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Outcomes and Causal Inference in International Comparative Assessments

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - OCCAM (Outcomes and Causal Inference in International Comparative Assessments)

Reporting period: 2018-02-01 to 2020-01-31

ETN OCCAM investigates how educational policies influence educational outcomes worldwide. One of the most salient findings in the field of education is that there are huge national differences in student achievement in international comparative studies. The shockingly large gap between the highest performing countries (most of which are in East Asia) and many European countries corresponds to a difference in attainment of two years of schooling. Although this finding has been replicated in several studies, the reasons for and consequences of such differences are currently not well understood. The main objective of OCCAM is to address this research gap.
There are variations in educational policy features that can only be observed across countries at the system level (e.g. the existence of central exams). Since the start of the new millennium, a new generation of international comparative studies has been launched: Studies like PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) and TIMSS (Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study) are repeated every few years and thus have a longitudinal component at the system level. Unlike cross-sectional designs, these trend designs allow researchers to estimate the causal effects of changes in educational policies at the system level. Applying this approach or other approaches to causal inference to the accumulated data from comparative studies, has huge potential to provide insights into the determinants of educational outcomes worldwide.
ETN OCCAM provides an ideal environment for training early-stage researchers (ESRs) to become leading experts in educational policy evaluation, international student assessments, and educational and policy consulting. They receive interdisciplinary and intersectoral training, and their individual research projects promise groundbreaking new knowledge on how to design fair and efficient educational systems. To achieve this, OCCAM integrates complementary expertise from eleven academic and three nonacademic partners. The combination of nonprofit and for-profit organizations will ensure the employability and entrepreneurship of the ESRs.
ETN OCCAM has recruited 15 highly skilled ESRs who have developed ambitious and promising research designs. All 15 ESRs took up their jobs and began their training in August 2018. ETN OCCAM has already conducted three network-wide training events in Dortmund (Germany), Nicosia (Cyprus), and Gothenburg (Sweden). Two additional networking and training events were organized for the early-stage researchers, one in Grainau (Germany) and one in Rome (Italy). Both the ESRs and senior researchers have disseminated OCCAM results to academic audiences in publications and at various international conferences. Furthermore, ETN OCCAM has launched an international and multilingual blog that translates OCCAM findings for a broader audience.
ETN OCCAM combines state-of-the-art research from three main areas with a view to furthering the existing research in a future-oriented way. First, OCCAM is dedicated to undertaking holistic research on the integrity of educational outcome measures in international large-scale assessments. Second, OCCAM is developing a new understanding of cross-cultural measurement issues that can inform the evolution of future international large-scale assessments. Third, OCCAM is using robust approaches to identify which determinants influence variance in educational outcomes.
Consortium and ESRs