Irish Journal of Education, Vol. 42, 2017

A co-professional approach to inspection for accountability and improvement: Progress and prospects in the Irish context

Harold Hislop

Inspectorate, Department of Education and Skills, Dublin

This paper examines developments in inspection and school self-evaluation in primary and post-primary schools in Ireland since 2010, and looks ahead to how aspects of these processes can be further developed. Current approaches to inspection are described in the context of a collaborative approach involving a range of partners, and the development and revision of standards dealing with teaching and learning, and leadership and management. The evolution of inspection reports is described, and evidence from a survey of principals and teachers is provided to highlight strong levels of satisfaction with new evaluation models. Challenges to be met include embedding standards in schools and other educational settings, improving engagement with parents and students in inspections, improving how data are used to support inspections and school self- evaluations, and maintaining a loop of learning between schools and the development of educational policy. The paper concludes with a consideration of how researchers and teachers in Higher Education could support changes in evaluation and inspection.

 

An exploration of variation in subject grading, student subject selection and outcomes in the Leaving Certificate examination

David Millar

Educational Research Centre

Results of a subject pairs analysis (SPA) showed that higher severity of grading indices are associated with ‘more difficult’ Leaving Certificate examination subjects such as Chemistry, Physics and Mathematics whilst lower indices are associated with ‘easier’ subjects such as Construction Studies, Art and History. However, there was no clear evidence of any systematic selection of subjects by students in order to maximise CAO points. Severity of grading indices were closely related to the academic ability of the group of students sitting a subject. Students who did well in the Leaving Certificate examination overall tended to more often select subjects that the SPA suggests are ‘more difficult’, whilst students who did less well tended to more often select subjects that the SPA suggests are ‘easier’.

 

Does education in Ireland meet the needs of gifted students?

Patricia McGrath

Educational Consultant, Dublin

This paper focuses on education in Ireland and questions if it currently meets the needs of gifted students. Gifted students from Mensa Ireland were questioned on their experiences in primary and post-primary schooling, and the overall response was that students were not being adequately challenged in school, nor were there adequate resources or additional activities available to address their needs. Moderate and gradual acceleration were the most popular types of intervention suggested by the students, in the form of university classes and fast- paced classes with older advanced students.

 

Pre-service teachers’ expectations for teaching as a career: A snapshot at a time of transition

Zita Lysaght, Michael O’Leary and Darina Scully

Institute of Education, Dublin City University – St Patrick’s Campus

Recent graduates of teacher-education programmes in Ireland are entering their careers at a time characterised by an erosion of teacher autonomy, increased bureaucratic demands, and narrower curriculum specifications. These changes are typical features of what Sahlberg (2011) has termed the global educational reform movement (GERM), which evidence suggests may have a negative impact on teacher morale, and on how teaching as a career is perceived. This, in turn, may adversely affect teacher recruitment and retention. The study presented in this paper examined the career expectations of two cohorts of Irish pre-service teachers (n=494) at the point of transition between college and work. The data gathered were also used to investigate if recent changes to the B.Ed. degree programme are associated with changes in career expectations. It was found that teachers indicated strong expectations on doing a worthwhile job, finding satisfaction in pupil achievement and on personal fulfilment. Expectations with regard to the adequacy of salaries were low, however, diminishing further in the period from 2014 to 2016.

 

A pilot study investigating the introduction of a computer-science course at second level focused on computational thinking

James Lockwood and Aidan Mooney

Department of Computer Science, Maynooth University

Computational Thinking has been described by Jeanette Wing (2006) as a skill set everybody should be eager to learn and use in daily life. Based on a significant amount of recent research on Computational Thinking and how we can teach it, the PACT (Programming + Algorithms = Computational Thinking) team at the Department of Computer Science at Maynooth University has been working with teachers with a view to incorporating the subject into their classrooms. To that end, a year-long course is currently being designed to teach students about Computational Thinking and Computer Science. This paper presents a brief background and overview of the course along with the design and results from an initial pilot study conducted in one secondary school. The results of the study indicate that the course was generally well received although performance did not improve on a measure of problem solving and was significantly lower for students with no prior programming experience. The course will be taught in more schools in the upcoming school year using feedback obtained from the pilot study. It is hoped that the ideas and content presented here will encourage and equip fellow researchers and educators to introduce Computational Thinking more widely in their contexts.