Research Matters 32

Contents

  • Research Matters 32 - Foreword

    Oates, T. (2021). Foreword. Research Matters: A Cambridge University Press & Assessment publication, 32, 4.

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  • Research Matters 32 - Editorial

    Bramley, T. (2021). Editorial. Research Matters: A Cambridge University Press & Assessment publication, 32, 5.

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  • What is (or are) social studies?

    Coleman, V. (2021). What is (or are) social studies? Research Matters: A Cambridge University Press & Assessment publication, 32, 6–21.

    Social studies is a subject discipline which has had significant dispute over a range of areas. There is much variation in how social studies is conceptualised, in terms of both terminology and definition, as well as in what subject content it is considered to encompass and how it is structured and organised. This article examines the various ways social studies has been defined and the different terms used, as well as what content is included and how it is organised.

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  • Learning during lockdown: How socially interactive were secondary school students in England?

    Williamson, J., Suto, I., Little, J., Jellis, C., & Carroll, M. (2021) Learning during lockdown: How socially interactive were secondary school students in England? Research Matters: A Cambridge University Press & Assessment publication, 32, 22-44.

    For countless students, national lockdowns in 2020 and 2021 caused serious upheaval in their education. Across England, decisions to close schools engendered much anxiety, as did Government expectations that most students continued their schooling from home. In addition to lost opportunities for learning and even loss of learning, students’ wellbeing was a significant concern for parents, teachers, and other stakeholders.

    Students’ social interactions with their teachers, each other, family and friends are critical to both pedagogy and wellbeing. We report on a survey of over 600 secondary school students’ perceptions of the extent and nature of such interactions during England’s national lockdown in early 2021. We found that the activity types that occurred both within and outside of lockdown schooling changed markedly compared with during pre-pandemic schooling. Students reported spending less time interacting with their teachers and peers though whole class work, small group work, and pair work, and more time working independently. Over half of the students surveyed perceived working independently to be helpful or really helpful, apparently valuing the autonomy they had gained. Patterns of activity types for students who learned mostly or entirely at home were strikingly like those of students who continued to attend school during lockdown; the nature of face-to-face schooling appeared to have changed temporarily in the direction of remote schooling.

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  • How well do we understand wellbeing? Teachers’ experiences in an extraordinary educational era

    Jellis, C., Suto, I., Williamson, J. (2021). How well do we understand wellbeing? Teachers’ experiences in an extraordinary educational era. Research Matters: A Cambridge University Press & Assessment publication, 32, 45-66.

    COVID-19 has had a huge effect on education. While there has been much interest in the effects of school closures on children, less attention has focused on teachers’ wellbeing. This article describes a small-scale study in which we explored teachers’ experiences and concerns during and after England’s second national school closure in early 2021. Our aim was to improve understanding of how teachers had been impacted in these unprecedented times. 54 teachers in England completed an online survey which was based on a well-established scale of teacher wellbeing. The survey also asked about what would improve teachers’ wellbeing.

    Levels of organisational and student interaction wellbeing were reported to be positive both during and after lockdown, but slightly higher after lockdown. By contrast, reported workload wellbeing was slightly negative overall, and slightly lower after lockdown. Strikingly, the issues that most affected teacher wellbeing were not especially connected to lockdown. Teachers were most concerned about the time available to do their jobs and the amount of administration expected of them. Interestingly, some of the longest-serving teachers were amongst those finding that time pressure and administration affected their wellbeing. We conclude that teachers’ longer-term working conditions impacted their wellbeing far more than teaching through lockdown did. Ensuring wellbeing needs are met in “normal” times may help increase resilience when novel challenges arise.

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  • What do we mean by question paper error? An analysis of criteria and working definitions

    Rushton, N., Vitello, S., Suto, I. (2021). What do we mean by question paper error? An analysis of criteria and working definitions. Research Matters: A Cambridge University Press & Assessment publication, 32, 67-81.

    It is important to define what an error in a question paper is so that there is a common understanding and to avoid people’s own conceptions impacting upon the way in which they write or check question papers. We carried out an interview study to investigate our colleagues’ definitions of error. We found that there is no single accepted definition of a question paper error. There were three interacting aspects that participants considered when deciding whether a problem was an error: the manifestation of the error, the (potential) impact upon candidates, and the stage at which it was discovered.

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  • Item response theory, computer adaptive testing and the risk of self-deception

    Benton, T. (2021). Item response theory, computer adaptive testing and the risk of self-deception. Research Matters: A Cambridge University Press & Assessment publication, 32, 82-100.

    Computer adaptive testing is intended to make assessment more reliable by tailoring the difficulty of the questions a student has to answer to their level of ability. Most commonly, this benefit is used to justify the length of tests being shortened whilst retaining the reliability of a longer, non-adaptive test.

    Improvements due to adaptive testing are often estimated using reliability coefficients based on item response theory (IRT). However, these coefficients assume that the underlying IRT model completely fits the data. This article takes a different approach, based on comparing the predictive value of shortened versions of real assessments based on adaptive and non-adaptive approaches. The results show that, when explored in this way, the benefits from adaptive testing may not always be quite a large as hoped.

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  • Research News

    Peigne, A. (2021). Research News. Research Matters: A Cambridge University Press & Assessment publication, 32, 103-106.  

    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.