Trusted experts

Trusted experts

a teacher talking to two primary aged children

This year saw us stage the inaugural Summit of Education, in which we brought together education practitioners, policymakers and thought leaders from around the world to debate the future of learning. University of Cambridge Vice-Chancellor Stephen Toope opened the day of discussions, workshops and expos. Delegates who had travelled from as far afield as Australia and Argentina then heard keynote speeches from Rose Luckin, UCL Professor of Learner Centred Design, Geoff Stead, Chief Product Officer at Babbel, and Usha Goswami, Professor of Cognitive Developmental Neuroscience at the University of Cambridge. Wide-ranging topics included the impact of artificial intelligence on learning, Curriculum 2040 and game-based learning. A varied assortment of expos occupied delegates in the afternoon, hosted by organisations including the microprocessor firm Arm, Jaguar Land Rover and onscreen marking and moderation company RM Results. The day ended with a speech by Dr Hannah Fry, an Associate Professor at UCL who has made a number of critically acclaimed BBC documentaries.

The Summit helped mark the start of a varied and extensive worldwide event programme, attended by researchers and education professionals from across Cambridge Assessment. These included the European Conference on Educational Research held at the University of Hamburg in Germany, the British Educational Research Association conference held in Manchester, the Association for Educational Assessment – Europe conference held in Lisbon, Portugal and the Association for Science Education conference at the University of Reading in England, among many others.

Our leading assessment expertise is sustained by our research capability. A big focus for the research programme this year, working closely with our UK exam board OCR, was accessibility. A number of our researchers, including Filio Constantinou, Victoria Crisp and Sylwia Macinska, were engaged on work looking at how to improve accessibility, whether through language or question and test design.

Our Assessment Research and Development (ARD) division worked closely with colleagues across Cambridge Assessment to develop a tool for doing Comparative Judgement (CJ), a method sometimes proposed as an alternative to traditional marking. The CJ tool has formed the basis of a series of trials by OCR and ARD and it is now looking like it could be increasingly important if examiner judgement has a more dominant role in setting grade boundaries in autumn 2020 and beyond.

We also continued our unique research into how school students’ writing in exams has changed over the decades. The latest phase of our Aspects of Writing study was published in late 2016 but in early 2020 Filio Constantinou and Lucy Chambers shared further research in this area. The study, published in the journal ‘Language and Education’, showed that the use of non-standard/dialectal English in 16-year-old students’ formal exam writing has increased over time, a trend mainly affecting low-attaining students.

Many of the research studies conducted over the course of the year had relevance beyond the assessment world, such as Dr Irenka Suto and colleagues’ work on error, which draws on the fields of aviation and medicine. Dr Suto also worked with Gill Elliott and Emma Walland on another topical area – presentation anxiety – which it is hoped will prove useful to organisations and individuals in opening up discussion about an area which is sometimes ignored.

An important development this year was the decision to join together with Cambridge University Press on our successful education reform work. The Cambridge Partnership for Education brings together our understanding and expertise in education reform, supported by the collective knowledge and global network of the University of Cambridge. The new unified team can better support governments and educational organisations around the world as they seek to address the huge challenges around equity and access that have been exposed and made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic, with the aim that everyone has the education they need to achieve their goals and find their place in a modern, inclusive society.

In January 2020 we attended the world’s biggest gathering of education ministers – the Education World Forum (EWF) – as one single Cambridge unit comprised of representatives from Cambridge Assessment English, Cambridge Assessment International Education, Cambridge University Press and the University of Cambridge Faculty of Education. The theme of this year's conference was ‘One generation – what does it take to transform education?’ and Jane Mann, Managing Director, Cambridge Partnership for Education, took part in a panel session on 'Learning Poverty'. EWF coincided with the formal launch of the Learning Passport project in which education experts from Cambridge Assessment, Cambridge University Press and the University of Cambridge joined forces with UNICEF and Microsoft Corporation to help millions of children and young people facing barriers to learning because of poverty, discrimination, conflict and disaster. Speaking at the launch, Jane said: “We know that education is the most powerful long-term solution to poverty, to conflict, and many of the issues facing the world today. The Learning Passport will help keep children’s education alive while they cannot access anything else.”

For many years our experts have regularly shared their expertise at the leading UK public policy forum, Westminster Education Forum (WEdF) and this year saw our UK exam board OCR take over core sponsorship. During the year our people appeared at a number of WEdF and associated events, including one on Maths teaching in England at which Lynne McClure, Director of Cambridge Mathematics, and Sylke Scheiner, Director of Assessment at OCR, both spoke, and one in July on primary assessment in England at which Cambridge Assessment’s Group Director of Assessment Research and Development Tim Oates CBE gave a keynote speech.

Andrew Watts, the former Director of the Cambridge Assessment Network, gave a seminar in November on the history of exams in England, focusing in particular on why a policy to abolish external exams for 16-year-olds – the precursors to O Levels and GCSEs – was never carried out. Mr Watts, who is a tutor on the Assessment Network’s Postgraduate Certificate in Educational Assessment and Examinations, argued that the reasons included a lack of a convincing alternative to exams and a lack of contemporary political support.

Cambridge English and ALTE – the Association of Language Testers in Europe – have long supported the European Day of Languages and celebrated in 2019 in the Sala del Cenacolo in the Chamber of Deputies in the heart of Rome, Italy. The seminar, hosted in collaboration with Senator Michela Montevecchi and Member of Parliament Alessandro Fusacchia, considered how clear standards and mutual recognition of language qualifications can encourage and support the learning of a wider range of languages, and enhance the educational and professional opportunities of Italians across Europe and beyond.

In March Cambridge International published the findings of its first ever Cambridge Global Perspectives survey of students worldwide. More than 11,000 students aged 13 to 19 took part and shared their views on global issues. The research found that almost a third are not getting the opportunity to learn about subjects such as climate change. Almost all students who took part in the survey said that they believed it is important to learn about global issues in school.

a woman looking at paintings at the Rising Tide exhibition

Over the course of the year Cambridge Assessment was delighted to sponsor The Rising Tide: Women at Cambridge, a collection of exhibitions, events, and displays exploring the past, present, and future of women at Cambridge. Marking 150 years since the founding of Cambridge’s first women’s college, Girton, the exhibition was initially held at the Milstein Exhibition Centre at the Cambridge University Library and then continued to be held as a virtual tour. Coinciding as it did with national lockdowns, the virtual nature of the event enabled many more people to participate in this important chronicling of history. As part of its sponsorship, Cambridge Assessment also enabled a series of online workshops attended by people of different ages, backgrounds and professions.

Cambridge Assessment also sponsored the LEAD 5050 Women in Education Awards 2019, held in Berlin. Now in their third year, the awards recognise and celebrate the achievements of inspirational women worldwide as well as gender and non-conforming individuals, men and organisations who have shown exceptional commitment to gender equality in the workplace.

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