AEA (Europe) 2022 Conference Review

Trinity College Dublin

The RM Compare 2022 Events calendar closed with a trip to Dublin last week completing nearly a full year of 'in-person' activity. It's easily forgotten that the year started with ongoing uncertainty caused by the pandemic with BETT being moved from its traditional slot in January to March. Since then, at least in the world of events, things have mostly returned to normal.

The ability to talk directly to people is critical for early-stage products like RM Compare. It is remarkable that we have made the progress we have given that most of it has taken place remotely. Our rate of progress has risen exponentially in recent months as a direct result of being able to work with people face-to-face. Specifically, the knowledge and understanding we have been able to get has allowed us to push things forward much faster.

"Focus on the user and all else follows"

The AEA conference brings together around 400 industry experts and academics to share insights and ideas. In doing so if provides invaluable insights into the thoughts and feelings of assessors, teachers, students, parents and other stakeholders. At this years event there was a dedicated Comparative Judgement (CJ) research stream that shared six specific papers. This was in addition to a number of other related presentations. A key take-away was the continued and growing interest in CJ from the sector.

It was great to finally meet Vasile Rotaru from Qualification Wales who presented his findings from a study we have highlighted earlier in the year that focused on teacher perceptions of using CJ for long answer History assessments. It was interesting to see some similar conclusions to those presented by Cambridge Assessment at the conference who highlighted other research completed earlier in the year.

The key message here, and from other talks, concerned the importance of user experience (UX) research. When it comes to digital assessment CJ has a bit of a head start on many other more traditional approaches, however it is clear that there is still lots to do. For many users the current experience is not as good as it needs to be. This is a key focus for the RM Compare team. You can see some of the ways we are tackling this in our new CJ On-Demand proposition.

The three-legged stool

The conference repeatedly highlighted the inter-dependency of assessment, curriculum, and pedagogy - this is something we have discussed before, particularly with regard to assessment 'backwash'.

A good example of this was the increasing focus on the assessment of '21st Century Skills'. It's fair to say that the 21C-Skills agenda itself is not without controversy with ongoing debate about its merit or what it even is. However there does seem to be a consensus that it is a 'thing' that will continue to grow in importance. In this regard it will have implications for the world of assessment. We have written before about the challenges of assessing 'fuzzy' content and the opportunity for taking a comparative approach.

We believe that taking a holistic approach is crucial if we are going to properly balance all three legs on the learning stool.

Our 3 key learnings and understandings.

Overall, the AEA 2022 Europe conference was an excellent event. We are still working through all of the learnings, however there were perhaps 3 key takeways for us.

  • CJ is a 'thing'. ACJ, especially through an On-Demand approach, has great potential if we can create a great user experience.
  • Balancing the complex relationship between assessment, curriculum and pedagogy is the key to unlocking potential.
  • Online events are a poor substitute to in-person ones.