It may be cold outside, but there’s a warm welcome in Hamburg!

By Nelladee McLeod Palane. University of Pretoria, South Africa

Arriving in Hamburg in January, directly from Pretoria, nothing could have quite prepared me for the cold in Germany, but even the icy weather contributed to the refreshing and stimulating nature of the intellectual experience!

In January, I was privileged, as part of my doctoral studies, to participate in the Academic Visitor Program hosted by the Research and Analysis (RandA) Unit of the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA).  This program is designed to provide opportunities for collaboration between visiting researchers and RandA staff members, to promote networking within a worldwide research community and the international exchange of ideas in educational evaluation. In my case, I was there to learn more about the analysis techniques that could support my own research project directly from senior IEA researchers.

I am thankful that this visit was made possible by my doctoral supervisor, Professor Sarah Howie, and the University of Pretoria’s Postgraduate Study Abroad Program. I wanted to learn more about multilevel modeling for analysis of the PIRLS (Progress in International Reading Literacy Study) assessment (also known as prePIRLS) data, and how to understand and apply the latest research techniques.

At the IEA Hamburg, I gained a wealth of insight into how to comprehensively analyze PIRLS contextual data using Mplus software. My PhD study aims to examine the effects of home and school contextual factors on performance in higher level reading comprehension processes within the context of the differing language of instruction models found in South African primary schools. I was given the desk space and facilities to work independently at the research center, while drawing regularly on the kind guidance of IEA colleagues Dr Agnes Stancel-Piątak, Falk Brese and Nadine Radermacher. Working at the IEA has provided me with much appreciated exposure to structured expert meetings concerning the PIRLS 2011 database, sampling design and scaling methodology.  This information was extremely helpful for my PhD studies, and continues to inform my participation in the PIRLS 2016 research activities at the Centre for Evaluation and Assessment in South Africa.

I am deeply grateful to Dr Sabine Meinck, Head of both the Research and Analysis, and Sampling Units, for the opportunity to be equipped in this way for my further research into the PIRLS data.


For more information about Nelladee’s research, please contact her at

Researchers and students interested in the IEA’s academic visitor program, which enables visiting researchers and RandA staff members to come together to exchange ideas and develop joint projects, can learn more at


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