Skills that are sought after
Oscar Skovdahl Jørstad works at The Norwegian Directorate for Education and Training. He graduated in the spring of 2020.
What attracted you to the master’s degree in Assessment, Measurement and Evaluation?
For a long time, I have been interested in assessment and how it can affect pupils in positive and negative ways.
I saw that this program would give me an opportunity to really dive into this topic and learn about how to develop and instruments to measure student performance and psychological traits. It also offers the opportunity to acquire strong technical skills in statistical modelling and programming.
Another feature that attracted me to the program is its diversity. There is so much variation among students and staff in terms of their academic and cultural backgrounds, and there are so many different topics to learn about and explore. Once you graduate, you can follow many different career paths.
What did you write about in your thesis?
I wrote about relative age effects, grade effects and national test results.
In short, I examine the extent to which a pupil’s birth month and the duration of their school attendance affects their performance in tests.
I linked together two different arithmetic tests to show how much the pupils’ numeracy skills evolved from the 5th to 9th grade.
Where do you work now, and what is your job title?
I work as a higher executive officer at The Norwegian Directorate for Education and Training. I am part of a cross-disciplinary team which assesses tests and examinations from various perspectives.
How did you find this job?
I found the announcement online in October 2020, and there were two interviews. I had also collaborated with the Directorate for Education and Training while working on my thesis, so I had some contacts there and was familiar with the organization.
What are your current tasks?
Many of my work tasks are the same sort of tasks I did in the master’s courses, such as psychometric analyses of test and exam data. I also do a lot of data management, which means I clean up the data files and prepare them for delivery to other academic or technical environments. Currently, I am teaching my colleagues to use R and have prepared my own instructional material. Recently I also joined a team that will represent Norway in a new, international non-profit organization called Flip+. The purpose of Flip+ is to share ideas and test items to use in national tests and exams in different academic subjects across countries. So far Norway, Sweden, France, Luxembourg, Italy, Portugal, Spain and Brazil are part of Flip+, and it is still growing.
How do you make use of your master’s degree in your current position?
I utilize everything I learned in the first-year courses of Assessment, Measurement and Evaluation on a weekly basis in my current job, especially MAE4000 Data Science and MAE4120 Item Response Theory. For example, I use those skills when I pilot tests and analyze test items in new exams. Right now, we are running a quality control on new tests to make sure that they are measuring the skills they are meant to measure.
I use R daily, and I consider it a cornerstone of my education. Having a solid foundation in R is very useful. The plan now is for my whole division to start using R.
If you were to give some advice to new students in this program, for example as regards finding a job, what would you say?
Have an open mind as regards what you would be willing to do. Although the courses in this program are centered on educational measurements, the techniques you learn can be applied to many other fields. There is a growing demand for these skills. You could be eligible for a wider range of roles than you are aware of at the outset. Psychometrics is still a small field in Norway, but there is a growing interest in it. Keep your eyes open for opportunities that arise.
While it is important to have an open mind, it is also helpful to figure out roughly which direction you want to go in when you choose the topic of your master’s thesis. Your thesis can be your ticket into a company or a field of work.
There are work opportunities in both the private and public sector and in academia. My classmates have all gone in different directions, but what they have in common is that they are able to make use of their Assessment, Measurement and Evaluation degrees.
The program gives you the opportunity to network with people both in academia and other areas, so I would recommend making use of that.
Is there anything you would like to add?
This program suits people who have an analytical mindset and are looking for a challenge. You can be part of a field that is not quite mainstream yet and still growing. You will acquire skills that are sought after by a growing number of workplaces.
I feel really lucky to get such a relevant job. I am now working with what I studied in the program.