The Centre for Evaluation and Assessment (CEA) representatives attended workshops at the conference to enhance their analysis skills, this included multi-level modelling (MLM) analysis and structural equation modelling (SEM) with IEA data. The conference provided an international forum for researchers from across the globe to present their findings and exchange views on critical educational research issues in a comparative context. Two papers were submitted to the conference by the CEA and presented during the session on Interrogating Conceptual Information in PIRLS, Chaired by the director of IEA Amsterdam, Dr Andrea Netten, who visited the CEA on a student exchange programme in September 2011. The first article, written by Mrs Nelladee McLeod Palane and Prof. Sarah Howie is entitled “The Effect of Access to Text on Bilingual Language in Education Models: Exploring Higher-order Reading Comprehension Performance in prePIRLS 2011”. In this paper, the performance of South African Grade 4 learners on the ‘Integrating and Interpreting’ plausible value in preProgress in International Reading Literacy Study (prePIRLS 2011) is compared. This comparison is made between learners writing in English for whom it is not their home language (Immersion Model) and learners writing in their home language (Additive Bilingual Model) across the nine African languages tested within the lowest socioeconomic grouping. The second paper was entitled “Exploring Complexity in Defining Higher-order Reading Comprehension in prePIRLS 2011” and was written by Prof. Sarah Howie, Mrs Nelladee McLeod Palane and Ms Celeste Combrinck. This paper explores the relationship between the reading comprehension processes, item difficulty, text (reading passage) selection and the reader’s socio-linguistic context as factors that contribute to allocating a reading comprehension task to a higher- or lower-order category.
Other academics from the University of Pretoria who attended the conference include Dr Surette Van Staden, of the Department of Science, Mathematics and Technology Education (SMTE) who presented the paper titled “Social Interaction Determinants of South African Reading Literacy Achievement: Evidence From prePIRLS 2011” where she identified factors predicting reading literacy achievement among Grade 4 learners in South Africa by utilising Vygotsky’s social interaction theory. The paper was co-written with Dr Annika Bergbauer, of the Ifo Center for the Economics of Education, University of Munich, Germany. Dr Gretel Crafford and Dr René Ehlers from the Department of Statistics also had the paper presented at the conference. The paper was entitled “The Use of Multilevel Modeling to Assess the Mathematics Achievement of Grade 9 Learners in South Africa for the TIMSS 2015 Data” and was co-written with colleagues from the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) and the IEA Hamburg.