Assessment in primary education in Ireland

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dc.contributor.advisorHall, Kathyen
dc.contributor.authorSheehan, Alan M.
dc.contributor.funderIrish National Teachers' Organisatonen
dc.contributor.funderCollege of Arts, Celtic Studies and Social Sciences, University College Corken
dc.description.abstractThis doctoral study examines assessment in primary education in the Republic of Ireland. The nature and purpose of assessment offer an insight into the values which are prioritised by an education system. In 2011, in the Republic of Ireland, the Department of Education and Skills (DES) published a strategy aiming to improve standards of literacy and numeracy. The document, entitled, Literacy and numeracy for learning and life: the national strategy to improve literacy and numeracy for children and young people 2011-2020, contains improvement targets as measured by standardised tests. It also mandates the increased use of standardised tests in primary education, and directs that aggregated scores should be reported to both Boards of Management and the DES. The study is framed by the theoretical perspectives of Michel Foucault and Pierre Bourdieu. Both of these commentators examine social policy and practice in an effort to provide insight into the history and operation of social institutions. This study is especially influenced by Foucault’s archaeology and genealogy of knowledge, and his notion of governmentality. It is also particularly cognisant of Bourdieu’s thoughts on habitus, doxa and capital. The study contains reviews of literature in the areas of assessment, assessment policy, and assessment policy in Ireland. These reviews highlight current debate in each of these areas while also grounding this debate in an historical context. The dissertation contains four empirical sections. 1) It analyses policy documents prepared in the development of the published strategy as well as investigating the strategy itself. In so doing it is aware of the burgeoning influence of pan-national bodies on policy development. 2) A number of high profile policy makers were interviewed as part of the study and their views are interpreted in light of the findings of the literature reviews. 3) The perspective of teachers was sought through a questionnaire survey. This gathered data on these teachers’ views on the purpose of assessment as well as their actual practice. 4) Finally, children were also included as participants in this study. They were interviewed in focus groups and encouraged to contribute drawings as well on their views of assessment in primary school. Literacy and numeracy for learning and life is seen as a seminal document in Irish education. This study is significant in its analysis of original data from high profile policy makers, including two Ministers for Education and Skills. It is also significant in its inclusion of the perspectives of primary school pupils. Finally, the study considers the nature and role of assessment in a holistic manner by including the views of policy makers, teachers and pupils. The study notes that policy development in Ireland underwent a change in the preparation of Literacy and numeracy for learning and life and that international influences, while present, are also mediated to suit the local context. It also highlights a lack of clarity in the definition of assessment in primary education and argues that there is a lack of balance in the approaches that are prioritised. The study demonstrates that teachers are impacted by the strategy but that they also change it by focusing on their own concerns while using assessment tools. The children provide compelling evidence of the impact of assessment on the learner. The study shows how assessment tools (and school subjects) are valued with differing levels of importance by a variety of stakeholders.en
dc.description.sponsorshipIrish National Teachers' Organisaton (Research Bursary); College of Arts, Celtic Studies and Social Sciences, University College Cork (Research Postgraduate Travel Bursary)en
dc.description.statusNot peer revieweden
dc.description.versionAccepted Version
dc.identifier.citationSheehan, A.M, 2016. Assessment in primary education in Ireland. PhD Thesis, University College Cork.en
dc.publisherUniversity College Corken
dc.rights© 2016, Alan M. Sheehan.en
dc.subjectChildren's perspectivesen
dc.subjectAssessment for learningen
dc.subjectAssessment of learningen
dc.titleAssessment in primary education in Irelanden
dc.typeDoctoral thesisen
dc.type.qualificationlevelDoctoral Degree (Structured)en
dc.type.qualificationnamePhD (Education)en
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