The positive impact of learning English with Cambridge

Published 28/04/2023

Cambridge University Press & Assessment carries out in-depth studies all over the world to measure the educational impact of its exams and learning resources.

The Impact Team I lead is made up of experts in education research, evaluation, teaching, learning and assessment. Our objective is to understand the impact our English exams and learning materials have on people’s lives.

This allows us to maximise the positive outcomes of our products, which in turn helps our students fulfil their real-world goals such as furthering their studies or getting a good job. We do this through a global impact evaluation program for which we gather data on our products from key stakeholders in a range of contexts.

It’s part of our wider mission in Cambridge

This work is part of our commitment to Cambridge University’s mission, which is to contribute to society through the pursuit of education, learning and research at the highest international levels of excellence. The results from our impact evaluation studies are generally very positive, while also highlighting areas that we can still improve.

Growth mindset

I worked on a study in Latin America which looked at the importance of learners’ attitude and mindset when learning English. The study found that the students preparing to take a Cambridge English exam were motivated to learn and that they regularly engaged in activities outside the classroom to practise their English.

In fact, an impressive 94% of students believed they could improve their language through hard work. This positive attitude, known as a growth mindset, is found in many high-performing school systems around the world.

Designing tests for impact

Another great example of how an English test can be successfully designed to have a positive impact on learning is IELTS. Cambridge’s Dr Tony Clark recently carried out some research in this area. He looked at how IELTS can help students at English-medium universities develop a key academic skill: the ability to organise their ideas and opinions in essays and term papers.

“Students preparing to take a Cambridge exam regularly engaged in activities outside the classroom to practise their English”

This is something that new students can find difficult because often they are not used to thinking in this way. However, Clark’s research found that the IELTS Academic Writing test helps students to develop not just their language skills, but also the ability to organise their ideas in the way that English-medium universities expect.

What goes into an impact study?

We achieve this by developing English products with their intended impact in mind from the very start of the process and then, as the products are used by teachers and learners, carrying out impact monitoring and evaluation.

This is all underpinned by the English Impact Framework, which has been developed in Cambridge to provide a clear, systematic foundation for this work.

Unlocking potential

I find the work that we do in the Impact Team incredibly rewarding because it serves as a reminder that every year at Cambridge we help millions of learners and teachers achieve their goals with English exams and learning resources.

This places a big responsibility on our experts in Cambridge to ensure everything we do delivers real benefits for learners, teachers and more widely in society, which is something I’m very proud of.

About the author: This is a sponsored post from Graeme Harrison. Graeme has worked for many years in English teaching, assessment and education reform in various countries. At Cambridge English, he has been involved in implementing national English exams in Colombia and Chile, and teacher education and curriculum reform in Malaysia. In his current role as Head of Impact Operations, he carries out impact research on Cambridge English products

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