Name: Victoria Birmingham
Research Interests: Primary School Education
Research you are currently working on: Assessment without levels in Primary Schools.
Research methodologies you are using: Mixed methods case study or how primary schools are assessing without levels. This will involve teacher interviews as the primary data which will be used with a comparison of teacher assessment and test assessment.
Current issues, thoughts and reflections on education & research: There’s a very broad range of literature on assessment. It’s been both enjoyable and daunting to immerse myself into it. A very interesting area I’ve found is the research around the validity and reliability of teachers’ assessments, formative and summative. The over whelming influence on this is how the assessments are used and the matter of league tables is never far from the discussion. A number of reviews over the years have been commissioned by the government to advise on assessment. The two main reports from TGAT (Task Group on Assessment and Testing, 1988) and The Bew Report (2011). Both reports, years apart, do not recommend assessment data being used to rank and judge schools. The TGAT Report (1988) discusses concerns about using the suggested external test in league tables. The question I have in my head when reading these reports is what do we have these external tests and league tables for?
Coming into the PhD fresh out of teaching myself, I’d expected a lot of the research to be quantitative because quantitative data was predominant in schools. However, a vast majority of research on assessment is qualitative. This took some getting used to and was confusing at first. I didn’t understand why the research is mostly qualitative but schools are judged on quantitative data. The recommendations from the government are also based on quantitative data. Now I’m thinking a lot about whether learning can be measured quantitatively because of how many factors are involved. This is certainly something I’m going to delve deeper into.
Most influential research you have read/seen: It’s not one piece in particular. There are a number of key author in the field (Black, P; Wiliam, D; Harlen, J; Stobart, G) that I find the most useful but the biggest influence is when I find a completely different point of view and it really makes me think. That makes me question the conclusion I have come to and the context I’m seeing assessment in compared to someone who thinks differently.
Advice for new researchers: Have a system to record your reading including quotes you find useful and what you think about the article/book/report. I’ve also found that when I started reading things I didn’t particular know what I was looking for but as I got into it themes and reflections came to me a lot easier. So, don’t expect to get everything out of a piece of literature when reading it for the first time, it’s when you read other things and read it that you get the most out it.
Mini fact about you: I can sew pretty well and make all sort things.