Glasgow was the venue for the annual meeting of the Association for Educational Assessment–Europe (AEA-E) from November 4-6, 2015. I attended the conference along with my colleagues, Anand Karat and Charles Anifowose, from Vretta. There were some 300 other delegates from over 30 countries at the conference. The theme of the conference was Assessment and Social Justice and many of the papers presented focused on ways in which assessment policies and practices are changing to promote greater social justice through education. Conference delegates were for the most part professionals in the educational assessment field, working for national and international assessment or examination agencies, or academics whose teaching and research is centred on aspects of assessment. There are several associations of such people in the world of which the AEA-E is one of the most popular. The conference featured keynote addresses from leading figures in the field as well as concurrent sessions in which members presented the result of their latest work. However, conferences are not all work; this one featured a malt whisky tasting in which a professional whisky blender introduced us to the delights of malt whiskies from five different regions of Scotland. The Vretta display featured the Elevate My Math program and attracted the interest of delegates from a large number of countries, such as England, Scotland and Ireland to Romania, Kazakhstan, and Greenland. These high levels of interest reflect two priorities of educators: a desire to refocus educational assessment on directly supporting the improvement of student learning; and a desire to increase levels of numeracy for all students, not just those headed towards careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields.
Assessment for Learning has been a topic of discussion at these conferences for many years but the partnership between the Ontario colleges and Vretta in the College Student Achievement Project (CSAP) has shown, for the first time, for many delegates, how technology can enable assessment for learning to become a reality. A report on the CSAP assessment development project was presented by Emily Brown and me at the 2014 AEA-E conference in Tallinn, Estonia. Now, its implementation, set to begin in 2016 at Humber College but continuing with other Ontario colleges, secondary schools and universities, demonstrates the potential for its versatility and potential in other jurisdictions.
Another recent partnership between the Minister of National Education, Children and Youth, Grand Duchy of Luxembourg and Vretta for the development of the MathemaTIC system has also shown the innovative use of technology to transform the way students are learning mathematics. Amina Kafaï-Afif, Chef de Division, of the Agence pour le Développement de la Qualité Scolaire presented the progress of the development of the MathemaTIC system.
Closing the Numeracy Gap is also high on the priority list for many countries not only because mathematics is an increasingly important foundation for many postsecondary programs and careers but also, from the social justice perspective, because mathematics has often in the past been seen as a subject for an elite (usually male and middle class) group to seek success in. Now we recognize that numeracy for all must be a social as well as an economic priority and Elevate My Math is aimed at enabling all students – young and old, male and female, and without regard to ethnic or social background – to be successful in mathematics.
We see the AEA-E conference as an important learning experience for those of us who attended. From listening to presentations and meeting with delegates from other countries, our own base of knowledge and inspiration grows, and who can tell where that might lead to?
Dr. Graham Orpwood