11 SES 08 JS, School Evaluations
Joint Paper Session NW 09 and NW 11
With much of the literature on school self-evaluation (SSE) stressing the importance of data use, this paper explores how teachers in Irish post-primary schools are coming to terms with this new challenge. Since 2012, all schools in Ireland are required to engage in SSE for the purpose of improving student outcomes. For the first time, teachers and school leaders are being asked to systematically gather and analyse various types of data, devise improvement plans and implement improvements. Despite such demands, the compulsory education system in Ireland operates within a low-stakes accountability environment, with an absence of published school league tables and no consequences for poor school performance. It is also interesting to explore the introduction of a school improvement process that requires data as evidence for self-evaluation, but where very little data currently exists compared to other jurisdictions and where the discourse of data use in schools is relatively new.
This paper outlines the experience of 13 post-primary schools that were supported by the Dublin city University, Centre for Evaluation, Quality and Inspection to complete an SSE process, during which, each school gathered and analysed a range of data. This study is part of a larger action research project which explores various aspects of the implementation of SSE in schools, including models of support and continuing professional development for schools. This paper looks specifically at the use of data by the schools involved. The key research questions ask: what data was gathered by the schools and what was the attitude to and experience of data-use among teachers? In doing so, this article explores some of the current research questions in relation to data use in schools.
This research is part of a larger action research project which is taking place over a number of years. The current research used questionnaires to establish prior experience of SSE and data use. Following the SSE process in each school, questionnaires were used to identify the types of data used by schools for school self-evaluation. Focus groups were used to explore attitudes of participants to data use in schools.
Overall, the findings indicate that schools gathered a range of data, which was mainly quantitative due to a focus on quantitative target setting. The types of data used by each school is outlined. Despite a generally positive attitude to the usefulness of data and the skills learned, participants did not appear convinced that they would be involved in data use on an ongoing basis and questioned the need for teachers to develop data literacy. Teachers suggested that data use may be more relevant for management or an individual/ who is allocated responsibility for gathering and analysing data at a school level. Concerns were raised in relation to the use of data for accountability and inspection purposes. Participants were not confident that the actions plans that resulted from the school self-evaluation process, would be implemented.
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