EQI is a multidisciplinary research group that seeks to design, implement and assess the impact of evaluation and inspection in education and related fields. It also has a strong commitment to engaging in research into evaluation as theoretical field and to exploring the impact of changing conceptions of value, quality and achievement within education systems. It also promotes evaluation studies within the University and continues to support undergraduate and postgraduate students who wish to engage in research in the field.
At a fundamental level EQI sees research as providing a foundation for its work. It is an active partner in local, national and European projects and continues to seek to find ways to influence policy and practice in education and related fields within Ireland and beyond.
Current research projects include the following:
Instead of a “one-fits-all” mentality ACRAS wants to develop methods of culturally responsive assessment which allow for differentiation and the contextualisation of learning in a culturally appropriate manner. Strategies which have previously been proposed for creating culturally responsive assessment include using locally validated formative assessments (Tichá & Abery, 2016), the addition of creativity assessments (see Kim & Zabelina, 2015) or utilising multiple methods of assessment to provide additional opportunities for students to demonstrate their learning (Castagno & Brayboy, 2008; Qualls, 1998). Yet no study, domestically or internationally, looks at the various strategies teachers use to integrate cultural responsivity into their student assessments and compare the relative merit of these strategies. As such, using a collaborative approach including a number of European HEIs, ACRAS will endeavour to develop a conceptual framework of best practice in educational assessment for minority and migrant students as well as supportive strategies (presented as a toolkit) to incorporate culturally responsive assessment in educators’ practice.
The first phase will include an initial exploratory survey in primary and post-primary schools (n≈120/country) to explore methods of assessment and any accommodations/differentiation used by educators for assessing migrant students. This initial survey will target the teachers and/or headteachers of these schools (n=480). Following the survey, approximately 12 schools per country will be chosen to participate in a case study. The case study will seek to elicit the experiences of all stakeholders (e.g. Principals, Class teachers, Students, Parents) using a multi-method approach (e.g. interviews, assessment biography). The case studies will aim to involve 4,224 participants across the four countries.
Based on the findings from the surveys and case studies, common strategies and pitfalls of assessment will be identified and collated into a conceptual framework of best practice in culturally responsive assessment. Based on the conceptual framework a toolkit will be established for educators. This toolkit will be piloted and, following alterations, externally evaluated. The toolkit has a potential legacy of at least 500 teachers (approximately 100 per year over 5 years) who complete Initial Teacher Education and Continuing Profession Development Courses in the Primary programme institution. These 500 teachers will be able to use the toolkit to influence the trajectory of their students' learning for years to come resulting in a potential impact of 5,000 minority and/or migrant students. EQI researchers include: Dr. Martin Brown, Prof Joe O’Hara, Prof. Gerry McNamara and Dr. Denise Burns.
Partners: Centre for Evaluation, Quality and Inspection, DCU | University of Oslo, Norway | JKU University, Austria | Cankiri Keratekin University, Turkey
EQI researchers include: Dr. Martin Brown, Professor Gerry Mcnamara, Professor Joe O'Hara, Dr. Martin Brown and Dr. Denise Burnes
In recent years there has been significant interest in how we help schools improve and in particular how we assist good schools make the final transition to becoming schools that are characterized as ‘excellent’. Among the key stakeholders involved in this process are school inspectorates, many of whom have committed significant time and resources to helping schools make the make the leap from ‘good to great’ (McKinsey, 2010) Among the approaches developed to facilitate this development various inspectorates of education (e.g. the Netherland and Northern Ireland) have begun to experiment with polycentric inspection. The underlying theory is that good schools can only further improvement not simply by pressure from external inspection but by collaboration between clusters of schools, communities and the inspectorate through the process of collaborative evaluation. Such polycentric inspection approaches should support schools in finding innovative ways to improve their teaching and learning; these approaches are expected to be more effective than centralized inspection standards and models which are thought to enhance and legitimize a ‘one size fits all’ strategy of success on one set of inspection standards and limit innovation (see Smith, 1995; Ehren et al in prep, O’Day 2002). This project proposes to evaluate the capability of polycentric inspection and collaborative self-evaluation as tools in improving schools from good to great in Northern Ireland, England, The Netherlands and Bulgaria.
Partners: Institute of Education, London | Sofia University, Bulgaria | University of Twente, The Netherlands | Centre for Evaluation, Quality and Inspection, DCU
EQI researchers include: Dr. Martin Brown Prof. Gerry McNamara, Prof. Joe O’Hara and Dr.Patrick Shevlin
Led by the University of Salamanca (Spain), this is a collaborative project involving DCU (Ireland), Oxfam Italia (Italy), University of Cadiz (Spain), SAN (Poland) and CARDET (Cyprus). E-Evalinto is a follow-up to an earlier European-funded project entitled INTO: Intercultural mentoring tools to support migrant integration at school.
The aim of E-Evalinto is to address the problem of early school leaving amongst refugee / migrant students at post-primary level by promoting intercultural mentoring programmes and activities supported by an ICT environment. This ICT environment will be composed of a set of tools and practices that provide a framework for evaluating intercultural issues.
EQI researchers include: Professor Gerry Mcnamara, Professor Joe O'Hara and Dr. Bernadette Sweetman
Building on the research carried out in 2014/15, on supporting schools to engage in school self-evaluation, a new research project was launched in September 2016 to further explore models that support and build capacity for self-evaluation in schools. In 2014/15, Dr. Shivaun O’Brien tested out a model of support in 5 post-primary schools. This model involved providing the support of an external facilitator to each school to guide SSE teams through the process. The resulting research demonstrated that each participating school completed a full cycle of the SSE process as intended and within a school year including gathering and analysis of data, the completion of an SSE report and a school improvement plan. The feedback from all schools was extremely positive with all teams claiming that the model of support resulted in an SSE process was easier to engage with and resulted in a range of task and process outcomes.
A new model of support was tested in 2015/16 and again in 2016/17. This model is based on the facilitated process but this time it attempts to support not just 5 but up to 15 schools per year in the process while at the same time building SSE capacity within each participating school. The research project is entitled Let’s help you to lead school self-evaluation in your school and involves the provision of a course to SSE leaders in order to support them, in turn, to facilitate SSE in their own school.
Course description: The course aims to support schools through the school self-evaluation process over the course of a school year. The course is geared for those who have responsibility for leading this process in the school. The course helps participants to get started in September and will outline a clear plan for how schools may complete the process by May. Participants will be supported one step at a time. Each session prepares the participant to implement the next stage of the process back in their own school. The model encourages wide consultation with the school community and engagement by stakeholders in the process.
The content of sessions will include the following:
- Getting started with SSE, establishing an SSE team, organising tasks and identifying what data to gather.
- Preparing questionnaires/ survey tools using Google Forms
- Collation and analysis of data
- Completion of the SSE Report
- Completion of the School Improvement Plan (SIP)
- Organising and Facilitating SSE Team meetings
EQI researchers include: Dr. Siobhan O'Brien, Professor Gerry Mcnamara, Professor Joe O'Hara and Dr. Martin Brown
The Centre for Evaluation, Quality and Inspection (EQI) has been asked by the Professional Development Service for Teachers (PDST) to evaluate their National E-portfolio project.
The use of ePortfolios to enhance the quality of education has become increasingly important in Europe and elsewhere. Indeed, in the case of Ireland, there is real commitment to explore ways in which ePortfolios can enhance teaching and learning across the continuum of education. At a policy level Digital Strategy for Schools 2015 -2018 (Department of Education, 2015) outlines a range of engagements with e-portfolios including the provision of online training on ePortfolios and assessment to all registered teachers in Ireland through teachercpd.ie and participation in a major EU-funded project, Eufolio.
In addition, as part of the Department of Education’s ongoing commitment to exploring the use of ePortfolios in Education, PDST - Technology in Education are testing a model of ePortfolio support at transition year level with Post Primary schools throughout Ireland. The support provided to participating schools involves capacity building through online training, face to face workshops and follow-up visits to ePortfolio schools at various junctures within the lifecycle of the project.
Within this, EQI has been commissioned by PDST to evaluate this National ePortfolio project. EQI has extensive experience of evaluating a wide range of innovative educational interventions across a range of settings and their particular expertise in programme evaluation will be central to this project. The principal EQI project output report will provide a mixed methods evaluation and assessment of a number of thematic areas including an extensive literature review of ePortfolio purpose, policy and practice in compulsory level education and an evaluation of the various stages of the PDST Transition Year Pilot Project.
Finally, it is envisaged that the EQI evaluation report on ePortfolios will allow various stakeholders such as the Department of Education, sectoral support services, Initial Teacher and Further Education providers and other interested organisations to enhance their understanding of the issues, mechanisms, training supports, and the value added attached to the systemic introduction of ePortfolios in Irish education. EQI researchers include: Prof Joe O’Hara, Dr. Martin Brown, Prof. Gerry McNamara and Dr. Shivaun O’Brien.
Partners: Centre for Evaluation, Quality and Inspection, DCU |Professional Development Service for Teachers
EQI researchers include: Dr. Martin Brown, Professor Gerry Mcnamara, Professor Joe O'Hara and Dr. Siobhan O'Brien
A joint North-South (SCoTENS-funded) project entitled Teacher Education Tutors’ Practice in ICT. The research aims to explore how Initial Teacher Education (ITE) tutors cope with the challenges and expectations of the 21st-century learner in ITE and how they manage their own technological and pedagogical development as a lecturer.
The project has two phases:
(1) an initial online survey of teacher educators’ readiness to adapt and innovate in their teaching;
(2)an ethnographic study of primary and post-primary teacher educators’ practice in preparing student teachers for the profession.
Partners: University of Ulster | Queens University | Centre for Evaluation, Quality and Inspection, DCU
EQI researchers include: Professor Joe O'Hara, Dr. Martin Brown and Professor Gerry Mcnamara
Within the field of school evaluation policy and practice, finding a balance between school inspection and school self-evaluation has become a topic of much debate. Indeed, with the initiation of inspectorate devised frameworks for school self-evaluation in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland; the co-existence of school Inspection and school self-evaluation has shifted from a preponderant theoretical lens to that of a regulatory requirement where schools are now required to engage with an externally devised process of school self-evaluation that is subsequently quality assured by the inspectorate. This research project provides an analysis of the changing landscape of school evaluation policy and practice on the island of Ireland and also, aims to explore both internal and external challenges relating to the co-existence of such a relationship.
EQI researchers include: Dr. Martin Brown, Professor Gerry Mcnamara, Professor Joe O'Hara, and Dr. Siobhan O'Brien
School Self-Evaluation (SSE) was introduced into Irish schools in 2012 as a mandatory requirement. A range of supports have been provided to schools by the Department of Education and Science inspectorate as well as the Professional Development Service for Teachers (PDST), in this regard.. Such supports involve the provision of guidelines and training for school personnel which is similar to supports provided across other OECD countries. However, many schools are experiencing difficulty engaging in the SSE process due to pressures of time and the lack of in-school supports for coordinating the SSE process. As a result many schools have not yet engaged in SSE or have engaged to a limited degree.
This research projects aims to explore a particular approach to supporting post-primary schools to engage in school self-evaluation. The model of support involves the provision of an external professional to guide and facilitate the process of SSE in 6 post-primary schools over the duration of 1 school year (2016-2017). The project will attempt to identify a model of support that is both cost-effective and efficient ( achieving both task and process outcomes) and one that may usefully be applied nationwide.
Baseline data gathered at the start of the project, identifies previous engagement of the 6 schools in SSE, the nature of the supports accessed by schools in this regard and the attitudes of Principals towards the SSE process. After applying the model of support in each of the 6 schools, the outputs and experience of the process will be evaluated. A revised model of support will then be developed which may have an application nationwide.
EQI researchers include: Dr. Siobhan O'Brien, Professor Gerry Mcnamara, Professor Joe O'Hara and Dr. Martin Brown