Luxembourg Centre for Educational Testing (LUCET)

Research in the Luxembourg Centre for Educational Testing (LUCET)

LUCET’s mission is genuinely interdisciplinary, and so is the centre’s expertise. LUCET scientists’ and lab technicians’ qualifications range from psychology, psychometrics and cognitive (neuro)science, over sociology, pedagogy, didactics and linguistics, to computational sciences and engineering. LUCET’s interdisciplinary setup ensures a holistic comprehension of an increasingly complex and complicated research topic, thus facilitating innovative approaches to old and new challenges in education. LUCET carries on a strong digital heritage, specifically regarding pioneer work in computer-based (large-scale) assessment, from its precursor research unit EMACS (Educational Measurement and Applied Cognitive Science)—the former home of ÉpStan and the conceptual birthplace of TAO®. In this spirit, all on-going LUCET research and transfer endeavours are firmly grounded in the University of Luxembourg’s ever-expanding developments in digitalisation.

  • ÉpStan

    LUCET’s most prominent and resource-intensive commissioned research is the implementation, enhancement and assurance of the Luxembourg school monitoring programme Épreuves Standardisées (ÉpStan) which aims at facilitating evidence-based decision making in national education.

  • PISA

    One of LUCET’s mission-oriented research and assessment projects is the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA).

  • Report on National Education

    LUCET is also in charge of the coordination, facilitation and dissemination of nationally embedded educational research at the University of Luxembourg. LUCET’s most prominent dissemination outlet is the triennial report on national education, the so-called Bildungsbericht.

Some of our projects

The LUCET released the first report on the European Public Schools with preliminary results on student population, educational trajectories, mathematics achievement, and stakeholder perceptions

Through the Épreuves Standardisées (ÉpStan), the Luxembourg Centre for Educational Testing (LUCET) provides timely and policy-relevant information to national education stakeholders and assembles a unique and incredibly rich longitudinal database.

A challenging landscape for education

Large-scale international assessments (e.g. the OECD’s PISA studies) have shown repeatedly that many education systems in modern societies – Luxembourg being no exception – struggle to handle adequately increasingly diverse student populations. Understanding and learning how to deal effectively with highly heterogeneous groups of learners (i.e. solving the problem of providing equal opportunities for success to all, regardless of an individual’s socioeconomic, sociocultural or linguistic background) can be considered Luxembourg’s biggest education challenge of today.

Without data, you’re just another person with an opinion

The ÉpStan was established to use a scientific approach to tackle the aforementioned challenges to education. It is the core business of the LUCET and it aims to produce high-quality data that allow for evidence-based decision- and policy-making in national education.

Unique and ambitious

Through the Luxembourg school monitoring programme, LUCET is not only providing timely and policy-relevant information to national education stakeholders, but is also assembling a unique and incredibly rich longitudinal database – panels are actually entire cohorts – about the evolution of students’ competency profiles and their pathways through school and, possibly, through life.

One distinctive feature of the national monitoring system is the fact that ÉpStan results are fed back across all levels (school, class, student). This allows them to be used for processes such as school development, to boost teachers’ diagnostic competence, and to determine learning and education needs on an individual level.

The ÉpStan assess students’ academic competencies, learning motivation and attitudes to school at the beginning of each learning cycle of compulsory education. These assessments occur at the beginning of grades 1, 3, 5, 7 and 9. While the assessments for all elementary schools are paper-based, the ÉpStan for secondary schools are entirely computer‐ and web‐based (using LUCET’s in-house online assessment system OASYS).
Each year, the entire student population in each of the grades in question participates in the ÉpStan. This equates to approximately 28,000 students a year.

The Bildungsbericht is a triennial, integrative and research-based report on the state of national public education.

Educational research in and for Luxembourg

The Bildungsbericht is an extensive study of education in Luxembourg institutions. The education system from preschool to university is examined closely using a multimethod approach. Two of the main focuses of the Bildungsbericht are social inequalities and the challenges associated with plurilingualism in Luxembourg – two factors that are closely intertwined and influence each other when it comes to educational success or failure.
The report provides comprehensive insights and its aim is to inform debate and identify areas of action in education and schooling. Taking into account the concept of lifelong learning, the report considers all sectors of the education system.

A long-term mission

Since 2015, the Luxembourg Centre for Educational Testing (LUCET) has hosted, edited, coordinated and developed the Bildungsbericht series of publications.
The first ever Bildungsbericht arose from a joint effort of Luxembourg-based researchers in the field of education. The report featured quantitative as well as qualitative research, and the (inter)disciplinary perspectives on education ranged from pedagogy, didactics and linguistics to psychology, psychometrics and sociology. A year after the publication of this first edition, a decision was made to institutionalise and legally consolidate the national education report as an integrative, research-based, periodic publication. The Luxembourg Centre for Educational Testing (LUCET) was selected to ensure long-term continuity.

Knowledge transfer into society

The Bildungsbericht does not aim to give direct recommendations for political means but the findings can – and should – nevertheless help to identify the areas and the problems that need to be tackled in future. The explicit intention is for the Bildungsbericht to be a report for the general public and target groups range from the interested public, stakeholders in the field of education (e.g. teachers, headteachers, parents), to the Ministry and the press.

So far, the national education report has been very positively received within Luxembourgish society and has already helped to promote informed debate on educational topics in politics and society as a whole.

The handbook “Lernstörungen im multilingualen Kontext: Diagnose und Hilfestellungen” is the first result of a joint collaboration between the University of Luxembourg and the Centre pour le développement des apprentissages Grande-Duchesse Maria Teresa (CDA) and focuses on the results of a study of the (standardised) assessment tools currently used in Luxembourg to diagnose specific learning disorders. The results of the study are based on interviews and questionnaire data collected from practitioners at the local, regional and national levels.

Diagnostical challenges in the multilingual Luxembourg school context

In Luxembourg’s traditional public schools, classes are taught in several languages. Luxembourgish is the main teaching language in the first cycle of primary school, whereas German is the primary teaching language from the second cycle on, as children learn how to read, write and calculate in German. Most students, however, learn German as a language in parallel to acquiring literacy and mathematical skills. In addition, the student population is multilingual, only about 35% of the overall number of students attending traditional public schools speak Luxembourgish as their first language.
There are currently few diagnostic tools available that consider the characteristics of Luxembourg’s multilingual school context. Most tests in use have been developed in German-speaking countries for native-German-speaking children and rarely contain adaptations for children with German as their second or third language. As a result, practitioners need to compromise when administrating such tests, which jeopardises the objectivity of the diagnostic process. Moreover, to provide the most appropriate support, it is crucial to determine whether potential learning difficulties can be attribute to specific learning disorders or whether they are rather due to insufficient language skills.

A handbook taking into account the specificities of the Luxembourg’s school system

This handbook contains a theoretical and a practice-oriented part. It describes the current state of research into specific learning disorders in general and within the Luxembourgish context and addresses further aspects to be considered in the diagnosis of specific learning disorders, such as intelligence, (neuro-)psychological capabilities and social-emotional behaviour. It also provides an overview of existing pedagogical support and adaptive measures which can help children in their everyday school life and illustrates the process of diagnosing a specific learning disorder on two case studies in the areas of reading/writing and arithmetic. The handbook contains a variety of ideas concerning possible pedagogic and didactic support and adaptative tools aimed at teaching professionals, which may facilitate learning for children with learning difficulties in traditional public schools.
During a second phase of their collaboration, the University of Luxembourg and the CDA will focus on the development of specific tests tailored to the Luxembourg student population and the Luxembourg educational system to optimise the diagnostic process and to make adequate resources available to the specialists.

Imagine you’re sitting in your first-grade math class while there is an orange squirrel jumping from branch to branch just outside the classroom window. Will you watch the little animal doing its breakneck acrobatics or would you stay focus on your subtraction task?

Most children would probably follow the squirrel. Those who had the urge to watch it but nevertheless stayed on the math task, have just experienced inhibition. Inhibition is the ability to deliberately override a dominant or automatic response when needed. When you think back to your school years, this is needed, for instance, in learning math whenever the correct answer to the question is not obvious, and the task requires thorough thinking. Inhibition is also important to remain focused and persistent, and to avoid distractions. Besides inhibition, mental set shifting comes in handy, when you need to switch between different math tasks. For example, such as between adding and subtracting. Further, updating of the working memory (aka short time memory) is key to manipulate information we have just learned. It is the capacity to hold the results of a math task in our memory to do further calculations with it. Inhibition, mental set shifting and memory updating are three psychological mechanisms called executive functions.

Executive functions and math skills

These three executive functions—inhibition, shifting, and updating—are linked to achievement in school subjects, specifically in math. Students who perform low on tests of executive functions tend to perform worse in math tests as well. Because math skills predict not only school success but also success later in life [A1] [EV2] (such as job success, see e.g., https://doi.org/10.1348/096317905X26994), it is interesting to know how exactly executive functions and math skills are associated, preferably before children enter schools.

Synthesizing 363 research results from 30481 preschool children

In a project from the University of Luxembourg with the University of Oslo, Valentin Emslander focused on preschool children. The earlier in life we invest in children, the greater is the positive change we can promote. The team reviewed over 4000 scientific articles on the topic and finally compiled 363 results from 30481 preschool children [A3] from around the world. Combining prior study results is frequently done in political or educational decision-making to find developmental trends and to increase the accuracy and certainty in our findings corroborated by a large number of children. The combined findings showed that children who can inhibit being distracted, shift easily between different tasks, and update the information they have just learned score high on math tests. The researchers also found evidence that inhibition, shifting, and updating are equally important for math skills. Finally, they discovered that the executive functions–math link depends on how exactly these skills were measured. [A4] Their findings can help create interventions for children struggling with math learning and stimulate new research questions. Willing to go further, the team is now investigating how the link between executive functions and math skills changes with age.

The Bridge-Builder aims at setting up a single point of contact for research-related interactions between the University of Luxembourg and the Ministry of Education. It will support a streamlining of interactions between these two big players and enhance the visibility of educational research at the University of Luxembourg.

With an ever-growing community of Luxembourg-based educational researchers, a strong need for coordinating research processes in and around schools naturally emerged. Due to certain national specifics — most notably Luxembourg’s small size and its inherent multilingualism — the national education system is a highly attractive context for topical educational research. In order to maximize synergies and facilitate communication with internal and external stakeholders, LUCET (Luxembourg Centre for Educational Testing) has been assigned to act as a “Bridge-Builder” and future single point of contact between the Luxembourg education system and University-of-Luxembourg-based educational research.

Regulate, facilitate and centralise

The main mission of the Bridge-Builder is to centralise, regulate and facilitate demands from the research community to the Ministry of Education (MENJE) and from the education system to the University of Luxembourg, as well as, in the long term, to collect information about research projects and build a searchable online repository on educational research. The benefit will obviously be a streamlining of research related interactions between the two big players and an enhanced visibility of University based educational research.

A single point of contact

The Bridge-Builder has been created as a joint venture between the Ministry of Education and the University of Luxembourg. On an institutional level, the Bridge-Builder is embedded in LUCET on the University side and in the Service de Coordination de la Recherche et de l’Innovation pédagogiques et technologiques (SCRIPT) on the Ministry side. Thus, it is a common structure with a single point of contact in each of the both institutions.

Practically, the Bridge-Builder teams in both institutions will handle applications addressed to the MENJE as well as requests emanating from the MENJE in the field of educational research. Requests emanating from the MENJE include demands for expertise or research proposals on a specific topic. A dissemination procedure on University side will give a greater visibility to research and expertise requests from the MENJE in the University of Luxembourg research community.

Applications addressed to the MENJE are either in response to a research or an expertise request (“a call”) from the Ministry or research proposals on the initiative of the researcher. The latter may include for instance demands for data collection in schools (or other educational contexts) or for support from the Ministry.

MaGrid, a new application developed by the University of Luxembourg, aims to make early mathematics education accessible to all children, regardless of their language background.

Developing mathematical ability is a process, which unfolds during interactions between learner and teacher. It requires effective communication. Consequently, language used to define mathematical concepts and ideas plays a key role in this process. Therefore, the proficiency in the language of instruction has a significant influence on learning mathematics.  Accordingly, the learning of mathematics by second language learners (students whose primary language is different from the language of instruction) raises some critical issues because many of these children have weaker skills in the language of instruction than their native peers. Second language learners are thus at risk of obtaining a poor mathematical foundation due to language barriers and lagging behind their native peers in formal math education.

The LUCET (Luxembourg Centre for Educational Testing) developed an effective language-neutral early math application, called MaGrid. With MaGrid, the researchers aim to foster young learners’ mathematical abilities without relying on their proficiency in any languages. This allows to level non-native students with their native peers and thereby prevent potential performance gaps already present prior to formal schooling, Overcoming the language barrier was possible by nearly eliminating the language burden and emphasizing visual content rather than verbal instruction in the training of mathematical concepts. MaGrid visually presents training tasks and concepts and allows students to explore an interactive environment to find a solution to the given task. To provide learners with a profound, comprehensive, and flexible understanding of basic mathematical concepts, the application is equipped with a large number of different training tasks targeting distinct aspects of early visuo-spatial and number-specific knowledge.  

Two research studies have been conducted to evaluate the effectiveness of the MaGrid application in training different aspects of visuo-spatial and early numerical abilities on preschoolers These empirical studies demonstrated that students who participated in the early mathematics training program using the MaGrid application performed significantly better on various measures of early mathematical abilities. The findings further provide evidence that the MaGrid application offers an effective way to reinforce early spatial and numerical skills for all preschoolers, including children from populations that have traditionally been underserved (i.e. second-language learners). Last but not least, the findings reveal that this innovative approach can be smoothly integrated into day-to-day schooling.

MaGrid is the brainchild of Prof. Romain Martin. What started as an (award-winning) interdisciplinary tandem doctoral project at LUCET, emerged into an FNR Jump Pathfinder/PoC project with the objective to transform MaGrid into an EdTech startup company. The Luxembourg Ministry of Education, more precisely SCRIPT, an important partner since day one, already acquired a MaGrid license for the entire national education sector.

The daily use of digital media is part of our lives and became a key componement of many acivities. Education is one them. Instead of focusing on the technology , the research initiative ILTI (Innovative Learning & Teaching Initiative) is looking at small case studies to understand how to best use digital media in contemporary Education.

In the debate on digital technologies, stereotypes are often produced that in turn generalize notions of automatic improvement and better performance. But not every traditional course is hierchical, and not every digital innovation leads to collective and distributed learning.  A collaborative project, at the junction of research and teaching,  investigates this by focusing on the creation of smaller case studies that are diverse and shift away from a one-size-fits-all teaching concept towards the individualization of teaching. Thus, existing clichés dissolve, such as the view that digital innovation automatically means progress. This project attempts to oppose the supposed digital-turn and, in the sense of an additive form of knowledge generation, create spaces of possibility in which digital and analog, as well as experimental and established teaching methods, correlate and complement each other.

Learning from doing, sharing what has been learned 

Called ILTI (Innovative Learning & Teaching Initiative), this project seeks to foster enhanced learning activities at the Faculty of Humanities, Education and Social Sciences, based on shared pedagogical experiences and research-based insights, by blending media-based approaches with face-to-face interactive classroom methods. Our approach is collaborative, aiming to accompany instructors while augmenting existing courses, to design innovative teaching scenarios, and to motivate the creation of inspiring examples and opportunities for the university community. To inspire a self-sustaining network of practitioners, ILTI will gather and showcase exemplars of inspiring tech-enhanced practices from our own instructors on a special website: www.digital-learning.lu

At the same time, ILTI acts as a second order observatory, recording general insights into the connection between digitalisation and teaching and bringing them into dialogue with other research projects at the faculty. Insights are initially collected on an empirical level, for example by statistically evaluating the learning behaviour of students and observing teaching success over a long-term perspective. At the theoretical level, central concepts of blended learning are to be reformulated and revised by linking them to specific (e.g., disciplinary) application scenarios.