Research Matters 30

Contents

  • Research Matters 30 - Foreword

    Oates, T. (2020). Foreword. Research Matters: A Cambridge Assessment publication, 30, 1.

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  • Research Matters 30 - Editorial

    Bramley, T. (2020). Editorial. Research Matters: A Cambridge Assessment publication, 30, 1.

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  • A New Cambridge Assessment Archive Collection Exploring Cambridge English Exams in Germany and England in 1938

    Cooke, G. (2020). A New Cambridge Assessment Archive Collection Exploring Cambridge English Exams in Germany and England in 1938. Research Matters: A Cambridge Assessment publication, 30, 2-6.

    Based on an exceptional cache of documents charting Cambridge Assessment’s examinations in 1938, this article uncovers evidence of the board’s early, pioneering work with displaced learners. The newly discovered documents form part of an archive collection already catalogued, relating to the work of Jack Roach who was responsible for the Cambridge English Examinations before and during the Second World War. 

    In this article Group Archivist, Gillian Cooke takes a historiographical approach, drawing on each document in the collection to reveal the pressures and preoccupations of Roach in relation to his work with German Jewish candidates and the Cambridge English qualifications. The forces of an escalating international political crisis are shown to impact directly on examination candidates, teachers and centres as well as on the revision of existing qualifications and the development of new ones. The documents offer a unique glimpse at an extraordinary time in the history of Cambridge Assessment and how it responded to new challenges to examination standards.

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  • Perspectives on curriculum design: comparing the spiral and the network models

    Ireland, J. and Mouthaan, M. (2020). Perspectives on curriculum design: comparing the spiral and the network models. Research Matters: A Cambridge Assessment publication, 30, 7-12.

    Does one approach fit all when it comes to curriculum design? In debates on curriculum design, educators have argued that a curriculum model should take into account the differing knowledge structures of different subjects. Subjects such as maths and science are generally defined as well-structured knowledge domains, characterised by a linearity in learning objectives, and well-defined and predictable learning outcomes. Less structured subjects such as the arts and humanities could, however, benefit from models that encompass a different approach to learning. Two competing perspectives on curriculum design have emerged: the spiral model developed by Bruner in 1960, and non-linear models based on processes of learning in different knowledge domains. Research on curriculum design has tended to focus on the needs of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects. Many alternative models to the spiral have come from arts-based disciplines, in particular visual arts.

    This article contributes to the ongoing debate about curriculum design in different subjects. It details the key characteristics of Bruner’s spiral model, and presents the main arguments made in favour of adopting flexible and non-linear curriculum models in specific subjects. We discuss a number of alternatives to the spiral model and analyse the relative strengths and weaknesses of these different approaches. The conclusion offers a discussion of implications of our findings for further research in curriculum design.

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  • Context matters—Adaptation guidance for developing a local curriculum from an international curriculum framework

    Fitzsimons, S., Coleman, V., Greatorex, J., Salem, H., and Johnson, M. (2020). Context matters—Adaptation guidance for developing a local curriculum from an international curriculum framework. Research Matters: A Cambridge Assessment publication, 30, 12-18.

    The Learning Passport (LP) is a collaborative project between the University of Cambridge, UNICEF and Microsoft, which aims to support the UNICEF goal of providing quality education provision for children and youth whose education has been disrupted by crisis or disaster. A core component of this project is a curriculum framework for Mathematics, Science and Literacy which supports educators working in emergency contexts. This framework provides a broad outline of the essential content progressions that should be incorporated into a curriculum to support quality learning in each subject area, and is intended to act as a blueprint for localised curriculum development across a variety of contexts. To support educators in the development of this localised curriculum an LP Adaptation Guidance document was also created. This document provides guidance on several factors that local curriculum developers should consider before using the LP Curriculum Framework for their own curriculum development process. This article discusses how key areas within the LP Adaptation Guidance have broader relevance beyond education in emergencies, highlighting that the challenges that exist within some of the most deprived educational contexts have applicability in all contexts.

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  • Writing and reviewing assessment questions on-screen: issues and challenges

    Crisp. V. and Shaw, S., D. (2020). Writing and reviewing assessment questions on-screen: issues and challenges. Research Matters: A Cambridge Assessment publication, 30, 19-26.

    For assessment contexts where both a paper-based test and an on-screen assessment are available as alternatives, it is still common for the paper-based test to be prepared first with questions later transferred into an on-screen testing platform. One challenge with this is that some questions cannot be transferred. One solution might be for questions to be drafted into the on-screen testing platform and later converted for the paper-based test. This research investigated the issues that might arise if question writers drafted questions directly into the on-screen testing platform and if questions were reviewed directly in the platform.

    Six assessors with experience of setting and reviewing questions took part. After some familiarisation, each participant attended a research meeting where they drafted some questions into an on-screen testing platform and reviewed some questions in the platform. After each activity, participants completed a workload questionnaire and were interviewed.

    The findings suggest that training and support would be important. Participants reported feeling restricted when setting items. Evidence suggested that setters may avoid certain item types, write shorter questions than normal or write less creative questions. Setting was also reported to be slower. However, these issues could reduce with greater experience. Overall, it seems that it would be possible for setters to create at least some of their questions within an on-screen testing platform. However, care would be needed to mitigate frustration, ensure question quality and ensure representation of all relevant constructs.

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  • A way of using taxonomies to demonstrate that applied qualifications and curricula cover multiple domains of knowledge

    Suto, I., Greatorex, J., Vitello, S., and Child, S. (2020). A way of using taxonomies to demonstrate that applied qualifications and curricula cover multiple domains of knowledge. Research Matters: A Cambridge Assessment publication, 30, 26-34.

    Educational taxonomies are classification schemes which provide the terminology that educationalists need to describe and work with different areas of knowledge. It is good practice to use taxonomies to formulate and review curricula, learning objectives, and associated assessments. Demonstrating sufficient coverage of each of an adequate range of knowledge domains is critical for authenticity, for assessment reliability, and for transparency surrounding what students are learning.

    In this study we explored whether any educational taxonomies that were designed for general educational contexts (sometimes called ‘academic’ contexts) could be utilised in applied educational contexts (often called ‘vocationally-related’ in England) . To do this, we identified nine published taxonomies with sufficient potential, and selected and combined the most appropriate. This process led us to develop a new model of demand.  We then applied the selected taxonomies experimentally to existing curricula in a range of applied subjects which are taught at secondary and tertiary level in England. We also used the selected taxonomies to develop a tool for writing educational objectives. This article ends with suggestions for applying the selected taxonomies in other areas of assessment.

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  • Research News

    Peigne, A. (2020). Research News. Research Matters: A Cambridge Assessment publication, 30, 37-38.  

    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.