School of Policy and Practice header
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 and is the founder of the Institute of Education flagship engagement initiative, the DCU Partnership for Learning. 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 a number of 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. In 2023 she also completed the development of a 2-year research and development project which involved leading the development of an Ethos Quality Framework for the network of Jesuit schools in Ireland.

Each of these quality frameworks have been adopted as national policy by each school network. Each represent an historically significant and unprecedented development in the landscape of mainstream Irish education but together demonstrate a significant impact on Irish education policy and practice. 

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, including the ETBI Patron's Framework on Ethos;
  • 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.

Currently, she is facilitating and developing the '24-'27 Strategic Plan for Oide (the Support Service for Teachers and School Leaders in Ireland)

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 year

Research interests

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