Alex Scharaschkin

I am Director of Research and Compliance at the education charity and exam board AQA. I run AQA’s Centre for Education Research and Practice (CERP), and am also Executive Secretary of the Association for Educational Assessment, Europe. At AQA my responsibilities include AQA’s programme of research and its dissemination; maintenance and management of awarding standards; technical regulatory advice; and oversight of regulatory compliance activity.

My research interests include the philosophy of measurement in education and the social sciences, the nature of validity arguments, and the application of quantitative and interdisciplinary approaches in assessment. I started my D.Phil part-time in October 2015 and my supervisors are Professor Jo-Anne Baird and Dr Joshua McGrane.

The working title of my D.Phil is ‘Measuring ability or valuing performances? A study in constructing meaning in educational assessment’. It investigates the kind of educational assessment that is the mainstay of high-stakes (e.g. A level and GCSE) and advanced (e.g. university degree level) practice in the UK, and in countries whose education systems derive from, or have been influenced by, UK practice. Educational assessment in this tradition is characterised by its use of constructed-response tasks or questions. When students respond to such assessment tasks, assessors need to decide, not ‘is this answer right or wrong?’, but ‘what is the quality of this response?’.  The response could be an essay, music or drama performance, piece of artwork, computer programme, etc. When such assessments are also curriculum-embedded, it is necessary to demonstrate that students’ overall results reflect the intended assessment objectives: that performances which are graded ‘C’, for instance, tend to exemplify the qualitative features (the aspects or attributes of quality) that are supposed to be associated with ‘a typical grade C performance’. Assessment systems predicated on such a basis are called attainment-referenced.

My project draws on mathematics (relational structures), cognitive psychology (prototype theory of concepts), and philosophy (many-valued logics). It aims to use these to ground a fairly general theory of assessment, going beyond the traditional quantitative approaches that have been used to study educational assessment procedures to date, such as item response theory (including comparative judgement models) and classical test theory.

In particular, I aim to investigate the following questions:

  • Can logical models based on fuzzy relational systems be applied to attainment-referenced assessment such as UK GCSE and A level assessment?
  • Do such models provide any advantages over traditional quantitative methods?
  • Can reliability, validity, and comparability be appraised in such a framework?
  • Can such models be applied to improve the construct validity of large-scale curriculum-embedded assessment procedures?


Recent publications:

Scharaschkin, A. (2017). Commentary on Baird, J., Andrich, D., Hopfenbeck, T. and Stobart, G, ‘Assessment and learning: fields apart’. Assessment in Education: Principles, Policy & Practice, 24(3);454-462.

Dassiou, X., Langham, P., Nancarrow, C., Scharaschkin, A. and Ward, D. (2016). New development: Exploring public service markets. Public Money and Management, 36(2):145-148.


Recent conference presentations:

Scharaschkin, A. (2016). Applying formal concept analysis in assessment: Can it help mediate between socio-political and technical understandings of the meaning of exam grades? Presentation at the 2016 annual conference of the Association for Educational Assessment –Europe, Limassol, November 2016


College: St. Anne’s