The International Educational Assessment Network (IEAN) brings together policy makers and researchers from small nations and states to tackle collaboratively some of assessment’s most intransigent challenges. Countries across the globe attempt to align assessment policies and practice with the aims of their curriculum and intended learning experiences and outcomes; as they do so, they seek also to ensure that development of assessment is aligned with and informed by research, policy and practice. In this endeavour, small nations and states potentially have much to learn from one another since population size is a major factor in determining what approaches to the management of change are likely to have greatest impact. Collaboration across communities also matters. Research in sustainable change suggests that researchers, policy makers and practitioners have to work together to build policy and to anticipate and tackle potential challenges as policy is enacted (Hayward & Spencer, 2010, Hayward, 2015). Relationships across communities have to be fostered and, for conversations to be sufficiently open to be able to tackle difficult challenges, all participants need to be in a safe space. Yet, all too often, assessment conversations are carried out in very public arenas, e.g., in the press, and there are few opportunities for safe spaces where international assessment research and policy communities can explore ideas, debate challenges and learn from one another’s experiences in a secure environment. IEAN has been established to provide such a safe, creative space. Its membership currently includes researchers and policy makers from Canada (British Columbia and Ontario), Denmark, Iceland, Ireland, New Zealand, Northern Ireland, Norway, Queensland (Australia), Scotland, Singapore, Slovenia, Switzerland and Wales.
Assessment systems have the potential to enhance social justice but, in practice, have not yet achieved that potential. This network brings together international research and policy experts to share evidence from research and practice to generate new ideas to tackle long term problems.
Internationally, four assessment areas have consistently remained problematic. These four areas are under consideration by IEAN:
Nations and states with a population size of less than 7/8 million have opportunities to use strategies for change that become far more complex with larger populations. Small nations and states have better opportunities to learn with one another.
An annual, autumn meeting is hosted by policy makers and researchers from a member country. During these meetings each of the four areas of challenge is deliberated, as researchers and policy makers work in small groups to:
The 2018 inaugural meeting of IEAN members was hosted in Scotland, made possible by a grant from the Nisbet family and with the support of the Scottish Government. The 2019 meeting was held in Dublin, hosted by the Irish policy community in partnership with Dublin City University. The 2020 meeting was to be held in Norway, hosted by the Norwegian Government and the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim. As a result of Covid-19 restrictions this meeting is now scheduled for 2021, but the work of the sub-groups continues through virtual meetings and other means of remote communication.