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 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. In 2018, the ERC began working on behalf of the DoE to develop a research based framework for the evaluation of TPL. This project is guided by a Steering Committee which includes representatives from the DoE and teacher support services responsible for the provision of TPL.
The project is overseen by a Steering Committee (chaired by Teacher Education Section, DoE) which provides guidance on the study, monitors progress, and approves project reports. Caroline Rawdon, with the assistance of Lorraine Gilleece and Jude Cosgrove, oversees the study in the ERC. Members of the Steering Committee are:
- Martin McLoughlin Chairperson, PO, Teacher Education, ITE & Professional Development, DoE
- Brian Geraghty Secretary, EO, Teacher Education, ITE & Professional Development, DoE
- Jude Cosgrove CEO, Educational Research Centre (ERC)
- Brendan Doody Assistant Chief Inspector, DoE Inspectorate
- Mary Dunne Inspector, Primary, Teacher Education, ITE & Professional Development, DoE
- Margaret Dunning Primary Divisional Inspector, DoE Inspectorate
- Gráinne Egan APO, Social Inclusion Unit, DoE
- Noreen Fitzpatrick Manager, National Innovation Unit, SOLAS
- Lorraine Gilleece Research Fellow, Educational Research Centre (ERC)
- Gabrielle Greene Regional Director, National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS)
- Madeline Hickey Specialist Lead in Policy and Practice, National Council for Special Education (NCSE)
- Carmel Kearns Head of Teachers’ Learning and Research, Teaching Council
- Pádraig Kirk Director, Junior Cycle for Teachers (JCT)
- Seamus Knox Senior Inspector, Post-Primary, Teacher Education, ITE & Professional Development, DoE (until retirement in October 2020)
- Julie Lynch Inspector, Post-Primary, Teacher Education, ITE & Professional Development, DoE
- Judith Lyons APO, Teacher Education, ITE & Professional Development, DoE (Chairperson until December 2020)
- Éadaoin McGovern Secretary, Education Support Centres Ireland (ESCI)
- Meabh McGuinness Education Project Manager, Health Service Executive (HSE)
- Eamonn Moran PO, Post-Primary, Curriculum and Assessment Policy Unit (CAP), DoE
- Jim Mulkerrins PO, Teacher Education, ITE & Professional Development, DoE (until retirement in December 2019)
- Mary Nihill National Director, Centre for School Leadership (CSL)
- Éadaoin O’Brien Psychologist, National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS)
- Mary O’Callaghan National Coordinator, The National Induction Programme for Teachers (NIPT)
- Evelyn O’Connor PO, Primary, Curriculum and Assessment Policy Unit (CAP), DoE
- Ciara O’Donnell National Director, Professional Development Service for Teachers (PDST)
- Caroline Rawdon* Research Associate, Educational Research Centre (ERC)
- Joan Russell Education Research Officer, Education and Training Boards Ireland (ETBI) (joined in July 2020)
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, a specific TPL programme in the area of student wellbeing has been chosen as an applied example 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.
Phase 1 – Desk-based research
The report from Phase 1 is available here
A review of the literature covering:
- Existing TPL frameworks
- Identification of both challenges and enablers of TPL
- Identification of best practices for process evaluation and impact assessment of TPL
- A description of the broader school and policy context for 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.
Phase 2 – Survey of teachers and principals
A survey was implemented with a representative 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.
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 report on Phase 3 will be published in early 2022.
Phase 4 – Case study of TPL in the area of student wellbeing
Phase 4 will involve an in-depth study of a TPL programme in the area of student wellbeing. In late 2021-early 2022, ERC researchers will gather data alongside Professional Development Service for Teachers’ (PDST) sustained support for Restorative Practice. The methodology for this stage of the project is in development.
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 – A report on the perspectives of TPL providers and findings from the consultation with students will be published. The case study of TPL in the area of student wellbeing will continue and a report on this phase will be published in late 2022. The final TPL evaluation framework will also be published in late 2022.