Research News

UW-Madison’s Kaplan co-edits new publication, ‘Assessing Contexts of Learning’

January 13, 2017

UW-Madison’s David Kaplan and colleagues at the German Institute for International Education Research recently published a new book examining the methodology and research behind the highly publicized Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) global education survey.

The publication is titled, “Assessing Contexts of Learning: An International Perspective.”

Kaplan, the Patricia Busk Professor of Quantitative Methods with the School of Education’s No. 1-ranked Department of Educational Psychology, worked on this project during the 2015-16 academic year while he was visiting Germany as a Humboldt Research Award scholar. Co-editors on this project include: Susanne Kuger (Senior Editor), Eckhard Klieme and Nina Jude.

To many outside of academia, PISA is best known as a worldwide study of the scholastic performance of 15-year-olds on mathematics, science and reading. It is carried out every three years by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

After the PISA results are released, it is common that policymakers and media skim the results to highlight how well a particular nation’s students are doing -- or spotlight a country’s perceived failures. But Kaplan’s interest is in developing these surveys for deeper research and policy purposes. He explains that national assessments such as the U.S. National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) and international assessments such as PISA can be powerful research and policy tools because they are highly specialized and technically sound surveys.

Kaplan has served as a member of the PISA Technical Advisory Group and has served on the PISA Context Questionnaire Expert Group since 2006. He also chaired the PISA 2015 Context Questionnaire Expert Group and also serves on two expert advisory groups for NAEP.

Assessing Contexts of Learning book coverKaplan says that the new publication he co-edited is “unique in that it focuses on the methodology and research conducted using the questionnaires that are designed to provide context for the test results and are of increasing policy relevance in their own right.”

Kaplan adds that the publication also “attempts to provide transparency in the design and decision making processes involved in constructing PISA by providing an online repository of material used in the field-trial of the PISA 2015 context questionnaire material.”

The repository is hosted at the German Institute for International Educational Research in Frankfurt. 

According to Springer publishing a web page promoting the publication, the “primary purposes of this book are to inform readers about how education effectiveness research and international large-scale assessments are already interacting to inform research and policymaking; to identify areas where a closer collaboration of both fields or input from other areas could further improve this work; to provide sound theoretical frameworks for future work in both fields; and finally to relate these theoretical debates to currently available and evaluated material for future context assessments.”