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School of Policy & Practice


Primary Department
School of Policy & Practice
Academic Staff
Phone number:
01 700
St Patrick's Campus
Room Number
SPC M 116

Academic biography

Dr, Shivaun O'Brien is an Associate Professor in the DCU Institute of Education, School of Policy and Practice and a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. She is Associate Dean for Professional Development and Partnerships and is Chairperson of the Institute of Education Professional Development and Partnerships Committee.  Dr. O'Brien lectures on a range of programmes including: the Doctor of Education and the B.Sc. in Science Education, B.Sc in PE and Biology,

She is Director of Research in the DCU Centre for Evaluation, Quality and Inspection (EQI) and has expertise in the areas of quality assurance, school self-evaluation (SSE), school ethos evaluation, school improvement, student participation, data use in schools and teacher professional learning.   From 20 years experience in supporting and training teachers/ educators to engage in and lead self-evaluation, she had developed an evidence-based, highly successful model of professional learning for teachers in how to lead school self-evaluation and has applied this approach in over 140 schools. 

She has been commissioned by a number of school Patrons in Ireland to develop quality frameworks for specific to national networks of schools. In 2020 she completed the development of a national Ethos Quality Framework for Educate Together schools which has been adopted as policy for this network of schools, as outlined in an online event to mark this development. From 2020-2022 she developed an Ethos Quality Framework for the national network of Education and Training Board (ETBI) schools, including Community National Schools and post-primary schools. Currently,  she is leading the development of an Ethos Quality Framework for the network of Jesuit schools in Ireland. 

She is principal investigator in a number of research projects relating to her areas of expertise, as part of her work with the EQI including the following:

  • The development of an ethos quality framework for Education and Training Board Ireland;
  • A national survey of ethos in Education and Training Board schools;
  • The development of an ethos quality framework for the network of Jesuit schools in Ireland based on the Global Identifiers for Jesuit Schools;
  • Student participation as a key aspect of wellbeing in Educate Together primary and post-primary schools: John Coolahan Research Support Framework.
  • Survey of library provision in Irish post-primary schools.

In 2015, she established the DCU Partnership for Learning Programme, which involves the coordination and provision of a wide range of evidence-based, professional learning opportunities for teachers in DCU Cooperating Schools. This has subsequently been adopted as an Institute of Education flagship programme for IOE partner settings, including early childhood education, primary, post-primary and further education and training. 

She was qualified as a post-primary teacher and worked in mainstream for a number of years. Having completed a Masters Degree in Adult Education and Community Development she worked in many aspects of adult and further education and specialised in work with disadvantaged youth. For 10 years she seconded to the Department of Education Further Education Section as National Coordinator of the Quality Framework Initiative, a quality assurance system for Centres of Education, which she established and coordinated. She worked for Louth and Meath Education and Training Board as Education Development Officer, for five years where she was part of the Senior Management Team, before taking up her position in DCU. 

Research interests

Self-Evaluation, Evaluation, Capacity Building, School Improvement, Education Policy, Accountability, Inspection, Facilitation of Improvement Processes.