11 SES 08 JS, School Evaluations
Joint Paper Session NW 09 and NW 11
This paper reports on the second phase of an Erasmus + Project titled “Distributed Evaluation and Planning in European Schools (DEAPS)” which is seeking to explore mechanisms and supports for the inclusion of parents and students in school evaluation and planning processes in four European countries: Belgium, Ireland, Portugal, and Turkey.
As countries aim to improve their education systems to prepare young people for active citizenship, the responsibilities of schools and school leaders have changed significantly. Schools and school leaders are no longer only expected to facilitate and manage student learning but rather ‘improving the micro efficiency of the school has been viewed as a means of addressing some of the macro-problems of the state and society’ (Macbeath, 98, p.47). This has inevitably increased the complex role played by educational leaders. Indeed, effective school leadership and related school self-evaluation (SSE) and planning activities are increasingly viewed as essential requirements for large-scale education reform and improved educational outcomes. This is no surprise given that the EU average early school leaving rate stands at 11.1%, and only 37.9% of EU citizens attain tertiary education. To reduce these educational deficits, ambitious targets have been set for 2020, requiring schools to improve the quality of education provision in key educational areas needed for active citizenship such as reading, maths and science (The European Union, 2015, p. 4). As such the DEAPS project seeks to address the priority of supporting schools to address early school leaving and disadvantage, etc.
To support such improvements various education systems (e.g. Ireland, Portugal) are experimenting with distributed school self-evaluation models that include other members of the school community (e.g. Parents and students) as active participants in SSE. The overarching theory of this participatory mode of evaluation is that a more effective model of SSE which would have a greater impact on school improvement must involve the inclusion of all stakeholding groups to enable the realisation of organisational goals (see Cousins and Whitmore 1998; and Jackson and Kassam 1998). Such distributed and participatory approaches to SSE should support schools in finding innovative ways to improve their teaching and learning by actively involving all staff, parents and students in the process. However, the development of this more participatory model of SSE, while conceptually robust, carries with it many practical challenges. In particular schools and school leaders have identified a capacity deficit in the area of multiple stakeholder involvement.
For this reason, it is argued that the development of methodologies that will allow schools to engage with parents and pupils will address a gap in school improvement strategies as they are currently conceptualised. Research indicates that parental involvement in particular declines as students move through the system of education and that parental involvement from more marginalised communities is particularly limited – largely as a result of a perceived lack of openness in school cultures in general (Povey et al. 2016; Sanders & Epstein, 2000). There is significant practical resistance to the involvement of pupils in the process of quality assurance. However, Centra (1993) claims that student evaluations offer significant benefits and insights into the quality of education provided in schools. .
This paper aims to present the findings of a survey of schools in the partner countries for the purpose of exploring the strategies, mechanisms as well as challenges and supports required for the inclusion of parents and students with a view to identifying and addressing the ecological gap in relation to stakeholder engagement.
The study employed an exploratory mixed methods strategy in order to explore existing SSE practices relating to DEAPS in the partner countries. Phase 1 of the study involved a literature review on present DEAP strategies in the partner countries, together with an analysis of peer reviewed literature relating to: tools and supports to enhance DEAPS in Schools; teacher agency and Stakeholder voice; the limitations of and practical realities of Stakeholder voice in DEAPS. In this phase of the study we used a realist synthesis methodology (Ehren et al. 2016, Pawson, 2006; Pawson et al., 2005; Wong et al., 2013) because of the complexity and conditions that influence the mechanisms and subsequent outcomes of DEAPS, the wide variability in the available literature, and our aim of providing systematic explanations of the criteria that are important for DEAPS, given particular conditions. From this, based on a review of the literature, phase 2 of the study was implemented and consisted of the development of a substantial survey of current practice in the partner countries. From the realist synthesis, key themes relating to DEAPS were isolated and a pilot survey was then developed and tested in all of the partner countries. Appropriate alterations where made to the survey which will be applied in the Spring of 2018. The population of the study was composed of teachers who teach in schools in Belgium, Ireland, Portugal, and Turkey. The key themes of the survey revolved around the differentiated strategies and challenges faced by educators towards the implementation of DEAPS. Analysis of survey data was initially conducted per country using both parametric and non-parametric statistical techniques. Survey results were also compared between each country to find commonalities and differences relating to DEAPS practices in the partner countries.
The purpose of the Erasmus+ funded project that this paper reports on is to explore an emerging unresolved issue being faced by most European education systems, namely the integration of parents and students in DEAPS as well as the perceived challenges for DEAPS. Research shows that stakeholder voice is a key component in the success or failure of schools. However, it is also acknowledged that there is a requisite environment needed to avoid the negative unintended consequences of DEAPS. This paper will present a summary of the systematic literature review of the field and concentrate on providing an overview of the outcome of the survey of existing DEAPS practices in the partner countries. It will subsequently attempt to use the findings of the survey to provide a conceptual and practice-based underpinning for the development of what are to be the ultimate products of the research – namely a theoretical framework for DEAPS and more importantly, a toolkit designed to help both policy makers (not only in the partner countries but throughout the European Union and beyond). Ultimately it will be argued that in order to ensure maximum impact for those partners who are subjected to prosaic DEAP procedures and instruments, SSE will need to be changed. It is also suggested that changes to traditional hierarchical practices could come about as a result of increased systemic awareness of the key issues and the development of the ability to create an environment for effective DEAP strategies across the education systems in all participating countries.
Cousins, J.B. & Whitmore, E., 1998. Framing participatory evaluation. New directions for evaluation, (80), pp.5-23. Epstein, J.L. and Sanders, M.G., 2000. Connecting home, school, and community. In Handbook of the sociology of education. , Boston, MA: Springer European Union. 1998. Education and Training, Monitor 2015. Brussels: European Union Jackson, E. T., & Y. Kassam. 1999. Knowledge shared: Participatory evaluation in development cooperation. West Hartford, CT: Kumarian Press. Macbeath, J.1998. Effective School Leadership: Responding to Change. London: Paul Chapman Pawson, R., Greenhalgh, T., Harvey, G., & Walshe, K. 2005. Realist review: A new method of systematic review designed for complex policy interventions. Journal of Health Services Research and Policy (10), pp. 21-34. Povey, J. et al. 2016. Engaging parents in schools and building parent-school partnerships: The role of school and parent organization leadership. International Journal of Educational Research (79), pp. 128-141. Wong, G., Greenhalgh, T., Westhorp, G., Buckingham, J., & Pawson, R. 2013. RAMESES publication standards: Realist syntheses. BMC Medicine, pp. 11-21. http://www.biomedcentral.com/content/pdf/1741-7015-11-21.pdf (accessed 7 June 2014)
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