An extensive range of professional learning activities are provided for teachers by the Department of Education and Skills (DES) through teacher support services, Education Centres, DES agencies and other initiatives. A complete evaluation of the impact of these professional learning activities is crucial to ensure that the needs of teachers, schools, students and the DES are being met effectively and efficiently.
The DES has committed to evaluating the impact of Teachers’ Professional Learning (TPL) activities, including a specific evaluation of TPL activities in the area of student wellbeing, in the Action Plan for Education 2018. Iin 2018, the ERC began working on behalf of the DES to develop a research based framework for the evaluation of TPL. This project is guided by a Steering Committee which includes representatives from the DES and teacher support services responsible for the provision of TPL.
Current and planned work
The overarching aim of this project is to develop a framework for the evaluation of TPL which can be applied to TPL in any subject area. However, for the purpose of this project, specific TPL programmes in the area of student wellbeing are chosen as applied examples during the development of the evaluation framework. The project consists of a number of phases which are outlined in further detail below and data gathered at each phase will inform the development of the framework for the evaluation of TPL.
A review of the literature covers:
- Existing TPL frameworks
- Identification of best practices for process evaluation and impact assessment of TPL
- A description of the broader context of TPL, including identification of both challenges and enablers of TPL in the area of student wellbeing
- A profile of student wellbeing in the Irish context
- A description of TPL in the area of student wellbeing that has taken place in Ireland over the past 5 years.
Survey of principals and teachers on TPL and student wellbeing
A survey is due to be implemented with a representative sample of principals and teachers in early 2020. The survey aims to explore principals’ and teachers’ views on TPL activities with a particular focus on the area of student wellbeing. The survey will address four key areas:
- Their thoughts on TPL in general
- Their understanding of ‘wellbeing’
- Their recent engagement with TPL in the area of student wellbeing
- Their needs in relation to TPL in the area of student wellbeing.
In-depth study of TPL and student wellbeing
Following the surveys, research instruments and methodologies related to school, teacher and student outcomes will be developed for use with a smaller sample. This smaller sample will be purposively selected for a more focused exploration of TPL in the area of student wellbeing with a view to comparing varied school and TPL contexts. Fieldwork will be carried out in selected schools to gain a deeper insight into TPL in the area of student wellbeing and specific TPL programmes which will be chosen for closer evaluation using qualitative and quantitative methods (including questionnaires, interviews and/or focus groups). In addition to data gathered from school staff, data will be gathered from students in relation to their views on their wellbeing. Qualitative information will also be gathered from various other key stakeholders (Inspectors, Teaching Council, NEPS Psychologists, parents etc.) on their perspectives.
Timeframe and deliverables
This project runs over a three year period (2018-2021). Project outputs and milestones are outlined below.
2019 – The initial literature review will be completed, a nationally representative sample of schools will be selected for further study and survey instruments for a large scale survey of principals and teachers will be developed and piloted.
2020 – The survey of principals and teachers will be administered and the findings from the literature review and the survey of principals and teachers will be published. Outcome indicators will also be developed.
2021 – A purposive sample of schools will be selected and in-depth research on selected TPL programmes will take place leading to the publication of the purposive sample report and the final framework for the evaluation of TPL.
The study is overseen by a Steering Committee (chaired by Teacher Education, DES) which provides guidance on the study, monitor progress, and approve reports on the study. Caroline Rawdon, with the assistance of Kara Sampson and Jude Cosgrove, oversees the study in the ERC.