The 16th Annual AEA-Europe conference will be held in Glasgow, Scotland, on 4 – 7 November 2015. It will provide opportunities for advancing ideas from across Europe and beyond related to the conference theme: how might assessment research, policy and practice be developed to improve the life chances of every person in Europe?
One of the major challenges facing governments and education systems across Europe is how to ensure equitable opportunities in education for every citizen. Assessment can contribute to social injustice, even if it is not of itself its primary cause. All three of the main purposes of assessment have an impact on social justice: assessment for formative purposes, for summative purposes (including certification) and for purposes of accountability. Assessment design and policy is of significant interest at all educational levels and in all education sectors. Over the last twenty years considerable attention has been paid to the potential of Assessment for Learning to improve students’ learning. Consideration has also been given to developing Testing and Examination systems for summative assessment and for purposes of accountability and to considering how these might become fairer. Local, national and international governments and organisations have collected assessment evidence, at least in part to try to address issues of social justice. However, there has been only modest success in aligning activities related to the three major assessment purposes with positive educational and social benefit and there has been consistent evidence from research about the negative impact on learners and learning that arise as a consequence of misalignment.
Research on assessment has begun to tackle some of thee major challenges. Research literature on curriculum and assessment has included critical examination of how society values different forms of knowledge and of the prioritization of 'powerful' forms of knowledge. National and international test data have allowed us to explore how assessment results are distributed across different social groups. Socio-economic status is widely accepted as having a major impact on educational outcomes and there has been considerable exploration of the correlations between socio-economic status and attainment and what can be done to close gaps. Further issues arise as assessment results are used at different levels of the education system. Teachers, schools and nations are evaluated in terms of the assessment results of their students. Research literature has given consideration to the extent to and means by which assessment data are used to promote social justice, to the relationship with neoliberal approaches and to the ways in which assessment results are being used as levers and controls in education.
Each country in Europe offers a different environment within which issues of assessment and its impact on social justice can be viewed. At the AEA-Europe conference in Glasgow 2015 conference participants will have opportunities to present and reflect on research on assessment and its relationship with policy and practice in very different contexts as countries tackle the educational implications of issues of social justice, including gender, ethnicity, disability, socioeconomic status and cultural values. Particular areas of interest are likely to include: