BERA President’s Roundtable seminar series 2015-16

Methodological challenges in education(al) research

BERA is starting a series of presidential round table seminars that will draw on processes of agenda- setting, horizon-scanning, evidence review and user engagement to explore key methodological challenges facing the education research community in areas of substantive enquiry.

Each event will focus on a different methodological challenge, exploring current dilemmas that arise in the method’s context of use and setting out an agenda for future enquiry.  The seminars are designed to promote engagement and dialogue across different communities of practice in education. To facilitate free-flowing discussion, all the events will be held under Chatham house rules. The briefing papers prepared for the event and the summary points that emerge from the discussion will be published on the BERA website.

We are pleased to announce that the first such event will focus on Assessment and take place on November 26th 10.30-3.30 at the Graduate School of Education, University of Bristol.  Details on how to apply for places can be found below.

Presidential Round Table Seminar 1

What are assessment data really good for?  Reliability, validity and the politics of accountability and curriculum change in education.

The belief that the collection and monitoring of assessment data are the key to good education system management is widespread. But over time some of the confidence placed in the forms of assessment data collected and how they can legitimately be interpreted has weakened. It does not automatically follow that the more data an education system collects, the better its results. Moreover, overconfidence in the story the data tell can lead to the data’s misinterpretation in public discourse, leading to a series of unintended consequences for schools, for teachers and their pupils. This is well recognised within the psychometric tradition, where the reliability and validity of any assessment data are rightly a matter of keen debate. This seminar will explore some of the methodological issues surrounding the use of assessment data in schools, what the data’s warrants really are and how the data might best be used to further equality of outcomes within what remains in many respects a socially segregated education system.

Key methodological issues to be considered include:

  • the weight that can be justifiably placed on assessment data in different contexts of use 
  • how far issues in interpretation can be settled by purely technical means
  • the strengths and weakness of current approaches to assessment in delivering more equal outcomes
  • whether the education system can and should manage with less data
  • The  interaction between forms of assessment and curriculum teaching and planning
  • whether the validity and reliability of national assessment instruments can produce meaningful predicted grades for individual children

The speakers who will be invited to open up some of these issues for debate include: Rebecca Allen, Education Datalab; Jannette Elwood, Queen’s University, Belfast and Paul Newton, Ofqual.

Next topics in the series include:

  1.  Methodologies for researching with the most disadvantaged in situations of conflict

  2. Researching recontextualisation, co-production and collaborative research in education policy and practice  

  3. Exploring theories of change in education:   determining when and how x leads to y? 
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