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Title: Assessment practices and their impact on home economics education in Ireland
Author: McSweeney, Kathryn
ISNI:       0000 0004 5347 2255
Awarding Body: University of Stirling
Current Institution: University of Stirling
Date of Award: 2014
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This study was prompted by an interest in the extent to which the aims of home economics education in Ireland are being served by the assessment carried out at a national level. This interest led to an empirical investigation of key stakeholders’ perceptions of the validity of home economics assessment and a critical evaluation of its impact on teaching and learning. The data collection primarily comprised interviews with a selection of teachers and other key people such as students, teacher educators and professional home economists; and a complementary analysis of curriculum and design of Junior and Leaving Certificate home economics assessments during the period 2005-2014. The analysis of interview data combined with the curriculum and assessment analyses revealed the compounding impact and washback effect of home economics assessments on student learning experience and outcomes. This impact was reflected in several areas of the findings including an evident satisfaction among the respondents with junior cycle assessment, due to the perceived appropriateness of the assessment design and operational arrangements, and dissatisfaction with curriculum and assessment arrangements at senior cycle as they were considered to be inappropriate and negatively impacting on the quality of learning achieved. The respondents candidly pointed to what they considered to be an acceptance by some teachers of unethical behaviour around the completion of journal tasks. The respondents indicated that summative assessment practices are commonly used in home economics classrooms and the findings strongly suggest that external examinations are influencing teaching methods by demanding a test-oriented pedagogy to enable students to achieve certificate points. The technical analysis of the Junior and Leaving Certificate examination questions confirmed that these external assessments predominantly promote lower-order learning and there are clear indications of a washback effect on the quality of learning achieved. There is a view that the subject's position in the curriculum is weakened due to a lack of coherence around practice, as well as a lack of advocacy and leadership in the field. There was little evidence of the impact of home economics education and many of the interviewees merely 'hoped' that home economics made a difference in the lives of students. The study also showed that there are profiling, identity and teacher agency issues impacting upon the home economics profession. While not immediately generalisable to all home economics teachers or settings in schools, this study nonetheless implies that if the views and practices of the respondents were to be replicated across the whole of the home economics education community, it would not be safe to view national assessment results as a valid indicator of learning and achievement standards in the subject. There are grounds in this work to argue that the subject's values and purposes are not supported by existing curriculum, pedagogy and assessment arrangements.
Supervisor: Gardner, John; Priestley, Mark Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Assessment ; Validity ; Washback ; Home Economics education ; Cognitive demand of examination questions ; Home economics Study and teaching ; Educational tests and measurements ; Curriculum planning Ireland