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Research Matters 34


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  • ItemOpen Access
    Research Matters 34: Autumn 2022
    (Research Division, Cambridge University Press & Assessment, 2022-09-01) Bramley, Tom
    Research Matters is a free biannual publication which allows Cambridge University Press & Assessment to share its assessment research, in a range of fields, with the wider assessment community. 
  • ItemOpen Access
    What’s in a name? Are surnames derived from trades and occupations associated with lower GCSE scores?
    (Research Division, Cambridge University Press & Assessment, 2022-09-01) Williamson, Joanna; Bramley, Tom
    In England, there are persistent associations between measures of socio-economic advantage and educational outcomes. Research on the history of names, meanwhile, confirms that surnames in England – like many other countries – were highly socially stratified in their origins. These facts prompted us to wonder whether educational outcomes in England might show variation by surname origin, and specifically, whether surnames with an occupational origin might be associated with slightly lower average GCSE scores than surnames of other origins. Even though surnames do not measure an individual’s socio-economic position, our hypothesis was that in aggregate, the educational outcomes of a group defined in this way might still reflect past social history. In line with the research hypothesis, the results showed that the mean GCSE scores of candidates with occupational surnames were slightly lower than the mean GCSE scores of candidates with other surnames. The difference in attainment was a similar size to the difference expected between candidates half a year apart in age, and much smaller than the “gap” between male and female candidates. The explanation for the identified effect was beyond the scope of the current research, but surname effect mechanisms proposed in the literature include the psychological (e.g., implicit egotism), sociological and socio-genetic.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Which assessment is harder? Some limits of statistical linking
    (Research Division, Cambridge University Press & Assessment, 2022-09-01) Benton, Tom; Williamson, Joanna
    Equating methods are designed to adjust between alternate versions of assessments targeting the same content at the same level, with the aim that scores from the different versions can be used interchangeably. The statistical processes used in equating have, however, been extended to statistically “link” assessments that differ, such as assessments of the same qualification type that assess different subjects. Despite careful debate on statistical linking in the literature, it can be tempting to apply equating methods and conclude that they have provided a definitive answer on whether a qualification is harder or easier than others. This article offers a novel demonstration of some limits of statistical equating by exploring how accurately various equating methods were able to equate between identical assessments. To do this, we made use of pairs of live assessments that are “cover sheet” versions of each other, that is, identical assessments with different assessment codes. The results showed that equating errors with real-world impact (e.g., an increase of 5–10 per cent in the proportion of students achieving a grade A) occurred even where equating conditions were apparently favourable. No single method consistently produced more accurate results than the others. The results emphasise the importance of considering multiple sources of information to make final grade boundary decisions. More broadly, the results are a reminder that if applied uncritically, equating methods can lead to incorrect conclusions about the relative difficulty of assessments.
  • ItemOpen Access
    What are ‘recovery curricula’ and what do they include? a literature review
    (Research Division, Cambridge University Press & Assessment, 2022-09-01) Johnson, Martin
    The concept of educational recovery is relevant to many systems, both those that experience some form of sudden disruption as well as those that historically have been prone to disruption. Our involvement in developing a curriculum framework for displaced learners in the Learning Passport project (UNICEF, 2020) made us more aware of the field of Education in Emergencies. An educational emergency is a situation where “man-made or natural disasters destroy, within a short period of time, the usual conditions of life, care and education facilities for children and therefore disrupt, deny, hinder, progress or delay the realisation of the right to education” (Committee on the Rights of the Child, 2008, p. 1). The COVID-19 pandemic has made the concept of emergency and recovery more relevant to even more education systems. The literature review described in this article was carried out to identify what recovery curricula are (e.g., what they seek to achieve, what information they cover, etc.), as well as to consider any evidence for their efficacy. By exploring the recovery curricula literature, we also wanted to consider the extent to which the concept is a singular, generalisable one, or whether it is tied to specific contexts
  • ItemOpen Access
    Progress In the First Year at School
    (Research Division, Cambridge University Press & Assessment, 2022-09-01) Jellis, Chris
    The results of an assessment taken at the start and end of the Reception Year by children in state schools in England over three years were analysed. Over 70 000 children were assessed during this time. The results of the analysis provided evidence of what the average child could do when they started school, and how much progress they made in that first year. Children typically start school with a wide range of skills and experiences and once they are settled into life in school, they make exceptional progress in their first year.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Learning loss in the Covid-19 pandemic: teachers’ views on the nature and extent of loss
    (Research Division, Cambridge University Press & Assessment, 2022-09-01) Carroll, Matthew; Constantinou, Filio
    The Covid-19 pandemic caused unprecedented disruption to education around the world. As education systems gradually return to normal, there is a push to understand effects of the disruption. A major impact on students is “learning loss”, in which attainment and progress may have fallen behind expected levels. Various efforts have been made to quantify learning loss, but to better understand it, further work, combining quantitative and qualitative approaches, is required. Here, we sought to record teachers’ views on how far behind (or ahead) their students were compared to a “typical” year, and to gather their opinions about what had been lost (or gained). To do this, we surveyed teachers in schools that work with Cambridge CEM. We received over 400 responses, spread across 38 countries and 198 schools, thus giving a broad sample of experiences. A majority of respondents felt their students were behind expectations. 1–2 months behind was the most common estimate, but some respondents made much larger estimates of loss, while a sizeable minority thought that their students were on track or even ahead of expectations. Descriptions of the areas of loss indicated that fundamental literacy and numeracy skills had been affected, as had practical skills and general study skills. Responses also described variable impacts, both within and between groups of students. Effects of Covid-related disruption on education are ongoing and may be felt for some time still to come. By exploring the nature and extent of learning loss in students, it is hoped that it will be possible to better understand, and hopefully mitigate, these longer-term impacts.