Newsletter – Spring 2017

Editor’s Note

Dear Readers,

Welcome to the Spring 2017 edition of the AEA-Europe Newsletter. In this issue, our new AEA-Europe President, Dr. Thierry Rocher first jogs us down memory lane to the recent developments since our last annual conference in Limassol. Presentations sent to us have been uploaded to the website. Turnout for the General assembly meeting scheduled during the conference was higher than the previous years. Suggestions from members, to use various tools such as a new website and social media to extend the outreach of AEA-Europe, are already being taken on board. Our Facebook Page was launched in January and plans are now ongoing to give a new facelift to our website. Meanwhile, why not give a thought to how assessment cultures are reflected in your own context and submit a proposal to the upcoming 18th AEA-Europe conference in Prague in November 2017. If you are short on funds to attend the conference, read on to find out how you can apply for financial assistance through the Association’s participation fund. A call was also made for volunteers to join the Publication Committee to help the Association enhance the use of our social media and connect member actions through the use of thematic special interest groups related to assessment. Several members have responded positively and we are confident that the new ideas to be brought on board will continue to the serve goals of the Association. 

Talking about Committees, our Professional Development Committee has been reinforced by Dr. Elena Papanastasiou who will assist in the AEA-Europe activities of accreditation, networking of doctorate students as well as with the revision of the Standards for Educational Assessment. Read further to learn more about international practices in setting and maintaining standards for national examinations, a theme which will be explored in a 3-day symposium in Oxford in March. Still about examinations, the Cambridge Assessment Network will run its next programme in May providing an overview of how to design and deliver valid and robust exams through practical workshops and inter-group learning. Researchers looking for a next opportunity to engage in discussions on educational assessment will be happy to note IEA’s next international research conference at the end of June also in Prague. IEA also wishes to inform readers about the appointment of Dr Andrea Netten as the new IEA Director in Amsterdam.

I also wish to warmly thank all the contributing authors of this newsletter. In its efforts to communicate regularly via various channels, the Association will not only post news on its website and its Facebook page but also try to increase the frequency of its newsletter. I thus wish to invite you to give a serious thought to sharing news about your work in the field of assessment. For instance, you could describe your presentation to our last conference in a short text and make it available to a wider audience. If you wish to share your story in the next issue of our newsletter, simply drop me a line at

Amina Afif
AEA-Europe Newsletter Editor
Publications Committee

A word from the President

I am very happy and proud to write these few words in this edition of our newsletter which is my first as the President of AEA-Europe. The newsletter is an important component of the Association’s communication strategy. It is indeed the opportunity for members to share information, experiences and research in the field of student assessment. In addition, it is a means to fulfilling the aim of the Association by disseminating knowledge and consolidating the assessment culture in the different countries of Europe. In this spirit, I call upon you readers to contribute your articles to our newsletters to help raise awareness and increase the visibility of your own national activities related to assessment in education.

In this message, I would also like to share with you the recent developments in the different activities of AEA-Europe since our last annual conference in Limassol in November 2016. First, as promised, you may now consult the numerous presentations sent in by the participants in the Cyprus conference, which are already uploaded on the website and accessible here.

Secondly, our members recommended we create an AEA-Europe Facebook page and be active on social media. To this effect, you can now follow us here and read the latest news and view some photos and videos of the last conference. Word is spreading and our page is already reaching out to a wider readership.  We will gradually add a lot more information over the coming weeks. Do join us if you have not yet done so and be alerted about news of the Association. Still about communication within the digital environment, we are in the process of revamping the AEA-Europe website, upgrading it with a fresher look so as to enhance its usability, render it more user-friendly and hence create a better space to connect with the educational world.

Thirdly, following our call for volunteers to join the Publication Committee of AEA-Europe, several candidates have shown interest and the respective nominations will be announced shortly.

Finally, I would like to remind you of our 18th annual AEA-Europe conference to be held in Prague, Czech Republic from 9th – 11th November 2017.  The submission of proposals is already open and you can register through EasyAcademia:

Our conference theme ‘Assessment cultures in a globalised world’ is a rich and stimulating one. Personally as well as speaking from the perspective of France, the theme touches a chord: in a country where the assessment culture developed gradually over time, it is interesting to observe how this plays out today as we reach the crossroads of globalisation. There is no doubt that this theme will give rise to passionate contributions during the conference. I do hope many of you will join us there.

Noting all the progress we are making, I wish to warmly thank those of you who voluntarily dedicate your valuable time and effort to the various committees of our Association, a commitment which truly contributes to where AEA-Europe stands today.

Happy reading!

International experiences in setting and maintaining standards in national examinations

Processes of setting national examination standards vary in different countries and within the same country over time. The dominant model for assessment practice internationally is psychometrics, but there is a long history of its rejection in many examining systems and there are good reasons for this (Baird and Black, 2013). However, globalisation drives standardisation and in many nations there are pressures to impose particular understandings of educational attainment, based on “evidence” about other systems’ practices and their effects. Arguments for major changes in standard setting and maintaining systems can be based upon tenuous links. The under-articulation of the rationales for current examination practices means that they are vulnerable to changes that could be detrimental to the character of education systems. Little to no conversation takes place between the different systems that are pushed towards standardization. Moreover, the lack of a clear theoretical definition of assessment practices and standards leads to problems in their public understanding, which frequently results in crises in public confidence.

Professor Jo-Anne Baird (Oxford University), Dr. Lena Gray (AQA), Dennis Opposs (Ofqual) and Dr. Tina Isaacs (UCL) comprise the editorial board of an international project that aims to describe the processes used to set or to maintain (or link over time) standards in national high-school leaving or university entrance examinations and to explore the concepts relating to standards behind them.

Dr. Lena Gray and Professor Jo-Anne Baird have published the paper The meaning of curriculum-related examination standards in Scotland and England: a home–international comparison, in the Oxford Review of Education, setting out the differences in the ways standards are perceived and enacted in Scotland and England. Dr Gray and Prof Baird were also successful in their bid for a Knowledge Exchange Grant from the Social Sciences Division at the University of Oxford, facilitating a more effective cooperation between the research and practitioner communities.  The project has furthermore been presented at the AEA-Europe conference in Limassol and the IAEA conference in Cape Town.

The editorial board has worked with examination practitioners and academics from a wide variety of jurisdictions, who have prepared papers for a three-day symposium to be held in Oxford in March 2017. It is planned to further develop these symposium contributions into a book and the special issue of an assessment journal.

The project will generate important and new comparative insights into assessment practices used across the world. Through the organisation of the symposium and the planned publications this project will make a three-fold contribution; it will facilitate an international conversation about assessment methods and practices, it will promote the exchange of information and knowledge between assessment practitioners and academics, and lastly it will generate new knowledge and make it accessible to a wide audience.

For further information about the project please contact Kristine Gorgen (

Cambridge Assessment Network – learn to design and deliver valid and robust

The Cambridge Assessment Network will be welcoming delegates from around the world to Cambridge in May for a two-week programme that provides a comprehensive overview of the design and delivery of valid and robust examinations.

The Cambridge International Study Programme (CISP) has been running for twelve years, and is specially designed for assessment professionals who work for an educational body or exams provider outside the UK. Places are still available on this year’s course, which runs from 8 – 19 May 2017.

Previous course participants have come from a variety of backgrounds including heads of ministries of education, directors and senior managers from awarding bodies, programme and examination officers. Recent delegates have travelled from Italy, Portugal, Thailand and Kenya to name just a few of the countries this professional development opportunity attracts. Senior assessment experts from Cambridge Assessment explain the key principles of assessment – validity, reliability, impact, and practicality – and discuss all aspects of the work of an awarding body, in national and international contexts.  Participants are encouraged to compare and contrast different approaches to assessment and learn how to put them into practice.

As well as practical workshops and inter-group learning, the course also offers participants the opportunity to visit local schools and enjoy quintessential Cambridge activities like punting and dinner in a Cambridge College.

Helen Koorzen, Assistant Manager for the UMALUSI Council for Quality Assurance in General and Further Education and Training South Africa, reflected on her memories of CISP:

“Even though a few months have passed since the Study Programme, the memories will always remain. My learning experience will never be forgotten. The outdoor activities were also both informative and fun! I learnt much about assessment but more than that, discovered my own strengths and interests in assessment.”

The application deadline is Monday 3 April. For more information and to book a place, go to:

If you have any questions, please get in touch with the Cambridge Assessment Network team: or call us on +44 (0)1223 553846.

Update from the Professional Development Committee

Join us in welcoming a new member to the Professional Development Committee

I would like to introduce the Association’s new member of the Professional Development Committee, Elena Papanastasiou, from the University of Nicosia, Cyprus.

Elena’s main role on the committee will be to take special responsibility for the Kathleen Tattersall New Assessment Researcher Award.  In addition, she will be actively involved in our continuous work with accreditation, the PhD-network and with the revision of the Standards for Educational Assessment.

Dr. Elena C. Papanastasiou is the Associate Dean and Associate Professor at the University of Nicosia. She received her Ph.D. in Measurement and Quantitative Methods from Michigan State University and an Honors B.Sc. in Elementary Education from The Pennsylvania State University. Since 2001, Dr. Papanastasiou also held academic positions at the University of Kansas, the University of Cyprus and the University of Nicosia.  She is mostly interested in the areas of Assessment and Attitudes toward Research. To date, she has published the Attitudes Toward Research Scale (2005) that is widely used in various countries, in addition to three editions of a book on Educational research methodology, (in Greek) and more than 60 peer reviewed journal publications, book chapters and peer reviewed conference proceedings. She also serves as the General Assembly representative of Cyprus in the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA), and elected since 2014 as member of the IEA Standing Committee.

For more information about the Professional Development Committee, please contact Rolf Vegar Olsen at

AEA Europe Participation Fund

Apply to the AEA-Europe Participation Fund and attend the conference!

Up to to 2011, AEA-Europe ran a scheme funded through voluntary contributions from members over and above the annual membership fee. The goal was to support attendance at the annual conference for those participants for whom the costs of attending would otherwise be prohibitive.

The success of the annual conference in 2016 in Limassol boosted the financial health of the Association. Consequently, the AEA-Europe Council decided, from now on, to operate a similar scheme and allocate the sum of €5,000 to the “Participation Fund”. Effective for the next annual conference in 2017 in Prague, a participant struggling to meet participation costs, may apply to the AEA-Europe Council for partial funding.  The application should list

  • the member’s current role and contribution to assessment development within Europe
  • the costs contributed by the participant and that to be potentially funded by the Association
  • the ways that the lessons learned from participating at the conference could contribute to improving assessment in Europe
  • whether the member has had a presentation or a poster accepted for the upcoming conference.

In addition to being open to members of the Association, the Participation Fund will be open to teachers or other educational professionals from the country in which the annual conference is being held.

All “Participation Fund” applications must be submitted to the AEA-Europe Council at by 31st July 2017 for approval, based on the following criteria:

  • the applicant or their organization would not otherwise be able to attend;
  • other sources of funding have been sought;
  • the applicant has sufficient background knowledge of assessment issues to participate in conference and benefit from it;
  • the applicant will make arrangements to disseminate to others in their own country; and
  • the applicant is in a position in their country to assist in the development of the assessment system or its reform.

News from IEA:

New Director in Amsterdam

The International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA) is delighted to welcome Dr Andrea Netten as the new Director of IEA Amsterdam to the team, since February 2017. Dr Netten will play a central role in promoting and nurturing the IEA’s status as an internationally recognized center for critical intellectual research into large-scale comparative studies in education, working in close cooperation with IEA’s Executive Director, Dr Dirk Hastedt, and the rest of the IEA management team. Dr Andrea Netten may be contacted at:

International Research Conference 2017 in Prague

The IEA is also pleased to announce its International Research Conference (IRC-2017) which will take place at the Charles University, Prague (Czech Republic) over three days, beginning on Wednesday 28 June 2017 and ending on Friday 30 June 2017. Pre-conference workshops on secondary data analysis will be held on 26–27 June 2017. For more information see

The conference will offer ample time for discussion and informal interactions between junior and senior researchers from all over the world, to ensure a lively exchange of ideas. Each day of the conference will feature a keynote lecture and parallel sessions and symposia, giving participants access to a range of topics in educational research and assessment. Each session will include several presentations organized around themes related to one or more of the IEA’s projects (such as TIMSS, TIMSS Advanced, PIRLS, ICCS, CIVED, ICILS, SITES, and TEDS-M), learning and teaching practice in international education, methodology and analysis in large-scale assessment, or the policy implications of research. The new poster competition will introduce an alternative means to interact with the wider research community.

The social program includes a welcome reception, providing an opportunity for attendees to make and renew acquaintances in a relaxed setting. For detailed information on the pre-conference training opportunities, see