Notes from a Gathering of Research Rock Stars

I’ve always enjoyed conferences. You get to spend time with colleagues, learn new things and, of course, travel! While just about every conference has some value, not every event checks all of these boxes, but the ones that do are some of the most energizing professional experiences I’ve had. As I prepared to attend this month’s International Test Commission Conference (ITC) in Montreal, I had high hopes; but, as it was my first time attending the conference, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Luckily, it was an amazing event, attended by fascinating people and in a beautiful city. I arrived back home in Portland full of ideas, new knowledge and, most importantly, a massive boost of energy to apply to my work here at MRG.

The International Test Commission Conference joins academics and industry researchers in the area of assessment. Presentations spanned all kinds of themes related to what happens behind the scenes of your favorite assessments: building, testing, comparing, using and interpreting them. One topic I found particularly interesting, and not surprisingly one of MRG’s favorite topics too, was ipsative design. These talks gave me new ways to think about and analyze the data produced by our own semi-ipsative assessments. It was a powerful reminder that assessment theory is constantly updated and new tools are being developed all the time, helping us advance our understanding of human behavior.

If you’re lucky, a conference will give you the opportunity to meet your favorite researchers, those authors you’ve been reading for years because their research is so aligned with your own.  You might also discover new researchers to keep up with. ITC gave me the opportunity to do both and share my appreciation for what they are doing. After reading someone’s work you start to create an image of who they are and what they are like. The more you read, the closer this image gets to a superstar, making the thought of talking to them all the more intimidating. I had to remind myself that I enjoy hearing from audience members after I give a talk and, surely, they would too. I managed to stay cool and get all the words out in the right order. My reward was meeting some approachable, down-to-earth people and establishing connections with a few of my favorite researchers.

Of course, I must comment on the location: Montreal, Canada. It is a place I’ve visited many times yet always feels different. This trip marked the first time that my husband’s schedule aligned with mine and he was able to attend a conference with me. We were in the middle of the city, within walking distance to the Marie Reine du Monde Cathedral, the St. Lawrence River, Mount Royal and so many other sites. Out of all the things I learned during this visit to the city, I was surprised to learn that Mount Royal part of a volcano that was active 125 million years ago. My husband and I also learned that there are many different versions of poutine. Being a researcher, of course I insisted that we look for evidence to support this claim whenever possible.

My colleagues would be quick to tell you that I find it a little hard to leave the office (even for lunch!), so it takes a pretty compelling event to make me eager to leave again – and ITC has done it! It was intellectually stimulating, but had enough down time to process and explore; in short, I can’t wait to go back. Unfortunately, I’ll have to wait until 2020 to get that particular booster shot of assessment research energy. Are there research conferences you’ve participated in that have boosted your energy? Whether we’re speaking or just there to learn, we’re always eager to be involved in the events that are exciting our community. Let me know which conferences you’re looking forward to attending so we can check them out!

About the author

Maria is Head of Research at MRG. She loves a challenge and often gets a little too excited about running new studies. She finds peace and balance by cooking (as long as her husband is doing the cleaning) or being anywhere near the ocean.

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