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Cambridge Assessment Network: Defining educational assessment for the public

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How should we define educational assessment in order to explain it better to the public? There is much misunderstanding, which includes an expectation that examinations should be able to judge accurately small differences in students’ performances. These judgements are surely made by subject specialists who are experts in judging the level of students’ work. And yet it is also acknowledged that no expert can judge to sufficient levels of accuracy, especially when decisions about students’ futures are to be based on those judgements. So could the UK awarding bodies rely more on a ‘scientific’ approach to the measurement of students’ achievement?

Key topics

■Measurements and judgements ■Descriptive and measurement scales ■Their relationship to assessment ■Science or art? ■Explaining ourselves to the public

Speaker biography

Andrew Watts began his career as a teacher of English in England. After eleven years he moved to Singapore where he taught at a Junior College (for A level) for over four years. Andrew then worked for five and a half years in the Curriculum Planning Division of the Ministry of Education in Singapore, focusing on curriculum development in English teaching and in-service teacher development. In 1990 he returned to England and worked with Cambridge Assessment from the summer of 1992. For most of that time Andrew looked after teams that were developing national tests for 14-year-olds in England, Northern Ireland and Wales.

As Director of the Cambridge Assessment Network from 2004 to January 2009, Andrew led the setting up of the Network, whose purpose is to promote online and face-to-face professional development opportunities for teachers and those who work in assessment.

Andrew now works freelance on a variety of education and assessment projects. He contributes regularly to assessment seminars, workshops, training courses and conferences both in the UK and internationally

This talk is part of the Assessment Principles series.

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