Academic journal article College and University

Student Teacher Perceptions

Academic journal article College and University

Student Teacher Perceptions

Article excerpt

Investigating the Impact of Cambridge International Assessments on U.S. Stakeholders

As part of the continuing program to study the impact of its international assessments, the University of Cambridge International Examinations ('Cambridge') has undertaken a series of studies investigating the impact on a range of US stakeholders. This paper reports on research designed to respond to a series of washback and impact questions seeking data on: the profiles of the candidates taking Cambridge assessments and teachers preparing students for the assessments; the washback of Cambridge assessments on courses preparing students; and the impact of Cambridge assessments on the students who have taken them.

Data were collected on an opportunity sample of five case study high schools and two universities. The main findings of the study are presented according to the type of data collected: questionnaires, interviews and discussions, and classroom observations.

Given the increase in the number of applications for admission to colleges and universities for the limited number of seats in freshmen classes, students and universities in the United States must consider all available indicators of success in higher education. School districts have been encouraged to offer college-level coursework to high school students. The approach to this is multi-faceted and includes Advanced Placement (AP), International Baccalaureate (IB), early college enrollment, and Cambridge International Advanced Levels.

The Advanced Placement program (sponsored by the College Board) is the most common acceleration mechanism and has been a staple in U.S. education for more than half a century. Initially established as a single program for internationally mobile students in the late 19605, the International Baccalaureate (IB) has grown globally in popularity but nowhere more than in the United States, where it now is afforded university recognition similar to that provided to AP. Although the University of Cambridge International Examinations (Cambridge) has offered examinations since 1858, it is relatively new in offering its curriculum in the United States. Nevertheless, Cambridge is now experiencing the same recognition curve that IB experienced in the 19705 and 1980s.

As part of the continuing program to update and refine its study of the impact of the International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE), the International Advanced Subsidiary level (AS level), and the International Advanced level (A level), Cambridge has undertaken a series of studies investigating their impact on a range of U.S. stakeholders. Investigating impact is an important aspect of determining the usefulness of an assessment in terms of fulfilling its intended purpose; impact studies perform an important role in terms of assessment accountability.

Data have been collected from five case study high schools in Florida and Virginia and two universities in Florida and Minnesota. The focus of the study is on: the profile of the impact study participants; Cambridge "washback" on preparation content, methods, skills, activities, and materials; perceptions of Cambridge test fairness, pressures, and assessment likes and dislikes; and a summary of impact study face-to-face data on test difficulty and validity. The main outcomes are presented and linked to future-related research including triangulation of findings from a parallel predictive validity study.

CONTEXT

Cambridge offers the International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE), a two-year qualification aimed at fourteen- to sixteen-year-olds. Cambridge IGCSE encourages learner-centered and inquiry-based approaches to learning. It has been designed to develop learners' skills in creative thinking, inquiry, and problem solving, providing a sound preparatory basis for the next stage of education. More than 70 subjects are available for study, and schools may offer any combination thereof. …

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