Setting and maintaining standards in national examinations

Funder: AQA Education and Ofqual; Principal Investigator: Professor Jo-Anne Baird; Research Fellow: Dr Joshua McGrane; Collaborators: Dr Lena Gray (AQA), Dennis Opposs (Ofqual), Dr Tina Isaacs (UCL); Research Assistant: Kristine Gorgen.

Examination standards are not well defined in theoretical terms and this leads to problems in their public understanding, with consequent periodic crises in public confidence. AQA and OUCEA have already begun a project on the definition of educational standards in national examination systems.

Dr. Lena Gray and Professor Jo-Anne Baird have published a paper in the Oxford Review of Education, setting out the differences in the ways standards are perceived and enacted in Scotland and England (Baird, J. & Gray, L. (2016) The meaning of curriculum-related examination standards in Scotland and England: a home–international comparison, Oxford Review of Education (online). Click here to download – the first 50 downloads are free).

This work will be extended to other countries in the long term in the joint project between Oxford University, AQA and Ofqual: Standard Setting and Maintaining in National Examinations. The project aims to describe the processes used to set or to maintain (or link over time) standards in these examinations and to explore the concepts relating to standards behind them. The project focuses on how standards in national, school-leaving or university entrance examinations are set and maintained in a wide range of jurisdictions around the world.

Examination practitioners and academics will be invited to a symposium in Oxford in March 2017 and to contribute chapters to a book outlining and discussing their national examinations. The editorial board members are Professor Jo-Anne Baird (OUCEA), Dr. Lena Gray (AQA), Dennis Opposs (Ofqual) and Dr. Tina Isaacs (UCL).

This project was presented at the 42nd International Association for Educational Assessment Conference in Cape Town, South Africa in August 2016. The theme of the conference was: Assessing the achievement of curriculum standards – An ongoing dialogue, and the presentation, Setting and maintaining standards in national examinations around the world, is available here.
Furthermore the project’s editorial board submitted a paper to the conference, which is available here.

The project was also presented at a discussion group at the 17th annual  Association for Educational Assessment – Europe Conference in Limassol, Cyprus in November 2016. The theme of the conference was: Social and political underpinnings of educational assessment: Past, present and future. The presentation, Standard-setting/maintaining and public trust in national examinations around the world, is available here.  The discussion was led by Lena Gray and Tina Isaacs along with Christina Wikstrom from Umea University in Sweden and Marieke van Onna from CITO in the Netherlands.