Intelligent School Accountability: an international symposium at SLATE

December 13, 2017

“The main goal of Intelligent School Accountability (ISA): is fairer assessments of students; forms of assessment that challenge teachers positively to develop their professional competence; and assessments that help parents understand the quality of the education their children are offered, are understandable to all stakeholders, and operationally manageable.”


Despite unfavourable weather conditions and busy December schedules, a group of international experts in School Accountability, were able to gather at SLATE for an International Symposium on ISA. SLATE researcher and Head of the Department of Education (IPED) at the University of Bergen, Astrid Tolo, described the group as being an exclusive selection of experts, representing different aspects of ISA. Tolo, together with Director of the Department of Education at University of Oxford, Jo-Anne Baird, and PhD student Fay Wheldon were responsible for organising the symposium.



Importance of cutting-edge research

The symposium opened with words of welcome from Bente Wold, the Dean at the Faculty of Psychology, and the Leader of the SLATE Advisory Board. Much of Wold’s own research has involved schools, and she underlined the importance of both reflection and cutting-edge research in new research areas such as ISA. She also highlighted the importance of research centres, such as SLATE, being able to focus on important new research themes.


Many of the symposium participants have been extremely active in Assessment and Accountability research in their respective countries, and some, such as Gordon Stobart, have served as international experts in Assessment in Education. Stobart, in particular, has been an invited expert in Norway as the Education Ministry and other levels of government are wrestling with the impact of these topics on Norwegian Education systems.



Defining ISA terminology

One of the first challenges in this research area is to attempt to define what the key terms mean. Tolo and Wheldon highlighted that while many of these terms are beginning to be used more commonly in the literature, there is not yet consensus on what the terms actually mean. Tolo began to work with aspects of this issue during her PhD work, and Wheldon is now undertaking a comprehensive literature review of “intelligent accountability”.




Accountability means “holding someone responsible for something – but who for what? Historian Christian Ydesen, from Aalborg University, has been researching accountability in Danish education dating back to 1660! Tolo was able to discuss the relationship between the terms “intelligent”, “accountability”, and “trust” with Holberg Prize-winner Onora O’Neil. O’Neil stressed the “human” aspect of these terms.






Some of the symposium participants were involved with the recent UNESCO Global Education Montoring Report, which this year highlighted “accountability”.




The first day of the symposium finished with a Key Note lecture by Gordon Stobart.



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