Research Matters 28

Contents

04 November 2019

  • Research Matters 28 - Foreword

    Oates, T. (2019). Foreword. Research Matters: A Cambridge Assessment publication, 28, 1.

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  • Research Matters 28 - Editorial

    Bramley, T. (2019). Editorial. Research Matters: A Cambridge Assessment publication, 28, 1.

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  • Which is better: one experienced marker or many inexperienced markers?

    Benton, T. (2019). Which is better: one experienced marker or many inexperienced markers? Research Matters: A Cambridge Assessment publication, 28, 2-10.

    For many practical purposes, it is often assumed that the quality of a marker is directly related to their seniority. At its extreme, the assumption is that the most senior marker (the Principal Examiner) is always right even in cases where large numbers of junior markers have a collectively different opinion regarding the mark that should be awarded to a given script. To investigate this assumption, this article compares the predictive value of marks provided by the most senior marker to those made by simply taking the mean mark awarded by many junior markers. Predictive value was estimated via the correlation of the scores assigned to scripts with the overall achievement of the same candidates in other exam papers taken within the same month. By looking at the relative predictive value of the two different sources of marks, we can begin to make some inferences about the extent to which senior markers are genuinely more accurate than their junior colleagues.

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  • "Learning Progressions": A historical and theoretical discussion

    Gallacher, T. and Johnson, M. (2019). "Learning progressions": A historical and theoretical discussion. Research Matters: A Cambridge Assessment publication, 28, 10-16.

    ‘Learning Progressions’ are a relatively recent approach that describe the progression that can be expected of learners through their education. A Learning Progressions framework can also be used to support teaching and learning, assessment, and curriculum design. To benefit teaching and learning, a Learning Progressions approach aims to provide detailed instruction on the optimal order for presenting material within a subject. To support assessment, a Learning Progressions approach aims to provide a framework for comparing different learners in order for the results of such comparisons to be useful for learners. To support curriculum design, a Learning Progressions approach aims to provide a method of refining the material presented to learners. This article outlines the specific theory of learning that underpins the Learning Progressions approach, and then explores a series of simplifications that are inherent to it, to evaluate the suitability of the Learning Progressions approach for supporting the design aims outlined above.

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  • The impact of A Level subject choice and students' background characteristics on Higher Education participation

    Vidal Rodeiro, C. (2019). The impact of A Level subject choice and students' background characteristics on Higher Education participation. Research Matters: A Cambridge Assessment publication, 28, 17-26.

    Policy makers and the general public have become increasingly concerned about the extent to which different qualifications/subjects prepare young people for Higher Education. Despite policy efforts and claims of equivalence, progression might differ depending on the qualifications/subjects studied, even after controlling for background characteristics.

    In England, the principal measure of academic attainment for 18 year-olds is the A Level. Choosing A Levels, however, is not straightforward as some subjects are seen as providing better grounding for Higher Education than others. Furthermore, many courses require particular subjects and there is a disparity in the attitudes of admissions staff towards certain A Levels. 

    This research provides a better understanding of how useful A Level subjects are for gaining admission to Higher Education. In particular, it investigated the A Levels (and combinations of A Levels) that students who enrolled in Higher Education institutions in 2016/17 took and how students’ background interacted with their A Level choices to influence the type of Higher Education institution attended. 

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  • Studying English and Mathematics at Level 2 post-16: issues and challenges

    Ireland, J. (2019). Studying English and Mathematics at Level 2 post-16: issues and challenges. Research Matters: A Cambridge Assessment publication, 28, 26-33.

    The view of the government in England is that good English and mathematics knowledge is key to employment and education prospects. Students who do not achieve a GCSE grade 4 or above in these subjects must continue to study English and mathematics alongside their chosen post-16 studies. This article outlines the background to this situation, then brings together findings from research literature on the challenges and issues faced by students and teachers affected by this requirement. Focusing on GCSE resits and Functional Skills qualifications, the article identifies ways in which post-16 students and teachers can be supported and whether their support needs differ according to the qualification students are working towards.

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  • Methods used by teachers to predict final A Level grades for their students

    Gill, T. (2019). Methods used by teachers to predict final A Level grades for their students. Research Matters: A Cambridge Assessment publication, 28, 33-42.

    This research used a survey to investigate how Chemistry, English Literature and Psychology teachers go about the process of estimating their students’ A level grades. There are a variety of different sources of information available to help teachers, including statistically based predictions (e.g., ALIS), performance in previous assessments (e.g., GCSEs) or in-class assessments, and their own judgements of students’ motivation, interest and resilience.  Teachers were also asked to provide grade estimates for their current A level students and these were then compared with actual grades to provide an indication of accuracy. Follow up interviews were undertaken to elicit more detail about the process of making estimates, and to ask teachers about specific students who either under or over-performed compared to their estimate.  


    The results will be discussed in the context of recent reforms to A levels (e.g., de-coupling of AS levels), which are likely to have had an impact on how teachers make their estimates and how accurate they are.  

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  • Research News

    Beauchamp, D. (2019). Research News. Research Matters: A Cambridge Assessment publication, 28, 43-44.

    A summary of recent conferences and seminars, Statistics Reports, Data Bytes, and research articles published since the last issue of Research Matters.

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Data Bytes

A regular series of graphics from our research team, highlighting the latest research findings and trends in education and assessment.