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Sarah is one of the UK’s leading experts in the design, development and evaluation of assessment.  She has led teams working on assessment-related projects for a number of leading organisations including Cambridge Assessment and the National Foundation for Educational Research.  She is currently Director of Assessment at AlphaPlus Consultancy.  In this role Sarah leads a number of projects including assessment development, assessment standardising and grading, validation studies and evaluations.  The projects cover assessments for school-aged students, as well as vocational and professional students.  


Sarah has led teams:

  • developing and delivering qualifications for students of school-leaving age (GCSE and A Level)

  • developing national tests for younger students, including end of primary assessments

  • administering the international surveys for different jurisdictions of the UK (PISA, TIMSS, PIRLS, ICCS and PIAAC)

  • validating a new assessment scheme for qualifying solicitors

  • quality assuring assessments for senior dentists.


Sarah is currently leading a four-year project to develop national assessments in reading and numeracy for learners aged 7 to 14 in Wales.  These assessments will initially be delivered on paper and are transitioning to computer adaptive testing over the course of the project.  The first computer adaptive assessments, in procedural numeracy, have been delivered live in schools since December 2019.


Sarah is also leading a multi-year project to develop content for computer-based tests and scenario-based practical assessments for qualified social workers. 


More broadly, Sarah is expert in a wide range of research techniques including evaluations, literature reviews, comparative studies and randomised control trials.  She has worked extensively with assessment organisations and Ministries of Education in the UK and internationally. 

Keynote Session

Friday 13 September 09.10am

How E-assessment is Replacing Paper-based Assessment for National Tests Around the World,

using Wales as a Case Study

Technology has long been claimed to have the potential to dramatically change education and testing whilst, in the UK at least, not really seeming to really make the most of its potential.  Although technology is used fairly extensively to support learning, the majority of school-based qualifications and tests have, until recently, continued to be delivered on paper.  The high stakes nature of many of these tests mean that they drive the much broader educational agenda – what gets tested is what gets taught. 

Recently however, the move towards computer-based testing seems to be gathering pace, and a number of significant developments have taken place which suggest we may be moving towards a tipping point. 

  • Computer-based testing has been introduced, as an option at least, in a number of international surveys

  • Computer-based testing and computer adaptive testing has been introduced at large scale in a number of national testing programmes across the world

  • A small number of higher stakes qualifications are now conducted on computer

  • Many vocational and professional qualifications now include computer-based testing for at least some elements.


This keynote will discuss some of the trends in the introduction of e-assessment and describe some of the examples in more detail.  A particular focus will be given to the development of the computer adaptive tests for all students in Wales aged 7 to 14.

Spotlight Session

Friday 13 September 1.30pm

Designing Computer Adaptive Tests

Agreeing the assessment design specification is a key part of any assessment development project and is the stage at which much of the creative thinking takes place.  Later stages of the project involve implementing that design and ironing out any unforeseen issues that arise.  This session will describe the stages involved and provide detail from the project developing national tests for school-aged students in Wales. 


To agree the design specification for these assessments we focused particularly on the outputs that we wanted at the end of the testing process.  The assessments are designed to serve a formative purpose and as such need to produce detailed feedback on strengths and weaknesses for learners and teachers.


Our design process includes consideration of:

  • The assessment purpose

  • The tests the new assessments were replacing (i.e. what schools and students are familiar with)

  • The feedback required from the assessments

  • Academic literature showing how computer adaptive assessments have been developed successfully in other contexts

  • Expert input on our proposals.


This session will also provide an overview of the simulations that we conducted to validate the proposed design prior to development work commencing. 

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