2020 - Publications

Exploring parent and student engagement in school self-evaluation in four European countries

Brown M, McNamara G, Cinkir S, et al. Exploring parent and student engagement in school self-evaluation in four European countries. European Educational Research Journal. October 2020. doi:10.1177/1474904120961203

The purpose of this paper, which is part of a three-year EU Erasmus+-funded study titled ‘Distributed Evaluation and Planning in Schools’ (DEAPS), is to provide an analysis of policies, structures, processes, supports and barriers that exist to enable or inhibit the involvement of students and parents in school evaluation in four European countries (Belgium, Ireland, Portugal and Turkey). Document analysis was used for this study and some 348 peer-reviewed articles, and 28 national and transnational policy documents were included in the analysis. Based on this review it would be reasonable to suggest that the student/parent voice agenda around evaluation in schools remains, by and large, aspirational. It is extolled in policy but in practice is mainly tokenistic with very little evidence of impact on the work of schools. In light of this, it is argued that government and school level policies and strategies need to be reconsidered to enhance students’ and parents’ engagement in school evaluation. As a first step, significant further empirical research on the limitations on and conditions necessary for stakeholder voice in education is required.

Philosophy of education in a new key: A ‘Covid Collective’ of the Philosophy of Education Society of Great Britain (PESGB)

Janet Orchard, Philip Gaydon, Kevin Williams, Pip Bennett, Laura D’Olimpio, Raşit Çelik, Qasir Shah, Christoph Neusiedl, Judith Suissa, Michael A. Peters & Marek Tesar (2020) Philosophy of education in a new key: A ‘Covid Collective’ of the Philosophy of Education Society of Great Britain (PESGB), Educational Philosophy and Theory, DOI: 10.1080/00131857.2020.1838274

This article is a collective writing experiment undertaken by philosophers of education affiliated with the PESGB (Philosophy of Education Society of Great Britain). When asked to reflect on questions concerning the Philosophy of Education in a New Key in May 2020, it was unsurprising that the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on society and on education were foremost in our minds. We wanted to consider important philosophical and educational questions raised by the pandemic, while acknowledging that, first and foremost, it is a human tragedy. With nearly a million deaths reported worldwide to date, and with everyone effected in one way or another by Covid-19, there is a degree of discomfort, and a responsibility to be sensitive, in reflecting and writing about it academically. Members of this ‘Covid Collective’ come from various countries, with perspectives from Great Britain and Ireland well represented, and we see academic practice as a globally connected enterprise, especially since the digital revolution in academic publishing. The concerns raised in this article relate to but move beyond Covid-19, reflecting the impact of neoliberalism [and other political developments] on geopolitics with educational concerns as central to our focus.

I think Irish schools need to keep doing what they’re doing’: Irish teachers’ views on school autonomy after working in English academies

Skerritt C. Improving Schools. 2019;22(3):267-287. doi:10.1177/1365480219853457

Despite a lack of conclusive evidence connecting autonomous schools and academic success, school autonomy is regularly championed as being a way of not only improving schools but as a way of improving the quality of education in socially and economically deprived areas. This research builds on a recent paper published in Irish Educational Studies that argues that school autonomy should not be advanced in Ireland by exploring how teachers feel about features of autonomous schools. Irish teachers who have previously worked in academy schools in England, and who now teach in disadvantaged schools in Ireland, were interviewed about their experiences and how they would feel about features of autonomous schools being implemented in Ireland. The experiences the participants had in England indicate how school autonomy can be experienced in different ways – morally proper ways that engage with the broad purposes of schooling such as focusing on students and their learning, and morally improper ways that prioritise looking good on external measures at the expense of students and their learning. Overall, the participants were opposed to schools in Ireland becoming more like English academies but felt that having greater local flexibility over the curriculum in schools and offering a wider range of subjects would be beneficial, provided that it was embraced and enacted in a morally proper manner.

Policy and practice: including parents and students in school self-evaluation

Martin Brown, Gerry McNamara, Shivaun O’Brien, Craig Skerritt & Joe O’Hara (2020)

Irish Educational Studies, DOI: 10.1080/03323315.2020.1814839

As with school self-evaluation in most European countries, the Irish education system now promotes the involvement and inclusion of stakeholders such as parents and students in the evaluation process. Yet, in the Irish context, there is limited research exploring the role of these stakeholders in this internal mode of school evaluation. To address this lacuna, this research draws on a national survey of post-primary school principals and interviews conducted with 109 stakeholders now placed at the centre of the evaluation process: school staff, parents and students. While there are some optimistic indications in the data, this research highlights that only slight progress has been made in terms of including parents and students in school self-evaluation in Ireland. The data presented in this paper corroborate that many age-old obstacles in the Irish context still exist and continue to dominate. Ultimately, this research concludes that changes in policy do not necessarily produce changes in practice.


Teachers responding to cultural diversity: case studies on assessment practices, challenges and experiences in secondary schools in Austria, Ireland, Norway and Turkey

Barbara Herzog-Punzenberger, Herbert Altrichter, Martin Brown, Denise Burns, Guri A Nortvedt, Guri Skedsmo, Eline Wiese, Funda Nayir, Magdalena Fellner, Gerry McNamara, Joe O’Hara (2020)  Educ Asse Eval Acc 32, 425–426 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11092-020-09332-w

Global mobility and economic and political crises in some parts of the world have fuelled migration and brought new constellations of ‘cultural diversity’ to European classrooms (OECD 2019). This produces new challenges for teaching, but also for assessment in which cultural biases may have far-reaching consequences for the students’ further careers in education, occupation and life. After considering the concept of and current research on ‘culturally responsive assessment’, we use qualitative interview data from 115 teachers and school leaders in 20 lower secondary schools in Austria, Ireland, Norway and Turkey to explore the thinking about diversity and assessment practices of teachers in the light of increasing cultural diversity. Findings suggest that ‘proficiency in the language of instruction’ is the main dimension by which diversity in classrooms is perceived. While there is much less reference to ‘cultural differences’ in our case studies, we found many teachers in case schools trying to adapt their assessment procedures and grading in order to help students from diverse backgrounds to show their competencies and to experience success. However, these responses were, in many cases, individualistic rather than organised by the school or regional education authorities and were also strongly influenced and at times, limited by government-mandated assessment regimes that exist in each country. The paper closes with a series of recommendations to support the further development of a practicable and just practice of culturally responsive assessment in schools.


Parent and student voice in evaluation and planning in schools

Martin BrownGerry McNamaraShivaun O’BrienCraig SkerrittJoe O’HaraJerich FaddarSakir CinqirJan VanhoofMaria FigueiredoGül Kurum (2020) Improving Schools Volume: 23 issue: 1, page(s): 85-102

Current approaches to the regulation of schools in most jurisdictions tend to combine elements of external inspection with systems of internal self-evaluation. An increasingly important aspect of the theory and practice of both, but particularly the latter, revolves around the role of other actors, primarily parents and students, in the process. Using literature review and documentary analysis as the research method, this article explores the research literature from many countries around the concerns of schools and teachers about giving a more powerful voice to parents and pupils. Then, focusing on Ireland, this article tries to clarify three things, official policy concerning stakeholder voice in school self-evaluation and decision making, the efforts by schools to implement this policy and the response to date of school leaders and teachers to this rather changed environment. Using Hart’s ladder of genuine, as opposed to token, participation, it is argued that policy mandating parental and student involvement has evolved significantly, that schools have responded positively and that there is little evidence, as yet, of teacher concern or resistance. This response is explained by the low stakes and improvement-focused education environment; the controlled, structured and simplified nature of the self-evaluation process; and the limited extent of parental and student participation in decision making.

Aiding culturally responsive assessment in schools in a globalising world

Guri A Nortvedt, Eline Wiese, Martin Brown, Denise Burns, Gerry McNamara, Joe O’Hara, Herbert Altrichter, Magdalena Fellner, Barbara Herzog-Punzenberger, Funda Nayir, Pervin Oya Taneri Educational Assessment, Evaluation and Accountability (2020) 32:5–27

Across the world, teachers’ classroom assessment tasks and responsibilities are becoming more diverse due to increased migration. In this review, we address how migrant students are affected by assessment, both summative and formative, at the classroom level, with a focus on culturally responsive assessment (CRA). Previous research has shown that CRA practices mainly occur in student-centred classrooms. Furthermore, both student and teacher beliefs about teaching and learning might negatively affect migrant students’ opportunities to engage in assessment situations. Teaching an assessment practices should be negotiated and aligned with and included in classroom norms to be culturally responsive. We propose that what is generally considered a valid and reliable assessment practice might need to be adjusted to account for students’ cultural ways of knowing and participating and how this is expressed and communicated within the classroom.

Learning by doing: evaluating the key features of a professional development intervention for teachers in data-use, as part of whole school self-evaluation process

Shivaun O’Brien, Gerry McNamara, Joe O’Hara, Martin Brown (2020) Professional Development in Education, DOI: 10.1080/19415257.2020.1720778

This study explores the development and implementation of a professional development intervention for teachers in data-use as part of a whole school self-evaluation (SSE) process. A review of literature relating to professional development in general and data-use in particular informs the key features of the intervention which is tested in five Irish post-primary schools. The intervention involves a university-based expert in SSE, working directly with SSE teams in each of the five schools to develop a data-informed school improvement process over the course of an academic year. Participants in each school are facilitated to establish an SSE team, gather and analyse data, set targets, complete a self-evaluation report and a school improvement plan. A conceptual framework for the evaluation of the intervention is presented. As such, the evaluation focuses on the core and structural features of the intervention, and changes in teachers’ knowledge, skills and attitudes with regard to data-use following the intervention. The findings highlight features of the intervention that supported teachers’ professional development in data-use, limitations of this approach as well as the learning that occurred for the teachers involved.


Optimising Well-Being and Learning Through Participatory Processes and Practices: an International Comparative Analysis of Ten Groundwork Case-Studies in Schools

Taysum AArar KChopra PImam HHarrison KMcNamara GO’Hara JPogosian VMynbayeva AYelbayeva ZMcGuinness SJ (2020) 12:1, 182- 210.

The paper presents a theory of participation in systems of learning that emerges from our evidence gathered through partnerships between schools and the academy. The theory identifies young people need to endorse common principles of participation to include and respect all. Educational leaders’ evidence informed intervention strategies can positively impact young people’s inclusive and respectful participation in the action-research. The theory of participation conceptualises young people’s need for opportunities to pursue their ambitions and interests. Leaders’ intervention strategies may develop young people’s participation in attaining target examination outcomes to achieve their ambitions. We then develop the theory of participation regarding young people pursuing independent interests and ambitions in association with the other, to enable them to be drivers of social change. To do this they need to understand their future identity as potential consumers, employees, employers, and entrepreneurs with Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) that challenge public corporations in a variety of ways. We theorise how young people are well situated to build capacity in Europe and globally using the social media networks they have already developed. Our evidence identified five participation principals of inclusion, respect, trust in the search for truth, constructive cross-cultural critique of alternative world views to arrive at a shared multicultural world view, and the generation of new knowledge to enable the re-imagining of new futures where young people are drivers of social change. From these principals we developed a theory of practice and four global standards as guidelines. First, a commitment to inclusionary partnerships and communities of practice. Second, distributed autonomy across stakeholders in the institution characterized by respect for individuals’ associated rights and responsibilities. Third, constructive cross-cultural criticism underpinned by trust in a search for truth, using different group’s constructed identity schema’s to develop a shared multicultural world view. Fourth, the generation of new knowledge through structures and mechanisms to optimize participation.


The potential, limitations and evaluation of education networks in a monocentric system

O'Hara, J., Brown, M., McNamara, G., & Shevlin, P. (2019). Journal of Educational Research , 38 (1), 33-52.

In almost all educational systems there is an increasing interest in establishing and promoting local educational networks. In the case of Ireland, funded educational networks known as 'education clusters' have been established to foster collaboration between schools with the aim of improving their innovative capacity, as well as the profitability of educational investment through economies of scale. Although this approach is meritorious in theory, there is limited evidence about how the members of these networks perceive their priorities. There is also little research on who should define evaluation methodologies and standards for networks. Thus, our study is guided by three interconnected questions, answered using the Irish case as an example:
The findings reveal that, although in theory the benefits of educational networks related to the improvement of professional capital are evident, there are still many questions to be resolved to ensure that the networks are capable of generating these benefits. These include the limitations of reciprocity among network members and the need for support to moderate the competitive nature of schools within a network, thus allowing the existence of competitive collaboration. In this research, a significant majority of school directors did not agree with the idea of ​​using educational networks as a cost reduction mechanism through economies of scale.