Newsletter – Summer 2017

Editor’s Note

Dear Readers,

Welcome to our Summer 2017 edition of the AEA-Europe Newsletter. In this issue, our AEA-Europe President, Dr. Thierry Rocher reviews the recent developments within the association and emphasizes the actions and the commitment of each and every one of us, which pave the way to where AEA-Europe has reached today.

We are trying to reach out, to you and together with you, to serve the association’s goals in various ways. Our readers who follow us on the AEA-Europe Facebook page will have noted two interesting videos posted lately. In the first one, Yasmine El-Masri describes how winning the Kathleen Tattersall New Assessment Researcher Award in 2014 was a boost to her career. In an interview with Roel Visseren in the second video, he explains the use of applying for the “practitioner status” within AEA-Europe.  The AEA-Europe Council members also met in Prague to discuss the organisation of the upcoming annual conference in November and to check out the facilities of the venue. Registration for the conference was open a short while ago, so please hurry and register if you want to join us in November.

Earlier this year, volunteers were invited to join the AEA-Europe Publications Committee. We are happy to inform you that Prof. Deborah Chetcuti from the University of Malta has accepted to join our team. She will contribute to enhancing the use of our social media and to connect member actions through the use of thematic special interest groups related to assessment. Technology has today walked through the classroom doors and e-assessment is continuously sweeping its way in countries across the world. In the wake of this priority, you will not be surprised to learn that e-assessment is also the subject of AEA-Europe’s new Special Interest Group which will be launched in the coming weeks under the leadership of Martyn Ware who heads Assessment Futures in Scotland.  Read on about e-assessment to find out how France has begun using interactive items to explore the strategies used by students in solving mathematic problems. If you are a researcher wishing to write about the challenges and opportunities in large-scale testing in a digital world, you are invited to contribute to the special issue of the Education Inquiry journal. Articles on assessment research are also shared in the Research Matters journal from Cambridge Assessment. Our contribution from the National Institute of Education of Armenia however reminds us that traditional formative assessment in class or at home, nevertheless, remains invaluable in thoroughly checking the learning of students. The 10th anniversary of the IERI marks yet another milestone in the advances achieved in the promotion of research into the science of large-scale assessment in education.

The world of assessment in education is moving in strides but not without its fair share of resistance to change, challenges in acceptation, complexity in the assessment framework and in the validity of what is measured. As researchers, practitioners, policy-makers and assessment developers, we all have our stories in assessment to share. Please do not hesitate to use this space to tell us what new research is being undertaken, what innovations you are piloting, what obstacles stand in your way, what tips and advice will smooth our pathway, or why not team up with another partner institution to learn from each other and share implementation costs in assessment? These are all insights based on your work that you can contribute to our next newsletter. A great thank you to all the authors, through your narratives we can spread the word about educational assessment throughout Europe and beyond. I look forward to receiving your contributions – simply drop me a line at

Amina Afif
AEA-Europe Newsletter Editor
Publications Committee

A word from the President

Only a few months into my role as President of AEA-Europe, I have already gained a deep insight into the activities of the association. With the association’s Council members and those of the committees, we have listened to your views, reflected upon and initiated different courses of actions with regards to the functioning and the organisation of AEA-Europe. In this newsletter, I would like to highlight the activities undertaken by AEA-Europe during the past three months.

A few official communications were sent out to members early in the year. Among them, in February, was the call for submissions to our 18th Annual Conference in Prague in November. I am happy to report that a great number of proposals have been received and it is very encouraging to note this growing interest in AEA-Europe. In fact, the review process for the submissions is now complete and registration to participate in the conference has now opened a few days ago. On this note, I would like to make a special appeal to all the presenters to register as early as possible which would allow the organisers to better anticipate the programme of the conference. Indeed we count on your participation to make the conference a success.

In April, two requests were also sent out by the association: applications for the Kathleen Tattersall New Assessment Researcher Award 2017 and expressions of interest in hosting the 2019 and 2020 AEA-Europe. All responses received are currently being processed by the respective committees. With respect to the hosting of future conferences, a preliminary agreement between AEA-Europe and CITO Netherlands was signed in May to formalise CITO’s intention to host the AEA-Europe 2018 conference.

In addition, the second AEA-Europe Council meeting of this year was held in May in Prague at the SCIO venue of the local hosts of the conference. The objective was to check out the facilities of the conference and to sort out the relevant organisational questions. The Council members also took this opportunity to discuss many other issues related to AEA-Europe at different levels: practical (revamp of the website), organisational (finance and budget) and strategic (improving the AEA-Europe membership). An update was also made on the ongoing work undertaken by the association’s committees (Publication Committee: newsletter, social media, special interest group; Professional development Committee: Kathleen Tattersall Award, Fellowship Programme, standards). These are all matters which are being worked upon and the respective outcomes will be communicated to all members in due time.

In so short a while, I cannot be thankful enough to the commitment of all our committee members and to all of you who support the work of AEA-Europe. In particular, I am very aware that this calls upon the voluntary but significant contribution of our members who are already highly engaged in their professional obligations. It was already my goal to devote highly to the association but I am ever more determined to continue in this endeavour and I am proud to work in this team spirit which really kindles the success of AEA-Europe.

Happy reading!

A new member joins our Publications Committee

In March 2017, the Publications Committee had the pleasure of welcoming on board Prof. Deborah Chetcuti to the team.

Prof. Deborah Chetcuti is an Associate Professor at the University of Malta.  She received her Ph.D. from the Nottingham Trent University and the title of her thesis was “The Physics Secondary Education Certificate Examination: A Maltese case study.”  She graduated with a B.Ed. (Hons.) in Science from the University of Malta and obtained a M.Ed. (Curriculum and Instruction) from McGill University, Canada.  She has worked at the University of Malta since 1994, first with the MATSEC Examinations Board and then with the Faculty of Education.  In the Faculty of Education, she has served as a Head of Department of Mathematics, Science and Technical Education and on a number of Faculty boards and committees. She was also involved in the introduction of a Masters in Teaching and Learning as the Initial Teacher Education programme in the Faculty of Education.  Her teaching areas are assessment and science education.  She is mostly interested in assessment in relation to the effects of examinations on students, the introduction of formative assessment in schools as well as the students’ views of examinations and assessment practices.  She has published chapters in books, in peer reviewed journals and in peer reviewed conference proceedings.  In 2016 she won the AEA Poster Award and subsequently published a book on the research presented in the poster on dyslexic teenagers’ views of examinations.

For more information about the Publications Committee, please contact Gill Stewart at

Share your experience with AEA Special Interest Group in e-assessment

A Special Interest Group (SIG) in the area of e-assessment will shortly be set up. We hope that our first SIG, in an up-and-coming area of the Association’s work, will be successful, and that other AEA-E SIGs will follow. Martyn Ware, Head of Assessment Futures at Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA), has agreed to chair the e-assessment SIG and will be working with co-chairs from across Europe. If you would like to help develop our e-assessment SIG please get in touch in the first instance with its administrator, Lesley Wiseman, at

Assessing Mathematics using interactive items in France

In France, the teaching of mathematics has a double objective. The first is aimed at acquiring knowledge and the necessary methods for each student to be able to build a personal, professional and citizen future and to prepare for further training. The second one refers to developing cross-curricular skills (autonomy, taking initiatives, adaptability, creativity, discipline …) and the six major competences in mathematics: searching, modelling, representing, calculating, reasoning and arguing.

Problem-solving is a framework dedicated to develop, modelize and combine several of these skills. However, in order to take initiatives, to think of possible solutions and to engage accordingly without drifting, the student needs to have evaluation exercises designed to meet this objective.

Interactive items meet these specifications. They are items in which the students interact in a given situation so as to analyze a problem. In fact, they facilitate the intellectual work by freeing the mind from the challenge of the technical implementation (using instrumental geometry, arithmetic practice…) and by enlarging the field of approaches likely to be used. In order to generate these reflexes, one needs to directly implement basic procedures linked to each of the six competences, which themselves underlie exercises with defined objectives. The exercises and questions included in the different interactive items will engage these reflexes in a balanced way and they may even be observed through the analysis of the generated log data. In other words, this procedure gives us the possibility to collect more than just the answer in a digital format. The log data traces the student’s pathway as he attempts to answer the question: the time at which the student starts and stops his work, the movement of the mouse, the use of the different tools, idle time and even a screen shot of the last actions.

In May 2016, the DEPP (the statistical department of the French Ministry of Education) used a few of these items for the first time with students in Grade 9 and the analysis of the generated log data was carried out. First results of this analysis produced very rich and interesting observations with respect to the strategies used by students in solving the interactive questions. In a further step in May 2017, this work was conducted on a larger scale in collaboration with the French national Institute of Statistics (INSEE) and the findings are yet to be explored. Such information can provide excellent feedback to the educational community (teachers, researchers and policy-makers) as to the student’s understanding of how maths problem are solved. DEPP intends to pursue its efforts in such analyses in order to better understand the strategies used by students when they learn Mathematics.

For more information about the results and the project, please contact: Philippe Arzoumanian (, Office for Student Assessment, DEPP, Ministry of Education, France.

Call for papers related to large-scale testing in a digital world

In June 2016, Umeå University of Northen Sweden organized a conference on the theme “Future tests and test environments” in Umeå, Sweden. The aim was to bring researchers, practitioners and policy makers together and learn from each other’s experiences. This was a response to the ongoing discussion on how to digitalize large-scale tests in many countries. Although it is well-known that technology opens up many new possibilities, there are still challenges and potential consequences to be addressed. This conference was an excellent space to exchange growing knowledge and practices in the field which would facilitate making such transitions without facing unexpected consequences. The conference was very successful and resulted in new knowledge, new research and new collaborations.

Moving forward, the ambition is now to continue sharing knowledge. One first initiative invites researchers with an interest in new test formats or test settings to publish their work in a special issue of the Education Inquiry journal.

A call for contributions, open to all, is now out. The theme of the special issue is “Large-scale testing in a digital world: challenges and opportunities”. More information about the call and how to submit your article can be found at: or by contacting Christina Wikström at

New issue of Research Matters journal

Research Matters is a free journal of Cambridge Assessment via which it shares its assessment research with the wider assessment community. The journal is produced twice a year by the Research Division of Cambridge Assessment and features articles, short summaries, and comment on prominent research articles. Readers can also access and explore full details of the contents, articles and features of all previous issues of Research Matters via the website

If as an AEA-Europe member, you are not already on the Cambridge Assessment mailing list and would like to receive a regular, printed copy of the journal, please feel free to contact Karen Barden, at

Checking for learning – an experience from Armenia

Usually in educational practice, all the students of the same grade are given the same tasks for summative assessment. However, given that the students’ abilities are different, it may not seem fair to limit the appreciation to only this type of assessment.

One type of assessment for learning, which can be done individually or in groups, relates to formative assessment. The goal is to measure the student’s educational progress so as to reveal knowledge, skills and behaviour to promote his/her development. Tasks are developed according to the student’s abilities and contribute to his/her educational progress by making the learning process more active. It may either take the form of a self-assessment / self-test or it may involve a kind of collaborative work on given theme/topic that has been previously taught. These may be completed in class or at home. Examples include questionnaires (or formative tests), individual work, presentations, discussions, a card or a poster to be completed in groups and practical work. For instance, a homework assignment could include the creation of a questionnaire, poster, crossword, research work, or another suitable tool to check and to promote the understanding of a subject that has been addressed in class.

Such means for checking the progress in learning are particularly useful for teaching learners with special educational needs. It should be noted however, that much effort is needed on behalf of teachers for increasing the efficiency of these methods.

The difference between summative and formative checking for learning can be distinguished in the following examples.

Summative taskFormative task
Is the number 7452 divisible by 9(3)?What is the condition for the digits of any number that makes 7452 to be divisible by 9?
How can you make a number which can be divided by 3, but cannot be divided by 9?

or vice versa

Can you make a number which can be divided by 9, but cannot be divided by 3?

The application of formative learning promotes the quality of education. Formative works are applied by means of written, oral, and practical works. This approach can be used for all subjects and the formative nature of the questions helps reveal the student’s thorough knowledge or identifies what exactly is learnt by the student or what the drawbacks are. While constructing a task for learning, one must take into account that the answers are going to be evaluated and assessed mainly for awareness, competences and authenticity.

For further information about the project, please contact: Onik Mikayelyan and Lilit Mikayelyan (, National Institute of Education of Armenia.

Ten Years of IERI

This year, the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA) and Educational Testing Service (ETS) are celebrating 10 years since joining forces to form the IEA-ETS Research Institute (IERI It has been a productive and valuable decade of collaboration between these two stalwarts of educational measurement, whose mutual goal is to nurture and promote improved research into the science of large-scale assessment in education.

Devoted to building understanding and research capacity around the world, IERI has hosted 29 IERI academies on specialized topics related to large-scale assessment, and delivered an additional 20 training courses as part of larger professional conferences, as well as helping countless researchers navigate their way through the many various international large-scale assessment databases and their associated methodology. To date, over 750 researchers have benefited from IERI’s flagship academies; the next one takes place in Hamburg in September 2017.

The IERI journal, Large-Scale Assessments in Education (, which grew from the IERI monograph series, is another increasingly successful joint initiative, devoted to contributing to the science of large-scale assessments, helping disseminate state-of-the-art information about empirical research using these databases, and making the results available to policymakers and researchers around the world. This open-access journal allows authors to retain the copyright of their articles, leaving them free to reproduce and disseminate their work, and authors also benefit from no article processing charges.

IERI recently celebrated this 10th anniversary by hosting a reception during the AERA meeting in San Antonio. A second celebratory reception will also be held during the ECER meeting In Copenhagen, Denmark, later this year.

For more information, please contact us by email at