept that you are never too young to start learning English helped inspire a partnership with the team behind Pocoyó, a cartoon character known to children the world over. The videos aimed at children from two to six years old stimulate their curiosity through smart games and simple activities that have been specially designed by Cambridge English to help young children learn.
At the same time, working with Cambridge University Press English Language Teaching (ELT), Cambridge English reached over two million users with free, online content to support teachers and learners to meet the huge challenges posed by the global pandemic.
Despite this being a challenging year, exam centres, preparation centres, teachers and parents all pulled together to keep learning going. This helped to resume exams when restrictions were lifted and when it was safe to do so.
Our UK exam board OCR actively supported a year-long review into malpractice and the UK exams system commissioned by the membership organisation, the Joint Council for Qualifications. The report was published in September 2019 and found that the system is robust and that relatively little malpractice occurs. Nevertheless, it recommended a number of areas for improvement to further minimise incidents of malpractice, which are now being taken forward.
In late July came the news that our training and professional development division, Cambridge Assessment Network, had been awarded accreditation from a leading industry body. The ‘gold standard’ dual accreditation from the CPD Standards Office recognises the Network as a Provider of Training Excellence with an offering of fully CPD-accredited assessment training activities.
Earlier in the year the Assessment Network launched two new online courses following successful pilots: A103: Introducing Data Literacy and A104: Psychometrics in Educational Assessment. A103 is designed to help learners make greater use of assessment data and understanding the basics of managing, reading and interpreting data, while A104 is designed to help learners expand what they know about assessment analysis in order to ensure tests are reliable, valid and fair. Both courses build on the continuing success of the original courses – A101: Introducing the Principles of Assessment and A102: Introducing Assessment Practice and were developed with help from statisticians, psychometricians and data scientists from across Cambridge Assessment.
The Assessment Network also announced this year how its popular Postgraduate Advanced Certificate in Educational Assessment (PGCA), run in partnership with the University of Cambridge Faculty of Education, was evolving from 2020. The course will now see participants gain 90 credits at Master's Level rather than the previous 60, and as well as being a larger qualification the PGCA will now run for 15 months part-time, with the majority of learning taking place online.
COVID-19 restrictions meant that the Assessment Network’s two leadership programmes, the Cambridge International Study Programme and Leadership in National Assessment, had to be put on hold but they will now hopefully be offered in 2022. But the year did see the successful staging of a bespoke leadership programme for delegates from Pakistan’s Ministry of Education. The course gave the country’s education leaders a chance to hear from a range of experts on the role of large-scale assessment organisations and their place in the wider education context.
A variety of the Assessment Network’s face-to-face assessment training courses were also quickly moved online during COVID-19 restrictions, from understanding and optimising mark schemes to designing multiple-choice questions and writing good exam questions.
This year the theme of Cambridge International’s popular Cambridge Schools Conferences was ‘Evaluating impact: how effective is our school and classroom practice?’ CEM has particular expertise in this area, and colleagues were able to attend both conferences and share their knowledge. Cambridge played host to the first in the series in September, and Bali in Indonesia was chosen for the second in December, hot on the heels of an announcement by the country’s new education minister that he would place innovation and teacher development at the forefront of educational reforms. Both events attracted more than 400 education leaders and experts over the two days.
Cambridge English staged its China festival completely online following the outbreak of COVID-19. More than 15,000 people took part in the event, which looked at the future of language education and learning.
Meanwhile Cambridge English staged its China festival completely online following the outbreak of COVID-19. More than 15,000 people took part in the event, which looked at the future of language education and learning. Francesca Woodward, Chief Executive of Cambridge Assessment English, opened the conference, saying that while everyone had faced tremendous challenges and disruption due to COVID-19, we had seen inspiring collaboration in the sector that had helped education continue.
This year Cambridge English also continued to provide funding for ALTA, the Institute for Automated Language Teaching and Assessment at the University of Cambridge. The sponsorship enables a team of PhD students and post-doctoral researchers to undertake research within four key areas: language assessment, teaching feedback, adaptive learning and content creation.
Cambridge International partnered with Evidence Based Education, a UK-based professional development organisation, to produce the Great Teaching Toolkit: Evidence Review, released in June 2020. The researchers examined hundreds of pieces of evidence in order to highlight the common areas of professional development that have been proven, around the world, to have the potential to transform learning. Recognising that teachers have limited time and resource for professional development, the report aims to help them identify the areas they can work on that will have the most impact on learners’ outcomes.
Cambridge International’s US Higher Education Advisory Council continues to provide invaluable advice on the development of Cambridge International programmes, ensuring they continue to meet the needs of American universities. Now in its eleventh year, the council met formally in January in California, and included the sharing of research agendas and discussion of admissions policies. The council is made up of representatives from leading US universities, as well as members of Cambridge International’s Global Recognitions team. Just prior to the meeting, Cambridge International received its 700th statement from a US university confirming recognition of Cambridge qualifications.
Cambridge Assessment’s Higher Education Consultative Forum continued to meet termly, providing an opportunity for representatives of nearly 40 UK universities to exchange ideas about assessment, qualifications, and much wider education policies. Meeting this year in Cambridge, Birmingham, and then virtually, the forum represents an expansion of a long-established forum hosted by OCR which has been a key player in informing government policy.
Running alongside this consultation with higher education, most OCR subjects have a forum to bring together teachers and stakeholders from universities, initial teacher training providers, subject associations, museums, publishers and more. Forums meet once or twice a year and enable OCR to discuss the teacher and student experience of the new syllabuses, as well as teacher support, future plans and topical issues in the subject such as gender in science.
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