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Funded Research

The Assessment Research and Development programme was established by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment to support knowledge of, engagement with and critical reflection on educational assessment theory and practice. In this initial phase, a particular focus was placed on proposals relevant to the junior cycle of post-primary education, but proposals associated with assessment in early childhood, primary or senior cycle education in Ireland were also considered.

The 2015 initiative is now finished. The completed research projects were showcased at an event on 29th September 2016. The final reports from the research projects are available.

  • Developing the concept of Integrated Learning and how it may be used to mediate learning at Junior Cycle.

    Bernie Judge, Fiona Kearney and Eadaoin Hayes. Hansfield Educate Together School

    An Action Research Project was conducted in a green-field, urban school to develop the concept of Integrated Learning and how it could be used to mediate learning at Junior Cycle. It invited the views of students, parents and staff. It resulted in the staff’s deepening understanding and practice, particularly in relation to Integrated Learning. It is the story of the journey through the process from collaborative pre-planning, implementation and critical reflection and evaluation.

  • Junior Cycle Short Course In How Ireland Was Affected By WW1 using primary documents.

    Feargal Flanagan, NUI Maynooth

    The overview of this topic was to explore how Ireland was affected by events before and during WW1. With a major emphasis on the exploration and analysis of primary documents being a key part of this syllabus it was decided to revise these topics with the use of key primary documents. This would help the development of collaborative skills by facilitating group work with the hope of fostering a greater ethos of collaborative learning and skill development.

  • Self assessment and learning Irish: a pilot study

    Geraldine Dillon, Clongowes Wood College

    This research explores the use in the Irish language learning classroom of both the Common European Framework of Reference and the European Language Portfolio, referred to respectively as CEFR and ELP.

    The CEFR and ELP were used in order to engage First Year students in a process of self-assessment of their competence and progress in the learning of Irish. The research was interested in the practical considerations in adapting the CEFR and ELP for use in this particular context but, more importantly, it considered the students' experience with the processes involved and the impacts, if any, on their learning of Irish.

  • To develop Problem Based Learning in the context of junior cycle key skills and expand assessment opportunities.

    Marianne Checkley, iScoil, Warrenmount Dublin 8.

    This research centred on designing content that allows teachers to adapt activities to the interest of learners while maintaining the integrity of assessment briefs.

    The aim of the research was to further develop the PBL approach and expand assessment opportunities. Specifically, we want to design PBL briefs that allow our learners develop their Key Skills according to the Junior Cycle criteria within a framework of PBL. The project involved:

    • Designing project briefs that support the development of a range of Key Skills.
    • The creation of rubrics to capture student progress in relation to developing their Key Skills.
    • Developing a rubric to capture the quality of learning engaged by the individual learner and their colleagues while carrying out their project.
    • Exploring the use of technology and online portfolios in collecting evidence for Key Skills.
  • Tailored CPD: Exploring Student Engagement and Self-Assessment.

    Joanne Ford, St. Josephs, Lucan.

    There are two strands to the research study:

    • Participatory Practitioner Enquiry: This research project aims to tap into the rich source of experience and knowledge on the teaching staff. An experienced teacher on the staff provides tailored CPD in the form of research supervision for a group of three teachers as they explore their own professional interests and attempt to improve teaching and learning in their classrooms.
    • Non-Participatory Practitioner Enquiry: Three teachers will work cooperatively to establish a teacher learning committee and agree upon a broad topic area to be researched with their own individual interventions e.g. independent student learning. They will conduct a small study in their own classrooms and complete a collaborative research report as a group.
  • Developing a Short Course for History on the 1912- 1923 period in Ireland.

    Kevin Donohoe, NUI Maynooth

    Guided by the Junior Cycle Key Skills and relevant Statements of Learning, this research explores the development and assessment of key skills as student learn using a wide variety of online and primary documents, both visual and audio-visual.

    The aim of the research was to:

    • explore the the various elements of the revolutionary period of 1911-1923 in Irish history.
    • develop students ability to read,analyse and critically evaluate primary documents.
    • develop an increased awareness among students of the vast array of written,visual and audio-visual resources available about this era of Irish history.
    • foster greater student interest in the study of History.
  • A school wide approach to tracking and monitoring student attainment.

    Clare Ryan, St. Leo’s College, Carlow.

    This research focused on a number of key areas:

    • Exploring feedback to students and parents in a number of scenarios: Parent/Teacher Meetings; Formal written Reports; formal feedback to include student reflection and direct guidance – Subject teacher to student; Academic Monitor to student; Year Head to student
    • Firmly embedding AFL across the school community
    • Formal employment of data to track students from entry to exit which will inform appropriate teaching methodologies across the curriculum
    • Enhancing the traditional format of parent/teacher meetings to directly include the student and simultaneously support the parent’s role as a resource in their child’s learning.
    • Continue to refine the role of the academic monitor in St. Leo’s College.
  • Post-Primary Teachers' Conceptions of Assessment.

    Marie Darmody, St. Patricks College.

    The purpose of this research is to elicit baseline data about post-primary teachers’ conceptions of assessment in the Republic of Ireland.

    Post-primary education in Ireland is in the midst of much curriculum and assessment change and teachers are at the coalface of this change. With the introduction of new forms of classroom assessment teachers will have an increased role in the assessment process. However, teachers’beliefs provide a lens for the translation of policy into practice and so when considering the implementation of assessment reform, one needs to know what teachers believe about the nature and purpose of assessment.

    Adopting a non-experimental cross-sectional design, this study surveys a large sample of post-primary teachers in Ireland using the abridged version of Brown’s (2006) Teachers’ Conceptions of Assessment Inventory (TCoA-IIIA).

  • The Impact of Standardised Assessment in the Primary School Context in Ireland: Key Actor Perspectives.

    Michael McNamara, NUI Maynooth.

    The aim of this study is to explore the impact of standardised assessment in Irish primary schools through the lens of international experience, as well as noting current trends in this regard. In order to ensure a comprehensive examination of this topic, four levels of impact are being strategically addressed:

    • Student level: How do teachers believe standardised assessment impacts students?
    • Teacher level: How do teachers believe standardised assessment impacts their own practice?
    • School level: How do schools utilise the results gained from standardised assessments?
    • Policy level: How are teachers responding to the role allotted to standardised assessment in the recently implemented literacy and numeracy strategy?
  • Context, Culture and Curriculum: A cross-national comparative study exploring formative assessment implementation in Ireland and Scotland

    Niamh Burke, NUI Maynooth.

    A cross-national comparative study exploring formative assessment implementation in Ireland and Scotland.Research objectives:Explore the cultural and contextual factors that have an effect on assessment systems at the macro, meso and micro levels, including policy and curriculum, school contextual factors and individual classroom culture.Examine formative assessment practice during science lessons and explore what strategies are prevalent, who is involved in assessment processes and how FA is implemented throughout lessons.Explore the challenges and possibilities for policy learning and practice in relation to second level education across Scotland and Ireland within current national policy contexts.

  • Exploring associations between spatial cognition and mathematics: a developmental perspective.

    Katie Gilligan, Institute of education, University College London.

    The primary aim of this study is to explore associations between spatial skills and mathematics through development, in children aged 5-10 years. It also aims to provide a snapshot of performance patterns of Spatial and Maths tasks through development.


    • The absence of associations with Maths Anxiety may be due to the pure nature of these maths measures and children’s perception of these tasks as games. Future research will explore associations between Maths Anxiety and formal maths assessments.
    • Associations between Scaling and pure maths measures highlight the role of object comparison and spatial estimation skills without requirements for rotation or orientation. These associations support scaling skills as a target for intervention.
    • Associations between Folding and Number Line performance may be due to children using segmentation strategies. This will be clarified by exploring the use of logarithmic/linear strategies in solving number lines.
    • Future research will assess whether training in specific spatial skills may render gains in mathematics.
  • Assessment and Development of Scientific Literacy at Second Level.

    Ruth Chadwick, Dublin City University

    A commonality between the Scottish CfE and the revised Irish junior cycle specification for science is the use of a socio-scientific research task as formal assessment; the Irish Science in Society Investigation and the Scottish National 5 Assignment.This research set out to:Examine how the overall aims and marking criteria of the National 5 Assignment match with PISA 2015 competencies and knowledge types of scientific literacy.Investigate the development and assessment of the PISA competencies and knowledge of scientific literacy through observations of teachers’ and students’everyday practice carrying out the National 5 Assignment.Investigate assessment of scientific literacy in the CfE National 5 course, through the socio-scientific research task, the Assignment. This will be done through examination of student work for which competencies are being demonstrated and at what level these are demonstrated.Investigate teachers’ views of the PISA competencies and knowledge of scientific literacy being developed and assessed and compare to those evidenced in student work.Investigate students’ views of the PISA competencies and knowledge of scientific literacy being developed and assessed and compare to those evidenced in student work.