Newsletter – February 2016

President’s Report

Welcome to the first newsletter issue in 2016.

Earlier this month, the council and the secretariat met in London to evaluate our activities in 2015. Given that the council now consists of members elected in the past two years and has a new secretariat, we all felt that taking the time to discuss our experiences and thinking about how to work towards the aims of AEA Europe was worthwhile. With so many new hands on deck, most have performed many tasks for the first time, and it is important to take as many lessons as possible from both our successes and struggles. One of the services we would like to offer is improved and more accessible information about the association and better communication with members. The website was rebuilt in 2015, but much information is missing. We are working toward remedying this as well as adding information about the association that we believe is helpful and will improve communication between members. We hope you will actively use the website over the coming year and provide us with your feedback when we next meet in Cyprus for the 2016 conference.

More and more people come to the conference, and the membership is slowly growing. We know from the conference evaluations that the Glasgow conference was a big success, but there are some possibilities for improvement. For instance, the poster session: we will continue to discuss how to improve this session to better accommodate presenters and conference participants. We also know that it is the months between the conferences that we need to target if we want to be an association that is active throughout the year.

We also know that we need more hands on deck! This newsletter is put together by our secretariat, and I am very grateful to them for taking on this additional task. As a membership association, the newsletter is an important communication channel – between the council and the membership and between members. As you might have noticed, we did not manage to send out a September newsletter. Since Julie Sewell stepped down as editor in the autumn of 2014, we have been seeking a replacement. You will find the call on our website. If you think that you yourself or a colleague is the person we are looking for, please fill in the form, and send it to the secretariat.

We are a growing and thriving association in many ways. This autumn, two new members joined the council after elections and were inaugurated at the general assembly: our new treasurer, Cor Sluijter, and our new council member, Gill Stewart. Gill will be taking on the responsibility for the Publication Committee and will be working closely with our new newsletter editor. Gill and Cor will be a great asset to the association. At the same time, two important members have resigned from the council: Henk Moelands and Sandra Johnson. Between them, they served an impressive 13 years on the council. Such commitment is very important to us as a community, as this is how we secure continuity and a healthy association. We are thankful for all their efforts and welcome others to follow in their footsteps, either on a committee or on the council. Vacancies will be announced through our website and through emails to members.

We want our two committees to contribute significantly to the work of our association. To enable this, they need dedicated members who will offer their time for the good of all. I am delighted to welcome a new member to the Professional Development Committee, Stephanie Berger, who will focus mainly on the doctoral network. The Publication Committee needs extensive recruitment too, so please consider the call for members with editorial experience.

I think it is safe to say that our annual conference is considered the main activity of our organisation. This conference is where we all get to see each other and to listen, present, discuss, network and plan future cooperation, laugh, learn and share. We did a lot of that in Glasgow before Christmas much because we had such a dedicated local host in the University of Glasgow and, in particular, in Louise Hayword and George MacBride. They have spent a large number of hours and called on many personal favours to ensure we all had such a good time. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank all of you who contributed by presenting at the conference: keynotes, open paper presenters, discussion group leaders and poster presenters. It is you who bring the content to the conference, which is the reason we all come back year after year.

From the number of submissions we have seen for the past conferences, the council recognises the investment our members have in the association and our community. More and more people submit proposals, alone or together with co-authors, often from other countries and institutions. The offered programme has been growing over the past years, as has the number of conference participants. I welcome the growth, as it makes us more sustainable financially, but at the same time, I realise that we all need to make an effort to welcome new members into our community and to keep the spirit of AEA Europe. We are a tight-knit group, but like all fine knitwear, we should have the ability to expand without losing our elegance, form or function. For this, we need you all to actively contribute!

At the conference in Glasgow, I introduced you to the Norwegian term dugnad. A dugnad is when people come together, join forces and do good work as a joint effort, to help out and to achieve something, on a voluntary basis. As a membership organisation run by elected members and with annual conferences organised by other members, we contribute to a lot of dugnads. As I write this, several teams are working towards the conferences in 2016, 2017 and 2018. The website for the 2016 conference in Limassol, Cyprus, is open, and in a few days, the call will be announced, so we will be open for submissions. Submitting to the conference might be one way for you to contribute to the dugnad. We are convinced that this year’s theme of ‘Social and political underpinnings of educational assessment: Past, present and future’ will attract just as many submissions as past years and that you all will shortly be busy planning your proposals.

I would like to mention that there is one more possibility to influence the Limassol programme that I encourage you all to think about. Each year, the winner of the Cathleen Tattersall New Researcher Award gives a keynote speech as part of their prize. If you know someone early in their ‘assessment career’ who contributes significantly to the field of assessment, please tell them about the award and encourage them to apply when we open the call. If you yourself fit the criteria, you should also consider applying to be this year’s award winner. Please visit our webpage to read the eligibility criteria. Do not wait too long: the submission deadline is rapidly approaching.

We are a community, even though our members are dispersed throughout Europe and beyond. I always welcome comments, questions and messages from my fellow community members. I also wish you all a wonderful February.

Welcome to Limassol

The 17th annual AEA Europe conference will be held in Limassol, Cyprus at the St. Raphael Resort from November 3rd to November 5th 2016. The conference will be hosted locally by The University of Cyprus.

The theme of the conference is “Social and Political underpinnings of educational assessment: Past, present and future”. Educational assessment policies and programmes develop within particular historical, political, economic and social contexts. The wide range of national and international educational assessments must therefore be viewed as complex socio-political phenomena. To analyse and comprehend how assessment programmes and policies evolve, it is important to reflect on how each assessment is shaped and transformed by social and political agents interacting at the national and international level.

Key note speakers are George Marcoulides from UCSB in the US, Dr. Gabrielle Kaiser from University of Hamburg, and Prof. Gudrun Erickson from University of Gothenburg. A final keynote speaker may be announced as the winner of the Kathleen Tattersall New Researcher Award. More information about the keynote speakers will be released shortly, and further information about the conference in general including key submission deadlines may be found on the 17th Annual Conference web pages.

Cyprus is the third largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, after Sicily and Sardinia, it is a modern country that combines European culture with ancient enchantment and is fortunate enough to be bathed in sunshine all year. The history of Cyprus is one of the oldest recorded in the world and its historical significance is disproportionate to its small size, with the first signs of civilisation date to the ninth millennium B.C.

Limassol is one of the most populous cities in Cyprus as well as one of the busiest ports in the Mediterranean. It’s well connected to 2 major airports and only a bus ride from the capital of Nicosia. The city itself attracts tourists year round due to its beautiful beaches and wonderful countryside, as well as major attractions such as The Castle of Limassol and the Sculpture Park. We hope you’ll find a reason to see the sites once the conference formalities are over!

After the rousing success of the Glasgow conference and the plentiful feedback we’ve received from delegates, we hope this conference will continue to improve on our previous efforts, and meet your ever-rising expectations.

The Professional Development Committee: Update

The Professional Development Committee (PDC) in its current form comprises Antonella Poce  (University Roma 3) – a Council member and Committee Chair; Andrew Boyle (Alphaplus Consultancy, UK); and Bas Hemker (Cito, Dutch Institute for Educational Measurement).

Yasmine El Masri (researcher at the Oxford University Centre for Educational Assessment) ended her mandate in November, 2015. The PDC would like to thank Yasmine for her wonderful service, her commitment and outstanding contribution to the PDC more specifically and to the Association generally. She will be greatly missed by the PDC.

The PDC is a pro-active Committee within the Association and organises a series of activities relating to the Accreditation Scheme, the New Researcher Award combined with the Doctoral Network, the Poster Award, and a programme of webinars and seminars.

The PDC has a special interest in the new researchers and the Doctoral Network (formerly Yasmine’s remit) both of which constitute an important source of growth and development within and across the Association.

It is with great pleasure that the PDC are now able to announce Yasmine’s replacement – Stephanie Berger, from the Institut für Bildungsevaluation Assoziiertes Institut der Universität Züric (CH). The PDC welcomes Stephanie and wish her all the best in her new role!


Contributions from The International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA)

ICCS and upcoming studies

Yielding insights into youth empowerment, the ongoing IEA International Civic and Citizenship Study (ICCS) in 2016 will enable countries to evaluate how young people are prepared for their role as citizens. The study, currently undertaking main data collection, reports on students’ knowledge and understanding of concepts and issues related to civics and citizenship, including their value beliefs, at­titudes, and behaviors. ICCS 2016 will provide internationally comparable indicators of civic knowledge and engagement to inform policies and practices at large. You may find more information here:

We are now looking forward to an exciting 2016, with the release of the TIMSS 2015 results, the ECES report, ICCS 2016 and the launch of LaNA, ICILS 2018 and TIMSS and eTIMSS 2019, see the upcoming studies here:

All members are invited to submit proposals for a thematic report based on secondary analysis of IEA data.

IEA have also recently had a blog on international comparability published which may be of interest to many members: A new tool to assess literacy and numeracy skills in developing countries. Obtaining internationally comparable results by assessing students at the primary level.

6th IEA International Research Conference

Cape Town, South Africa 24-26 June 2015

Local Organizing Committee from CEA from left: Mr Gabriel Mokoena, Ms Nelladee Palane, Mrs Karen Roux, Dr Caroline Long, Mrs Sandra van Niekerk, Ms Thembisile Matlou, Prof. Sarah Howie (Chair of Local Organizing Committee), Mrs Rosalie Loots, Mr Thamsanqa Ncube, Ms Celeste Combrinck, Mr Mishack Tshele and Mr Stefan de Jager

In June, over 100 delegates from 41 countries around the world attended the 6th International Association for the Evaluation of Education Achievement (IEA) International Research Conference (IRC), hosted by the Centre for Evaluation and Assessment (CEA) at the University of Pretoria. The conference was preceded by four workshops covering the practical methodology of using IEA data, offered by international experts. The conference was officially opened by Mrs Debbie Schäfer, the Minister for Education of the Western Cape Province in South Africa.

In total, 58 papers were presented at the conference and there were three keynote speakers from three different continents: Professor Sarah Howie, Professor of Education and Director of the CEA, a research center within the Faculty of Education of the University of Pretoria, Dr Silvia Montoya, Director of the UNESCO Institute for Statistics in Canada, and Professor David Kaplan of the Department of Educational Psychology at the University of Wisconsin–Madison in the USA. Professor Howie’spresentation was entitled “What do the IEA Studies Mean for Developing Countries’ Education Systems and Educational Research?”, Dr Montoya explored the topic “Post-2015 Education Framework: A Strategic Approach to Improve and Monitor Learning Outcomes as Part of the Post-2015 Education Targets” and Professor Kaplan presented on “The Bayesian Revolution and its Implications for the Analysis of International Large-Scale Assessments.”

This conference was the sixth in a series of IEA international research conferences showcasing and sharing research undertaken on IEA data. For over 50 years the IEA has been responsible for the organisation of large-scale international comparative research studies in education. At the conference, research papers by international and local researchers were presented based on data from the IEA studies such as the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS), the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS and the TIMSS Advanced), the International Computer and Information Literacy Study (ICILS), the Second Information Technology in Education Study SITES), the International Civic and Citizenship Education Study (ICCS, CIVED) and the Teacher Education and Development Study in Mathematics (TEDS-M). Several presentations also linked the research-based evidence from various IEA studies with policy developments and with implications for curriculum.

Socially, there were many opportunities for delegates to interact and enjoy South African food and local wine. The delegates were welcomed to the conference with a reception on the evening of the 23rd June, where the local chair of the organizing committee, Sarah Howie, introduced delegates to some South Africanisms to prepare them for the week ahead. They were further welcomed officially by the Chair of the IEA, Mrs Anne-Berit Kavli.

This was followed on 24th June with a special reception for the African delegates; IEA Director, Dr Dirk Hastedt, was there to introduce them to the IEA philosophy and studies, and it was a good opportunity to meet the senior members of the IEA delegation, discuss key questions and share research directions.

On the last evening, IEA invited delegates descended on the Gold Restaurant for the conference dinner, where they were treated to some African delicacies and a hive of drumming, dancing and singing activities. Among invited dignitaries were the Chair of the IEA, Ms Anne-Berit Kavli from Norway, the Director of the IEA, Dr Dirk Hastedt from Germany, Professor Ina Mullis and Dr Mick Martin (co-Directors of the Boston College’s International Study Centre) the Minister for Education in the Western Cape, Mrs Debbie Schäfer and the Vice-Principal for Research and Postgraduate Education at the University of Pretoria, Professor Stephanie Burton; the last welcomed the guests to the conference dinner and presented the University of Pretoria’s research profile. Delegates from the broader education research fraternity, including universities, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), government departments, and from the private sector attended the conference.

The IEA is pleased to announce that the 7th IEA IRC will be held at the historic Charles University in Prague, beautiful capital of the Czech Republic, 28–30 June 2017, preceded by workshop events on 26–27 June 2017. The conference will be organized jointly by the Faculty of Education Institute for Research & Development of Education of Charles University, the Czech School Inspectorate, and the IEA. Follow the IEA on LinkedIn or Twitter for first alerts.

First meeting of the Nordic Mathematics Assessment Network

On October 15–16, 2015, the first meeting of the Nordic Mathematics Assessment Network was held in Oslo, Norway, as chaired by Professor Astrid Pettersson, University of Stockholm, and Associate Professor Guri A. Nortvedt, University of Oslo. The purpose of the first meeting was to establish a network among those who develop and research mathematics assessments (primarily national tests and exams) in the Nordic countries. The network will serve three purposes:

  • To provide knowledge of the other research and development groups and the assessments with which they work;
  • To afford opportunities to cooperate with one or more network member(s) about joint research articles or smaller research projects;
  • To present opportunities to cooperate with one or more network member(s) in knowledge building regarding mathematics assessment development.

This network is not a novel idea. A similar network met once a year until 10 years ago, when it was dissolved. Pettersson and Nortvedt were both members of the previous network and decided to establish a new network among test developers and researchers who conduct their research on mathematics assessments in the Nordic countries. The Nordic countries include Denmark, Finland, Greenland, Island, Norway, Sweden, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, what many think of as the Nordic and Baltic countries. A long tradition of cooperation exists among these countries, and although many similarities can be observed between the national educational systems, there is much variation regarding national assessments. The purpose of the network is to explore this variation and learn from each other.

For the first meeting, not all countries were represented; however, altogether, 20 test developers from Norway, Sweden, Finland, Estonia and Greenland met in Oslo. The topic of the first meeting was the oral assessment of mathematics and the digital assessment of mathematical competence. Three keynote addresses, including ‘Oral assessment in mathematics (in Swedish national tests)’ by Samuel Sollerman, Stockholm University, ‘When mathematics assessments become digital’ by Hege Kaarstein, Guri A. Nortvedt and Fazilat Siddiq and ‘Standard setting with judgemental and/or statistical linking – Report from a study of both’ by Anna Panzare Lind, were well received.

In addition to the keynotes, several proposals to present papers were accepted, and presentations ranging from ‘Aspects of teaching of mathematics in Greenland’ to ‘Shifting from paper based to electronic exams in Estonia’ and ‘The Norwegian test program in basic skills in Mathematics across all subjects’ and ‘National tests and assessment according to the knowledge requirements in the Swedish curricula’ inspired much discussion.

The participants were all very pleased to achieve so much activity after only a few months of planning. On the last day of the meeting, it was decided that the network will meet once every 18 months. We hope to have the next meeting early in 2017. The topic of the 2017 meeting will be (mathematical) tasks. Each network meeting will last two working days and comprise keynotes and parallel sessions given by participants after the submission of an abstract. Other representatives from the Nordic countries might join the network and become members. Since the founding meeting, network members have been working towards recruiting members from the remaining Nordic countries.

Why inform members of AEA Europe of this event? In our experience, both with the past network and with the new network, working with our neighbours inspires us in our work, and we can learn much from each other. The educational systems and the mathematics curricula in these countries have strong similarities, and we truly believe this model could also be applied in other regions. We would also be interested in contacting other mathematics networks if such exist.

Contact: Guri A. Nortvedt,

Call for national assessment policy experts to Educational Assessment Systems in Europe (EASE)

We are reaching out to the AEA-Europe community in search for national assessment policy experts that are willing to contribute to the generation of policy information on Educational Assessment Systems in Europe (EASE). Acknowledging the validity problems of producing valid and comparable ‘thick’ policy descriptions, the EASE project seeks to cooperate with several assessment researchers and practitioners in each European country in order to substantiate and validate policy descriptions. The policy information is generated through two research projects funded by the Swedish Research Council (‘Vetenskapsrådet’) and the Swedish National Agency for Education (‘Skolverket’), chaired by Professor Christian Lundahl at Örebro University (Lundahl et al 2015, Lundahl et al 2016 forthcoming). These projects have been developed in relation to the research projects Paris to Pisa – Governing education by comparison 1867-2015 and Assessment and Selection in the Scandinavian Education systems (ASSESS). Doctoral student at the University of Oslo, Sverre Tveit, is in charge of the digital platform for generating and validating policy descriptions and the correspondence with policy experts across the European countries.

The generated policy information largely builds on information provided by the EURYDICE network. Facilitated by the European Commission’s Education, Audiovisual, and Culture Executive Agency, Eurydice provides European-level analyses and facilitates comparison of education policies in Europe developed to assist national states’ policymakers. Eurydice can be described as a form of Web-based encyclopedia using a similar structure as, for example, the country systems report in the International Encyclopedia of Education (Lundahl, 2014). Research about social knowledge has often been interested in the (micro) processes that shape scientific knowledge (e.g. Camic et al. 2011).

Encyclopedias often claim to be collections of facts—i.e. a knowledge storeroom. Typically, we perceive facts as ‘unconstructed by anyone’ (Latour and Woolgar 1979/1986). But producing an encyclopedia is not a straightforward and simple editorial process. Sections, headings, topics and the structure of the entries are constantly changed based on new insights and on circumstances beyond anyone’s control. A better way to frame the knowledge in an encyclopedia would be to understand it as a product of a specific epistemic culture—the actual and theoretical conditions of the production of knowledge (Knorr Cetina 1999). To put it differently, it is not only ‘truth criteria’ (or the preservation/development of knowledge) that can be expected as a reason to produce an encyclopedia. Encyclopedias can be treated as we treat other kinds of knowledge. Knowledge is geographical, sociological and chronological (Burke 2012). In other words, we can expect editors of an encyclopedia such as Eurydice to struggle with geographical and periodical frames, translations and issues of deciding on relevance and limitations of content and of contributors.

There is not much written about the use of this type of comparative data describing countries’ educational systems. In order to facilitate an overview and in-depth insight into characteristics of European countries’ policies on educational assessment, we investigate Eurydice data sources, OECD reports and country profile articles in the journal Assessment in Education: Principles, Policy & Practice journal along with other scholarly work. So far we have observed serious validity problems related both to the construction and use of data intended to facilitate such comparisons. These include methodological challenges with regards to classification of information from national education systems within standardized categories, but also problems of establishing conceptual equivalence (Schriewer, 2003) related to concepts such as ‘grades’, ‘accountability’, ‘high-stakes assessment’, ‘formative assessment’ and ‘summative assessment’. Thus, different interpretations across countries may cause vast reporting variations. These problems of constructing and using comparative policy data prompt complex challenges for researchers and for policymakers alike, when referring to research studies or borrowing policies from other countries.

We seek the contribution from AEA-Europe’s scholarly community to establish a thorough basis for comparative research studies on educational assessment in Europe. Contributors will become part of a group of national assessment policy experts which may be a valuable network for the development of comparative studies on educational assessment in the future. The initial timeframe for taking a role in substantiating and validating your policy information is from mid-March through June 2016. If you would like to volunteer as a national assessment policy expert for one or more European countries, please contact AEA-Europe member and doctoral student at the University of Oslo, Sverre Tveit, for more information.

Burke, Peter 2012. A Social History of Knowledge II: From the Encyclopédie to Wikipedia. Cambridge: Polity.

Camic, Charles, Neil Gross, and Michèle Lamont (Eds.) 2011. Social knowledge in the making. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Knorr Cetina, Karin. 1999. Epistemic Cultures. How the Sciences Make Knowledge. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Latour, Bruno and Steve Woolgar, S. 1979/1986. Laboratory Life. The Construction of Scientific Facts. NJ: Princeton University Press.

Lundahl, Christian. 2014. “The Book of Books – Encyclopaedic Writing in the Science of Education in the 1980s.” InTransnational Policy Flows in European Education, edited by Andreas Nordin and Daniel Sundberg, 79–103. London: Symposion Books.

Lundahl, Christian, and Sverre Tveit. 2014. “Att Legitimera Nationella Prov i Sverige och i Norge – en Fråga om Profession och Tradition.” Pedagogisk forskning i Sverige 19(4–5): 297–323.

Lundahl, Christian, Hultén, Magnus,Klapp, Alli, Mickwitz, Larissa (2015). Betygens geografi – Forskning om betyg och summativa bedömningar i Sverige och internationellt. [the Geography of grading – research on grades and summative assessments in Sweden and internationally: Stockholm: The Swedish Research Council.

Lundahl, Christian, Hultén, Magnus, Tveit, Sverre (forthcoming 2016). Betygssystem i internationell belysning [Assessment systems in an international perspective). Stockholm: Swedish National Agency of Education.

Schriewer, Jürgen. 2003. “Comparative Education Methodology in Transition: Towards a Science of Complexity.” In Discourse Formation in Comparative Education, edited by Jürgen Schriewer, 3–52. Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang.

Language Rich Book

The international quest for an English-medium education can cause anxieties about achievement through the second language,as well as about maintenance of first languages. The focus of this book is on learning and assessment through a second language, as well as approaches to support the fi rst language. Cambridge International Examinations shares its programme of research designed to reveal the hidden richness of bilingualism in schools as well as emerging practices of bilingual education.

The book presents insights from:

  • Two questionnaires to international schools where the Cambridge international curriculum is delivered and assessed
  • Studies into the language demands of external summative assessments.

The research has led to practical initiatives, including a bilingual survey tool which is shared in this book for schools to consider using in their own context as a means of self-analysis.

By sharing insights from this Cambridge research, this book:

  • Provides new information to schools on supporting bilingual learners and on bilingual education
  • Helps to clarify terminology
  • Identifi es perceived challenges as well as benefits of bilingual education
  • Raises language awareness in the assessment process.




Gwyn Lewis

Chapter 1 Perspective on bilingualism and bilingual education

Chapter 2 Bilingualism and bilingual education: A review of the literature

Chapter 3 Key issues in bilingualism and bilingual education relevant to this research

Chapter 4 Findings from the language use and bilingual education surveys

Chapter 5 Outcomes: Confirmed expectations and new insights

Chapter 6 Using Cambridge language awareness research to inform practice

Chapter 7 Initiatives to support bilingual learners


Peeter Mehisto