University of Limerick
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“Getting better bit by bit”: exploring how teachers evaluate and create conditions for student voice in Irish post-primary physical education

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posted on 2022-09-06, 14:38 authored by Donal Howley
The aim of this study was to explore how teachers evaluate and create conditions for student voice in post-primary Irish Physical Education alongside students and identify the consequences this has for future practice and policy in schools. The study adopted a Participatory Action Research approach within a comparative case-study centring on a small cluster of three practicing Physical Education teachers (including the researcher) and their respective students. Methods for data collection were focus group interviews, one-on-one interviews, a Teacher-Researcher reflection journal, and student written reflections. The findings suggest that while teachers initially felt their schools listened to their students constructively, and allowed for students to take on equal roles within Physical Education and the school, the reality in which this played out was more limited and tokenistic. However, by the end of the study teachers and students observed notable changes in teacher practice and their own dispositions to student voice. The fact that teachers were not forthcoming in adopting a student voice approach with high stakes examination based subjects indicates a lack of confidence or, perhaps, a reluctance to re-imagine their high stakes examination subjects. If student voice is to be genuinely evaluated and created within schools, then it’s time to move beyond the status quo, recognising that the ways we think we listen to and involve our students in their learning experiences are not recognised by students as giving them enough autonomy and influence. Furthermore, space is needed within school timetables specifically dedicated to student voice rather than being expected to occur within current school scheduling. If the spirit of the recent education legislation and fresh curricula in Ireland is to be upheld and implemented, it is necessary to adopt a committed approach to practice and research, ensuring that teachers and schools best serve the needs of their students.



  • Master (Research)

First supervisor

O'Sullivan, Mary





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