Network 9 (Student Assessment) was very well represented in Geneva, as it had been the year before in Dublin. There were two symposia, several individual paper sessions and a number of posters. Moreover, all sessions attracted fairly sizeable audiences, and post-presentation discussions were lively.
Towards explaining achievement: Findings from international comparative achievement studies
This was an 8-session symposium, comprising 26 presentations by researchers from a variety of different countries around the world. All three of the major international survey programmes – PISA, PIRLS and TIMSS – featured here, with researchers focusing on language, mathematics or science, sometimes comparing and contrasting attainment in different countries or across different pupil subgroups within one country, and sometimes linking attainment to attitudinal factors or school/teacher characteristics.
Foreign language skills and student assessment at primary school level: A comparative analysis of different theoretical approaches and research methods
Three presenters considered issues in language teaching and assessment in primary schools in Switzerland and Germany, including the possible influence on progress in one foreign language of the early introduction of another and how best to assess the oral skills of very young children.
Models/approaches for the assessment of learning
Assessment reliability and other measurement issues
Developing teachers’ knowledge about assessment
Speakers from a variety of European countries presented individual papers on a diverse range of topics, including portfolio assessment, mapping knowledge structures, problem solving skills, competence-based assessment, co-assessment conferencing, and marker reliability.
Eleven delegates attended the network meeting held on the final day of the conference. Sandra Johnson (link convenor) overviewed the history of the network to date. In particular, she drew attention to the mission statement, which clearly reflects the intention that the network concern itself with all aspects of assessment, from developing new techniques or applying existing techniques in new contexts, through novel ways of analyzing and presenting assessment results, to the intelligent interpretation of assessment data and their supportable use in policy making.
The network was never intended to favour “soft” over “hard” assessment, and indeed it should continue to embrace both. It is unfortunate, therefore, that symposium and paper submissions focusing on topics and issues in psychological and educational measurement continue to be few in number. Tjeerd Plomp (co-convenor), and all present, agreed that the network should continue with its current mission statement, and expressed the hope that more measurement specialists will consider contributing to the network programme in future conferences.
There was discussion also about the question of the proliferation of networks within EERA, and about the growing problem of content overlap.
Finally, participants were invited to propose themselves or others as network convenors, since Sandra Johnson was stepping down after many years as link convenor, and Marja Kankaanranta and Jouni Valijarvi were also retiring as co-convenors. Tjeerd Plomp declared that he was willing to continue as a convenor, as an element of continuity, though not as the link convenor.
It was explained that regular convenors were expected simply to participate in the paper reviewing process for each ECER and, if possible, to attend the conference and the network meeting held during the conference, and to chair conference sessions. The link convenor essentially organizes and coordinates network activity, liaising between the co-convenors and the EERA secretariat, forwarding paper submissions and other information from the secretariat to co-convenors, gathering reviewing judgements back, forwarding joint decisions to the secretariat, organizing the network conference programme, producing the annual network report, etc. It is essential that the link convenor attend every annual conference, chairing the network meeting and paper sessions, attending the two network convenors’ meetings, providing feedback to the network, generally troubleshooting problems, etc.
In addition, the hope was expressed that, as in the past, convenors would aim to organise at least one symposium for each conference, and, unlike in the past, that they might try to stimulate some kind of network activity between ECER conferences.
Pekka Kupari volunteered to become a convenor, but no-one was willing at that moment to volunteer to become link convenor. This position is still therefore vacant, and anyone interested in volunteering to fill it is invited to contact Tjeerd Plomp in the first instance.
The international survey programmes have always been very well represented in the conferences, and should continue to be so. But there are other aspects of assessment that merit similar attention: for example, the challenge of competence-based assessment, particularly in the field of vocational education, VLE-based assessment in higher education and ODFL, issues in the recognition of qualifications throughout Europe and in the wider world, the validity of application of sophisticated assessment models and associated analysis techniques with attainment data, how best to assess individuals when working in groups, etc.