SLATE Symposium: Intelligent Accountability in Education

Organisers: SLATE / University of Bergen’s Department of Education (IPED)

Date: 12-14 December 2017

Location: SLATE meeting room, UiB


The Symposium aims to give leading European researchers in the field a face-to-face opportunity to share ideas and exchange experiences. The resulting collaborations will be published in joint publications.


Target group:

The participant target group includes invited academics and experts researching topics in education and educational policy linked to accountability systems.



Symposium speakers include Jo-Anne Baird, Gordon Stobart, Sølvi Lillejord, Simon Neby, Christian Ydesen, Maria Teresa Florez Petour, Tamara Rozas, Astrid Tolo, Fay Wheldon, Barbara Wasson, Louise Hayward, and Helene Marie Kjærgård Eide.



Intelligent Accountability – What is it? Why is it needed?


The use of technology has increasingly had a major influence on assessment and accountability systems at all levels of the educational system. In this context, accountability systems are seen as a technology; even a technocracy. Assessment professionals have set up an edifice of expertise and methods that have their own internal logic, but the implications of these systems for educational practice are outside of this system.


The accountability systems in education are often used to set targets for professionals, which may not necessarily fit with teachers’ goals. This can lead to alienation and disenfranchisement of teachers because their work is measured in ways that might not be directly related to their professional beliefs and identities. Assessment of teachers’ professional practice is being conducted using a range of methods, many of which appear to have had negative consequences for the profession.




Accountability systems should not replace trust (O’Neill, 2013).






Even if an institution is found to be accountable, the accountability system may not be trustworthy in terms of enhancing education. When accountability systems are too complex for pupils, parents, and teachers to understand, they, in turn, cannot judge their own or others’ work or achievement. Furthermore, they cannot judge the trustworthiness of the accountability system.


Forms of assessment that can be judged by a non-expert are therefore urgently needed. “An intelligent form of accountability would need to offer the public, parents and pupils evidence which they can use as a basis for placing or refusing trust in teachers, in exams and in schools.” (O’Neill 2013, p 14).


An intelligent accountability system would hold professionals accountable, without undermining their professionalism in the process. Indeed, an intelligent accountability system should support schools as self-improving organisations.


Although there is widespread problematizing of the effects of accountability systems upon education and a recognition that intelligent accountability systems are needed, there is little work on how could an intelligent accountability system in education, as suggested by O’Neill (2013) for example, function.


O’Neill, O. (2013). Intelligent accountability in education. Oxford Review of Education, 39(1), 4-16.

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