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EQI: Centre for Evaluation, Quality & Inspection

Recent Graduates

EQI has worked with research students from around the world investigating a wide range of topics, issues and contexts. Below is a sample of the nearly 40 Doctoral graduates supervised by EQI members. Full details of completed research studies,including abstracts and copies of theses are available at www.doras.dcu.ie.

2017

Dr. Alia G. M. Ashkanani

An investigation of the application of the Technology Acceptance Model (TAM) to evaluate Instructors’ Perspectives on E-Learning at Kuwait University.

In one of the first studies of its kind Dr. Ashkanani sought to evaluate the  perceptions of instructors working in Kuwait University with regards to the use of e-learning in the university. The study used the Technology Acceptance Model (TAM) (Davis, 1989) to assess the impact of a range of factors on e-learning usage. TAM as applied in this study suggests that there are a number of core constructs that impact on e-learning usage with two of the most important being Perceived Usefulness (PU) and Perceived Ease of Use (PEOU) . The study also sought to explore the impact of instructors’ Attitude (ATT) toward the use of e-learning at KU. Finally it examined external such as Computer Self-Efficacy (CSE), Technical Support (TS) and University Strategic Focus (USF).

Using a mixed methods approach Dr. Ashkanani’s study found that the instructors’ PU of e-learning directly affects their ATT toward the use of the system. Also, the instructors’ PEOU is found through PU to indirectly affect their ATT. In addition, CSE has a significant effect on PU, but less so on PEOU, and, indirectly so, on ATT. Also, a significant effect is found, of TS on PU and in less magnitude on PEOU, and, indirectly on ATT. USF is found to have insignificant effects on PU and a weak effect on PEOU. Moreover, based on the qualitative analysis findings, USF is argued, to be the factor resulting in the most negative attitude toward the use of e-learning by KU instructors. This is due to three causes: Poor policy setting, lack of motivation measures, and ineffective training. The study has been well received internationally and will be used to inform the development of the next iteration of e-learning in Kuwait. It demonstrates the ability of a well structured evaluation to positively impact on educational provision in under-researched context.

Supervisors: Dr. James Lovatt , Prof. Joe O’Hara and Dr. Abeer Al Hassan

 

 2016

 Dr. Jane O’Kelly

 How can an online community of practice support an undergraduate’s learning experience on a research module?

This study focuses on the evaluation of the introduction of an online community of practice (COP)  into the final year of an undergraduate degree in education and training. The research was undertaken through a collective case study using a mixed methods approach to examine two separate year groups of students’ reactions to, and use of a COP.

This study found that students perceived a number of benefits from participating in a COP. These included a greater connection with peers through sharing insights and resources; alleviation of stress through benchmarking with peers; high levels of affective, cognitive and psychomotor learning; direct and timely access to expert assistance and feedback, an recognition that collaboration and co-operation is not only useful but desirable when pursuing individual goals in a shared domain. There was no clear relationship between learning style, sense of community and levels of learning. Students who declared an Accommodating and/or Diverging learning style tended to interact more than those with Assimilating or Converging learning styles. This is consistent with the characteristics of these styles. The COP also provided a bridging online space for traditional and mature students to engage with each other, overcoming assumptions and stereotypical attitudes in the process.

 

Supervisor: Prof Joe O'Hara 

 

Dr. Ahmed Alblowi

An Evaluation of the Effectiveness and validity of the preparatory year programme in preparing students for studying in Taibah university in Saudi Arabia

This study is entitled ‘Evaluation of the Effectiveness and Validity of the Preparatory Year Programme at preparing Students for Studying in Taibah University’. Within the Taibah University, students are distributed to the various specializations at the university according to their results at the end of this preparatory year. It is a relatively new programme that has not been subjected to sufficient evaluation. The study explored the strengths and weaknesses of the programme with a focus on identifying ways to contribute to its improvement and development. The study used a mixed approach where the use of multiple linear regression was used to examine the ability of the admission criteria to predict the academic performance of programme students through examining the results of 3878 students. The results show that stronger acceptance criteria were provided by the achievement test followed by a student’s high-school mark and finally a capability test. To evaluate the effectiveness of the programme elements and the achievement of its objectives from the perspective of students and trainers, data was collected through 1972 student questionnaires, 98 trainer questionnaires and eight semi-structured interviews with students and four with trainers. Studying the effectiveness of the programme from the viewpoint of faculty members was done using 167 questionnaires and five semi-structured interviews. The results show the weaknesses of the university environment and the failure of the programme to meet its goals from the students’ and trainers’ viewpoints. The evaluation by faculty members of the effectiveness of the programme showed a positive view of the programme and expressed the view that students who have completed the programme have better skills and more knowledge than those who have not. The study recommended to allocate the largest proportion of a weighted percentage for acceptance to achievement test-results, followed by high school, and finally aptitude test-results. Furthermore, the study found that the teaching and assessment methods need to be reviewed, and the content and goals of the preparatory year programme would benefit from being re-aligned. 

Supervisor: Prof Gerry McNamara

Dr. Eileen Breslin

Exploring the experience of high-ability students from socio-economic disadvantaged schools participating in a summer academic programme

This thesis focuses on exploring and evaluating the experience of student participants’ in the Aiming High initiative. This initiative was launched in 2010 by the Centre of Talented Youth, Ireland (CTYI) in order to address the under-representation of high-ability second-level students from low-income families within CTYI’s older student summer programmes. The need for this programme, and in turn, for such research developed out of an awareness regarding the under-representation of students from areas of disadvantage within programmes focusing on the development of academic talent at CTYI (and within the field of gifted education). In addition, there was a general perception that these young people are less likely to take part in higher education upon completion of their secondary school studies. The study applies a qualitative case study methodology and uses of a number of research methods, (questionnaires, interviews, & focus groups) with different sets of research participants (students, parents & schools) and across a number of years (2011-2014). The research findings indicate four key themes; academic, social, and personal benefits together with a small number of negative consequences. This case addresses a deficit in the literature which calls for strategies focusing on the talent development of high-ability, low-income students through the presentation of a detailed description of this innovative programme. The findings from this case study provide important lessons about this population of students which may provide readers with valuable insights should the programme be replicated in the future.

Supervisor: Prof Joe O'Hara

 

 2015

Dr. Gerard McHugh

The Leadership careers of selected primary school principals

This thesis explored the leadership role of the Primary School Principal in Ireland. It examined the making of a principal (formation), becoming a principal (accession) and being a principal (incumbency). It painted a portrait of accession to principalship and investigated how participating principals perceive the role of principal early in the second decade of 21st century and moreover what inspires and sustains them in their work.A review of literature included works on leadership, leadership in education, career history approaches and the history of the Primary School Principal in Ireland. Twelve principals were interviewed for a period of between one and half and two and a half hours each.The study was located within a phenomenological paradigm using a qualitative methodology. The research tool used was the face to face semi- structured interview combined with a life story and career history approach to studying school leaders. The thesis found that Irish Primary Principals are very highly motivated, they believe they have high levels of autonomy in many areas of their work and that they are accountable to many stakeholders. Further findings are described under five themes; Values/Moral Purpose/Interests of Children; Empowerment; Frustrations; Passion and Pride and Emerging Landscapes. While principals are extremely positive about their role they acknowledge many significant frustrations accompanying the role in a time of uncertainty. A number of recommendations were made which may be of interest to principals, policy makers and researchers.

Supervisor: Prof Gerry McNamara

 

Dr. Bernadette McHugh

An evaluation of a blended programme of teacher education in Ireland

The purpose of this research was to examine the blended-learning primary teacher education course, the Higher Diploma in Arts in Education (HDAPE), offered by Hibernia College in Ireland with a view to ascertaining what can be learned from this unique course that might inform future practice at college and national levels. An investigation of this blended-learning course is warranted as it has not been conducted previously and thereby this research adds to the bank of knowledge on teacher education. Hibernia College is unique because it is the only private provider of Initial Teacher Education (ITE) for primary and post-primary teachers in Ireland. Furthermore it is the only provider to utilise a blended-learning approach and now as the largest provider of primary teachers in Ireland, Hibernia College exerts a significant influence on the number of primary teachers trained using the consecutive model of ITE. This researcher used a mixed methods approach gathering both qualitative and quantitative data. A qualitative investigation of the genesis of the college, the values underpinning the HDAPE programmes, how quality provision is assured and the opinions of external evaluators on the programme was undertaken through the use of interviews and document analysis. A questionnaire elicited the student experience of the programme. Finally school principals’ views were sought on their opinions of graduates from Hibernia College as practising teachers. A series of recommendations, arising from the findings, which have implications for Hibernia College (13) and for the wider education community (4) were posited along with possible future research enquiries.

 

Supervisor: Prof Gerry McNamara

Dr. Brian Ladden

School Evaluation: An exploration of the impact of evaluation on the teaching staff of an Irish post-primary school

This study researches the topic of evaluation in the Irish school system. In particular, it investigates the development and implementation of School Self-Evaluation (SSE) in an Irish post-primary school and assesses the impact of Whole School Evaluation (WSE) on the teaching staff in the same school. The perceptions of the teaching staff are analysed to assess the impact of the two processes on the school. The two systems of evaluation are examined for insights into how they affect factors such as leadership, the autonomy and empowerment of teachers, teamwork and the satisfaction levels of teachers; factors that have been cited as being important to the delivery of a high standard of education provision. School evaluation is a complex and multi-dimensional construct that is best studied in its natural setting. The study uses a mixed-method, case-study design within the constructivist research paradigm. The main research methods used are survey questionnaires, interviews and a focus group. The overall conclusion of this study is that both forms of evaluation impact significantly on teachers and can help improve their practices. Both processes can satisfy the accountability requirements of the stakeholders of the school and simultaneously help to improve and develop the performance of the teachers and the school. The two forms of evaluation are beneficial to the school in differing ways. The strengths of one process can compensate for the weaknesses of the other. While the findings support the overall thrust of the Department of Education and Skills (DES), viz. a dual approach to evaluation - self-evaluation coupled with light touch external evaluation, a number of issues are raised regarding how the process is currently implemented. The study found a disconnect between the stated need to embed SSE in the development of a professional planning process in the school and the narrow focus of gathering quantitative data and setting numerical targets. In relation to WSE, this study identifies a need to establish a more equitable and supportive relationship between the inspectorate and schools; one in which the inspectorate act as mentors to teachers and engage in discussion with them on how best to improve teaching and learning. The real strength of self-evaluation is its potential to improve the empowerment levels of teachers and to increase their capacity for change. It also facilitates the engagement of teachers in ongoing reflection and enables a discourse on the broader issues relating to education that creates a culture of learning and school improvement.  

Supervisor: Prof Gerry McNamara

2014

Dr. Bernadette Ward

CAM, is there an Irish solution? A needs analysis of the Irish CAM community with a focus on training and practice

Public demand for a range of Complementary and Alternative Medicine treatments is consistent in Ireland and the wider EU. This has created the need for professionally trained therapists across a range of CAM therapies to meet this demand. The provision of education and training to CAM therapists has resulted in the emergence of a significant area of private adult education and professional employment in Ireland. This study sought to investigate and evaluate the Irish CAM community, in order to explore the historical background, current status and future needs of this sector. Taking a mixed methodology approach, within a post positivist exploratory paradigm, the study used both quantitative and qualitative research tools to explore this sector. Within that paradigm a framework for a sector needs analysis was used to guide the study. The historical background and formation of this community within an Ireland of the 70s and 80s, present status, concerns and their future needs were examined within this study. Research tools used were an online questionnaire with comment text boxes and one to one stakeholder interviews. Purposive sampling of representative CAM stakeholders was used to include Learning Providers, Professional Regulators and Practitioners, active and representative of their sector. The main themes which emerged from this study gave an in depth understanding of this community and a comparison of similar CAM communities in the UK and the EU. Data collected from both the quantitative and qualitative elements of this study helped to identify the concerns and needs of this sector which may inform policy makers in their efforts for the future. 

Supervisor: Prof Joe O'Hara

Dr. Kieran Doyle

Evaluating and improving the delivery of work-based learning

This thesis extrapolates lessons on work-based learning from a learning programme delivered by an Institute of Technology in a hotel between November 2009 and April 2011. Delivery of work-based learning to line employees involved multiple interactions between the Institute and the hotel. By focussing on these interactions, this thesis exposes dialectical tensions which largely emanate from the hotels operational imperative, but are also provoked by the academic institutes approach to delivery of learning in the workplace. Design/Methodology/Approach In order to gain a better understanding of delivery of work-based learning in a medium-sized hotel, this empirical research employs an inductive case study evaluation (Yin, 2009). Qualitative data are gathered through document review and semi-structured interviews. Stewart and Rigg’s (2011) theoretical model for design of learning solutions is used to scaffold emergent findings. These interpretative findings are then considered by experts from tertiary education and the hospitality, tourism and leisure industry, using a Delphi study. This refractive exercise with subject matter experts informed analysis of the findings, and facilitated ‘analytic generalisations’ (Yin, 2009). Findings This research reveals internal dichotomy between human resource management (people development) and operations management (systems focus) in the hotel, reflecting oscillating power tensions emanating from normative values within this establishment. The findings demonstrate that completion of a work-based learning programme may reshape self- identity and perceptions, but also risks rupturing the safety of the familiar (Zemyblas, 2005). Higher Education discourse around work-based learning encourages contemplative values; however these values are not embraced by operational management in the hotel. Overarching issues, such as accreditation and pedagogy, encourage discursive mismatches and inertia between the Institute and the workplace. These issues are compounded by absence of support resources for academics and delivery mechanisms for work-based learning.The study recommends closer tangible binds between current government agency policy and institute rhetoric to reduce the level of risk associated with work-based learning at meso (institutional) and micro (individual) environment. Originality/Value An important contribution of this research is an understanding of what work based learning actually involves and the impact of those actions. More can be gained in understanding work-based learning by researching actual behaviours rather than descriptions of potential. This research makes a contribution to defining this aspect of higher education in Ireland, and to developing a set of performance standards in delivery.

Supervisor: Prof Gerry McNamara