The area of educational evaluation and assessment is very broad and therefore choices need to be made in defining the research themes (as well as the specialisations offered in the Master’s and Doctoral programmes).
The selection of research themes is inspired by two sources: the vision and mission statements being the most important one, but a second (and valid) one is the need to have an adequate research training environment for Master’s and doctoral students who want to develop themselves as specialists in these areas. Both the vision and mission statements suggest that research projects are needed at all system levels addressing research questions in the areas of evaluation and assessment.
Accordingly, research themes have been chosen at both the system level, which can be the national, provincial or even the district level (Theme 1) and at the school or institution level (Theme 2). In both themes, much attention is given to the quality of all aspects of the research design emphasising the ‘chain of reasoning’ of doing research. An ‘achilles heel’ in many research, evaluation and assessment studies is the quality of the tests and instruments used. With the introduction and implementation of a new curriculum in education with an enhanced focus on assessment, additional training, research and support is needed for classroom assessment at schools (Theme 3).
A national centre of excellence of educational research in evaluation and assessment should provide leadership in these aspects, the reason why Theme 4 on test-construction and instrument development has been chosen. Theme 5 on programme evaluation has been added as its need stems from the many initiatives and projects at provincial and district level that have been (and still are) initiated, as well as the ongoing need for programme evaluation at the institutional level aimed at enhancing education. The need for a thorough evaluation of their effects and impact justifies this research theme.
Whilst many more (or alternative) research themes could have been chosen within the domain of educational evaluation and assessment, the foci chosen seem to be the most important given the stage of development of South African education.