An extensive range of professional learning activities are provided for teachers by the Department of Education (DoE) through teacher support services, Education Centres, DoE 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 DoE are being met effectively and efficiently.
The DoE 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. In 2018, the ERC began working on behalf of the DoE to develop a research based framework for the evaluation of TPL. This project was guided by a Steering Committee which included representatives from the DoE and teacher support services responsible for the provision of TPL. The project is now completed and the framework for the evaluation of teachers’ professional learning in Ireland was published in May 2023. Access the framework here.
The project was overseen by a Steering Committee (chaired by Teacher Education Section, DoE) which provided guidance on the study, monitored progress, and approved project reports. Caroline Rawdon and Lorraine Gilleece oversaw the study in the ERC. Members of the Steering Committee are listed here (see pages v-vi).
The overarching aim of the project was 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, a specific TPL programme in the area of student wellbeing was chosen as an applied example during the development of the evaluation framework. The project consisted of a number of phases which are outlined in further detail below and data gathered at each phase informed the development of the framework for the evaluation of TPL.
Phase 1 – Desk-based research
Phase 1 consisted of desk-based research. The report from Phase 1 includes:
- A review of existing TPL evaluation frameworks
- Information on best practice for process evaluation and impact assessment of TPL
- A description of the broader school and policy context for student wellbeing
- A review of key findings from large-scale national and international studies pertaining to the wellbeing of 5-18 year olds
- A description of TPL in the area of student wellbeing provided over the preceding 5 years.
The report from Phase 1 is available here.
Phase 2 – Survey of teachers and principals
A survey was implemented with a sample of teachers and principals in early 2020. The survey aimed to explore principals’ and teachers’ views on TPL activities with a particular focus on the area of student wellbeing. The survey addressed teachers’ and principals’:
- Views on TPL in general
- Recent uptake of TPL activities
- Views on student wellbeing
- Needs in relation to TPL in the area of student wellbeing.
PDF copies of survey questionnaires can be found here.
The report from Phase 2 is available here.
Phase 3 – Perspectives of TPL providers and consultation with students
Phase 3a explored the perspectives of TPL providers on TPL in Ireland. TPL providers were invited to complete a written submission which aimed to gather information on:
- The identification of TPL needs
- TPL providers’ experiences and views on TPL design, facilitation, evaluation, and impact assessment
- The influence of school context and participant diversity on TPL
- TPL providers’ recommendations for best practice and priorities for improvement.
Phase 3b explored students’ thoughts on learning through a small scale consultation. With support from Hub na nÓg, primary school pupils completed a pen and paper task in school. An online consultation was also carried out with young people (12-17 years’ old) which mirrored the consultation carried out in primary schools. Young people participated via Comhairle na nÓg and the consultation was facilitated by Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth (DCEDIY).
The following questions were addressed:
- How can teachers make learning easier?
- How can teachers make learning more fun/engaging?
The reports from Phase 3 are available here.
Phase 4 – Case study of TPL in the area of student wellbeing
Phase 4 is an in-depth study of a TPL programme in the area of student wellbeing. In 2022, ERC researchers are gathering data alongside the Professional Development Service for Teachers’ (PDST) sustained support for Restorative Practice. A report on this phase will be published in early 2023.
The Privacy Statement for principals and teachers participating in Phase 4 can be accessed here.
Timeframe and deliverables
Project outputs and milestones are outlined below.
- 2019 – Desk-based research, including a systematic review of existing TPL evaluation frameworks, commenced. A nationally representative sample of schools was selected for the survey of principals and teachers and survey instruments were developed.
- 2020 – The survey of principals and teachers was piloted and administered. The desk-based research report was published.
- 2021 – Findings from the survey of principals and teachers were published. TPL providers were invited to complete written submissions detailing their perspectives on TPL in Ireland. A consultation was carried out with students. Planning for a case study of TPL in the area of student wellbeing commenced.
- 2022 – Reports on the perspectives of TPL providers and the consultation with students were published. The case study of TPL in the area of student wellbeing was completed.
- 2023 – The final TPL evaluation framework was published in May 2023.